‘ability to build and sustain authentic relationships with a broad range of contacts’

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As a visiting company working with local partners to present an ambitious and unusual production in an off-the-beaten-track venue at the 2017 Fringe, we needed someone to represent us who was highly attuned to both the demanding conditions of the Fringe and the wider cultural ecology of the city. Owen’s calm and grounded approach, his genuine enthusiasm for the work, and his ability to build and sustain authentic relationships with a broad range of contacts was the perfect complement to our risky but rewarding Fringe venture. Owen asked gentle but searching questions about the brief and helped us to clarify our objectives and play to our strengths. He was present on the ground when it counted, always good-humoured, and kept us thoroughly informed as to what was going on behind the scenes. We were extremely pleased with the profile achieved and with the level of press, industry and public engagement with the work, and we look forward to working with Oh Really Creative again at the earliest opportunity.

Claudine Conway
Communications Manager, Volcano Theatre
(Seagulls at The Leith Volcano)


‘has a real commitment to delivering what he says he is going to do’

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Miann, Scottish Dance Theatre. March 2015

Miann, Scottish Dance Theatre. March 2015

“Owen O’Leary came highly recommended by a senior colleague who had worked with him previously. Owen fulfilled our key objective which was to develop existing and new relationships with dance and arts press & media, raise the profile of our company and celebrate our achievements over the last 30 years. Owen completely stuck to the brief and was instrumental in setting up press and media conversations with key people and went the extra mile to make sure that they actually took place. The result was wonderful local, national and international coverage highlighting the company’s success and amazing touring locations. Owen is very personable and has a real commitment to delivering what he says he is going to do and makes things happen, adding a creative approach to the brief. I would recommend Owen O’Leary to dance/arts companies who want to engage better with the local and national press and to really get them talking about their work.”

Anne Marie McCloskey

Marketing Manager

Scottish Dance Theatre



‘a broad ranging and high quality PR strategy’

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Photo by StudioRoRo / Ross Fraser McLean

Photo by StudioRoRo / Ross Fraser McLean

“Owen helped us in the 8 weeks leading up ‘Local Heroes: Scottish Design at Edinburgh Airport’ to develop a broad ranging and high quality PR strategy. He helped us to clarify what type of PR we wanted – and where – across print and digital channels resulting in high impact (and high value) features from the BBC to Design Week and Vogue. Owen was also invaluable in coaching me as the project director in how to successfully execute interviews for TV and radio.”

Dr Stacey Hunter,

Director, Local Heroes





“enthusiastic, creative… original ideas”

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Discoteque Machine at Camera Obscura photocall print coverage selection

Discoteque Machine at Camera Obscura photocall print coverage selection

“Working with Oh Really for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was an incredibly positive experience. Owen knows what a show needs to be promoted, he is enthusiastic, creative and always looking for original ideas to promote the show in the most effective way.”
Linda Cattaneo, Project Manager
Discoteque Machine

A response to speculative CVs and my top 5 tips for publicity and marketing graduates applying for new roles

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Pic @ronaalddvorak via Buzzfeed

















I received a speculative CV and covering letter today and while it came from a strong candidate, it was a shame to see it looked and read like all the others. I responded with the advice below which I hope might be useful to other graduates looking to start a career in publicity and marketing. The points reflect my thoughts and opinions on this and I’d be curious to hear what any readers think in the comments section.

1. Personalise!!!
Mr or Mrs ’there’ will never give you a job because they don’t exist. I know you are emailing tons of other potential employers but if you want me to care enough to respond please do me the courtesy of a personal approach. Letters and emails that start ‘Hi there’ will be binned. It takes ages to do this for every potential employer but it is worth it. Depth of connection is more valuable than breadth of connection so if you have limited time choose your prospects carefully. It is a decision that will shape your life so take it seriously.

2. Include information relevant to the company you are approaching in your covering letter
This follows on from the first point and requires you to include references to the work and clients the company deals with. For PR why not Google some of the articles and reference them in the covering letter or pick out some of the qualities expressed in testimonials on the site. E.g. “I believe my experience and skill set in creative problem solving would be a great fit for the organisation and I would love to input on ‘creative effective campaigns’ like the one you delivered for Client X”.

3. Focus on skills that you can give evidence of in a covering letter
There doesn’t need to be tons of detail in this because really all you want your covering letter to do is make the person look at your CV. That’s all it has to do. Yours did because of the relevance of your work experience at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As an example of skills what you want to reference is something like: “I found my extensive experience of customer facing and management roles in retail and university positions was an excellent foundation for my work during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where my responsibilities were XYZ”.

4. The most important thing I want to know as an employer is WHY
Why do you want to work for us? Why in this field? What is it that excites you about it?

Your intention and attitude will be your greatest asset. Focus on making sure these come through clearly on your CV and covering letter. A caveat to this is any line that describes you as ‘being a workaholic’ . There is nothing positive in that statement. Starting out in your career it’s the most dangerous ‘aholism’ out there. A former member of many informal Workaholics Anonymous meetings my memories are of it being a pretty joyless state. Being a workaholic suggests that your work takes over your life to the exclusion of all else. While employers love employees willing to put their noses to the grindstone, nobody wants to work with a one dimensional work only individual. When it comes to work ethic caring is the biggest asset. If you care, you’ll put in long hours where necessary, you’ll find resources when needed, you’ll find solutions to problems and you’ll learn what needs to be learned to get the job done.

5. Help me skim read your CV by making the highlights visible

There’s tons of good stuff in CVs but remains hidden in paragraph and text heavy documents. Design advice would be to give it more space and less text and content wise I just want to see your highlights for each role. “The highlight of my time working here was: securing this coverage / resolving this dispute / coming up with this solution”. When mentioning awards don’t assume the reader know what the award is. Even a link to take me to a page that describes it would be good. Finally, on your CV I would love to see a line that starts “I am happiest when….” in a work or otherwise context. Even the practise alone of thinking about this and putting it to words will be an invaluable compass guide when looking at opportunities in the future. Despite the shitty job market and the short term nature of many opportunities you only get one career so make sure you choose carefully and for the right reasons.

‘we always felt that we were in very safe hands with you guys’

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The Harri-Parris: The Leaving Do

‘Thank you to you both for everything you did for The Harri-Parris at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. It was an exciting and tough 4 weeks but we always felt that we were in very safe hands with you guys. I particularly enjoyed our weekly meetings when I would arrive all a little tired and emotional and then after a good catch up would leave feeliing a lot better about the whole experience! We’re also really pleased with the amount of press coverage the show had and we now have a fantastic selection of quotes to use in the future.’

Llinos Mai
Mai Oh Mai Productions

Oh Really Great Business Values

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Notes from Oh Really on marketing, publicity and publishing…


I recently did a business coaching session with the excellent Rebecca Bonnington who asked me what my business values were. Now I thought this was just something you had a vague idea about in the back of your mind. Of course as with all vague ideas it helps to write it down. Your business values help guide everything about your business from the kind of work you do, to how you handle difficult decision making. So after some thought, here’s mine. I hope they make you consider your own and if you’d ever like to work with me you can  see if we’d be a good fit.


1. Interesting engaging work that I can have fun doing

When I look back on the past 8 years of Oh Really, I realise how lucky I have been to work on some fabulous projects. From festivals to fashion shows, amateur boxing to TV shows on Britain’s geniuses. Everything I’ve worked on has been exciting, engaging and always a rewarding experience. These projects aren’t all in one industry or just for one client but every one has been driven by passionate, creative people and it’s a privilege to be able to play a part in promoting their work. In short, I’m keen on anything that makes me go: “Oh Really…!?”


2. The financial reward is equal to the work delivered

Shoestring projects need not apply. With over 10 years experience in PR and marketing and five years in publishing the number of projects I can take on for small budgets are very few indeed. If you’re looking for a budget publicist or marketer then there are plenty of enthusiastic newcomers who will be a perfect fit. There’s a greater risk but as someone who has been there, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. If you have a choice and reasonable budget then we can plan a way of delivering more than your money’s worth.


3. Working with inspirational people 

The biggest benefit of working on a wide range of projects is the opportunity to meet and learn from some great people. In the past they have been artists, designers, business people, great writers and performers. It’s what makes working on a project something you’re keen to get your teeth into when you know you are dealing with people who are at the top of their game. Even just for the chance some of it might rub off!


4. Sharpening the saw

As a business owner you’re constantly learning on the job. It keeps you on your toes and gives you something to crack.  It could be  honing a particular skill or working in a new industry, but nothing whet’s the appetite like a good challenge! For a business owner it is closest thing to career progression you can have.


5. Asset building opportunities 

Whether it’s a spreadsheet or an opera I believe we’re all in a position to create great things. Any creative project that would benefit from an Oh Really input and that could grow to something special will always be welcome.


Not every Oh Really Creative project will fit all five business values but those with most of them make for Oh Really great partnerships. If you haven’t sat down and thought about your own business values I can’t recommend it enough!

‘I would highly recommend working with Owen’

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“Owen was an absolute pleasure to work with from start to finish. He always had our best interests in mind and was flexible and easy-going without ever compromising the integrity of our work. His sense of humor allowed us to have a great deal of fun while we collaborated and he was always open to our ideas or special requests.

I would highly recommend working with Owen for PR in the arts and hope to use his services again myself in the future.”

Jennifer McGrath
Producer and Director
DDMcG Productions

Five things I’ve learned this week: w/e 28/09/12

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Notes from Oh Really on marketing, publicity and publishing…


Round Tower working anybody?

1. Act on every lead

Ok, so it goes without saying that publicists are natural born chasers, but this week brought some pleasant surprises from acting on a sales opportunity lead months ago. It was a nice reminder that even a quick phonecall or an email sent while waiting for a coffee was worth it. The outcome might not always be what you expected but acting on every opportunity pays off in the end.  The small actions matter!





2. Great people = Great Work = Great ££££££

It was bonus to get to see Tim Billing speak in Edinburgh on the 25th.  Formerly of  San Francisco based innovation giants IDEO, Tim spoke at an IPA Scotland and BIMA event on innovation and agency success. There were tons of takeaways but the simple formula of Great People = Great Work = Great ££££££ said it all for agency success. As a solo entrepreneur, it’s even more important to team up with great people to deliver great work. The other memorable point was about a study on how much working time we spend doing things a junior could if instructed properly. Go on guess… 50%! Wow. Food for thought. Also, was nice to learn about the book on the IDEO story. The Art of Innovation. Check it out here: www.theartofinnovation.com


3. Cutting your To Do List in half helps get more done

I have filled whole notebooks with To Do Lists that were over ambitious and my most productive day this week had just two things on there. They were important though and the feeling of completing those two tasks was better than the days where I completed 15 tasks but not the ones that really mattered. Trying to do it all leads to burnout and as recovering ‘Trying to Do it all in a day’ junkie I can’t describe how good it felt to cut down the to do list, focus on what mattered and go home feeling like you’ve had a productive day. Further reading on it here: Eat That Frog


4. The are no closed doors that effort and attention can’t open

Recently I did some PR work in an industry that seemed like a complete closed shop and struggled to make headway as I wasn’t part of the scene or knew who to connect with. I was going to put that down to experience and know that working in that field might not be for me. The thing was though looking back at the campaign there were a few glimmers of light, chances that arose through creative pitching, diligent research and ideas that reframed the offer to add currency to it. What the glimmers pointed to was that there was a way in and it was going to take more work and more time to crack. There were two important lessons here. 1. There are no closed doors hat effort and attention can’t open. 2. Before you start knocking take time to assess the time and effort needed. The best PR and marketing finds the quickest route to great results. The project is only viable if you want to develop your skills and contacts in this field and are willing to accept this as a loss leader time wise.


5. Your working environment can be an energy drain or an energy boost

I’ve started the search in earnest this week for a new office space. The current space isn’t working and it made me stop and consider what I need from an office, what types of people would be good to work near and how it fits in with my working week. Since the early days of Oh Really I have worked in all kinds of spaces, in open plan offices, cramped desk spaces and of course a host of cafes and hotel lobbies. The interesting thing has been realising that the ideal space needs a bit everything. A mix of people nearby to bounce ideas off of, but quiet spots to get things done, a location that feels great to go to every day as well as one that feels enough removed to make you feel like you can leave your work behind when you go home. It’s a privilege to be able to choose but even small improvements to a space or situation can make a big difference to how you feel in work each day and I believe that is the difference between getting good work done and great work done.

‘great features and news stories across a fantastic range of media’

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Simon Williams by Jake Walters from Michael Clark’s come, been and gone

“We were delighted to work with Owen on our inaugural Lets Dance festival and a visit by the amazing Michael Clark company.

Owen’s mix of creative planning and very strong delivery resulted in some great features and news stories across a fantastic range of media.

It was a real pleasure working with him – hope we can do it again”

Darrell Williams,
Commercial Director
macrobert arts centre