Be Inspired Series
Paula graduated with a Bsc Hons degree in Communication, Advertising & Marketing before working for IRFU (Ulster Branch). She has held her position with the Consumer Council for just over two years.
What does your job involve?
I am part of a small but very busy communications team and together we manage all media relations, events, publications, public affairs and the website for the Consumer Council.
As we have such a wide remit, on any given day I could be working on projects that involve some or all of the above. I try to plan my day but it can be difficult. That's the beauty of communications though, you never know what your day is going to bring.
How did you come into this line of work -- have you always had an interest in consumer issues?
I studied Communications, Advertising and Marketing at the University of Ulster. My placement year at Jordanstown helped me decide to pursue a career in PR and Communications and when I graduated in 2006 I was extremely lucky to get a job at the Irish Rugby Football Union (Ulster Branch).
This was my first step on the PR ladder. I got fantastic experience there working in a great team but I have to admit that I still struggle with some of the rules of rugby.
In 2007 I then wanted to try something different, a new challenge to get my teeth into and that's when I joined the Consumer Council.
It was a big transition moving from a sports environment into consumer affairs. It's so varied and I've certainly got the challenge I was looking for.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Knowing that the work we do really helps people. Whether it's working on a publication that has useful and practical information or working with the media to highlight an important issue for consumers, it's a very rewarding job.
And the greatest challenges -- do you encounter a lot of resistance to the work the Council does?
On the whole, I think people are very supportive of the work we do. We are an independent organisation working to protect the interests of consumers, but sometimes that means speaking out on issues and challenging organisations, so on those occasions we can come up against some resistance.
But it comes with the territory and it doesn't deter us from campaigning for a fair deal for all consumers.
Consumer issues are wide ranging -- is it possible to be an expert in every area?
The Consumer Council has a very wide remit including energy, transport, water, consumer education and money affairs so we're kept very busy.
Working in the communications office means I have to have a good level of understanding of all our remits but I rely on the expertise of the staff in each section when it comes to the finer details or the more complex information requests.
Which campaigns or events which you've worked on are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the work we have done to date on our forgotten accounts campaign. I was involved in rolling out the regional part of this campaign and am very pleased that people have been reunited with money they forgot they ever had.
Given the tough financial times we're in consumers need as much money in their pockets as possible. It's a great feeling knowing that something I've written has helped people in this way. Our upcoming Money Week initiative is also a fantastic project to be involved in.
What are your interests outside of work?
I like reading, walking, shopping (for shoes mostly) spending time with my friends and family, going out for a few sociable drinks and playing a bit of music when I get the chance. I play the fiddle and piano.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Everything happens for a reason.
Tell me an interesting fact about yourself?
I have shaken hands with Hillary Clinton.