Portland Profile: Charles McKeon

Portland Profile: Charles McKeon

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?

One of my first bosses taught me to be prepared to defend what you’re suggesting, and challenge what other people suggest. Communications is a very fast-paced industry and we can often make recommendations based on instinct, but having your reasons in the back pocket puts you in the strongest position. Challenging other people can be a bit tricky, and I still struggle with it as I don’t love confrontation, but it always improves the final output.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Working with incredibly smart people is definitely the best part, but I also really enjoy briefing journalists on the phone. There is something very satisfying about working hard to explain a complicated story to a busy reporter and building a friendly relationship with them over the course of a few conversations, to then have your story published in the public domain. It’s funny, because it used to be my least favourite part of the job by quite some way.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve learnt from in your career?

That journalists assume you are on the record until you explicitly tell them that you are not. I learnt this the hard way and had to scramble to call a Forbes journalist to unsuccessfully plead that he change what he had written in his article despite my clearly having said exactly that to him. I still think he took it out of context, but even so… lesson learnt.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self-starting out in comms, or to someone entering this field of work?

The advice I gave myself when I started as an Intern, and it applies to any office job, was simple: buy a biscuit jar, fill it with biscuits, stick it on your desk, and make lots of cups of tea. I was nervous to introduce myself to people, but this meant that other people came over to speak to me (even if it was just a pretence to eat my biscuits). Plus, I think it gently bribed those in charge to keep me on as a permanent member of staff. Strong preference for Fox’s Viennese Sandwiches.

What do you do to switch off from work?

I’d love to say something intellectual, but particularly since we’ve been working from home it’s either doing the hoovering while listening to a podcast, or watching The Sopranos. I set up an 11-a-side football team a few years ago which also helps me switch off every Sunday, and I’ve even managed to pinch a couple of Portlanders for the starting 11 (shoutout to Alistair Cripps).

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