PROFILE: John Mahony, Edelman PR Worldwide - Mahony's on the rise as sole Edelman CEO. Commitment and passion are the keys that open all doors for John Mahony

John Mahony claims he was misled when he joined Edelman PR

Worldwide in 1996. But the new CEO of Edelman's London operation is a

forgiving sort. Indeed, the man described by IPR president Ian Wright as

'one of the most outstanding PR professionals around' jokes that if he

had not been misled, he would not be where he is today.



Mahony claims that before joining the world's largest independent PR

network, the then president of Edelman Europe, Michel Ogrizek tried and

failed three times to lure him with promises of vibrant staff and a

sparkling office in the centre of Dublin. After what Mahony calls

persistent 'stalking', he accepted.



Mahony recalls: 'When I finally arrived it looked like a run-down slum.

Inside were five people, two of whom were about to leave. I wondered if

I should walk away but the staff looked at me as if to say, "you are our

last chance".'



Mahony did not walk away. He says now that taking the role and proving

himself was as inevitable as entering PR in the first place. Born in

rural Ireland, Mahony is second-to-last of a family of eleven: 'I was

the little-noticed toddler pushing the baby in the buggy,' he says.

'Coming from a big family you have to learn about share of voice, saying

what you want concisely, being heard over the din.'



While his people skills were clear, Mahony's original career plan was to

land himself a job in TV. With this in mind, he left Ireland in his

early 20s and headed for Australia. Enjoying the sun and sand of

Sydney's Bondi beach, he fell into a PR role, working as press secretary

for local mayor Barbara Armitage and later as an aide to Australian

prime minister Bob Hawke.



After three years in Australia, Mahony decided to visit England on his

way home to Ireland. 'It turned out to be the typical Irish stop-off,'

he says. 'I was meant to be here for six months, and actually stayed for

two-and-a-half years.'



One reason for this lengthy stay was that he got a job as an account

manager at the then Paragon Communciations, under CEO Julia Thorn.

Despite his loyalty to a PR boss whose alumni include Weber Shandwick

Worldwide joint CEO David Brain and chairman Tim Sutton, it was,

eventually, time to go home.



Mahony says he 'wanted to see if he could live and work in Ireland'.



The work was no problem - he was soon employed at local PR agency

McMahon, and within three years had taken it through a merger and built

up the staff from six to twenty, making it McMahon Sheedy, the third

largest agency in Ireland.



It then took Mahony three years to build up Edelman Dublin, to restore

morale and transform the atmosphere and performance of the division.

During this time he got to know Wright, in the latter's capacity as

Diageo's group communications director. Wright says of Mahony: 'John

gives clear advice. He is extremely good at testing the temperature, and

understands the constraints of business.'



Once Dublin was an established success, Mahony felt it was again time to

move on. In Edelman London, where Mahony took the role of MD - he only

became joint CEO this April - he worked in partnership with the outgoing

CEO, Tari Hibbett.



Here his focus was on recruiting, and introducing a research and

development culture to the business. 'London is a tough environment.

While the office was getting the fees in, with the people there was

something of a revolving door. We wanted to change that,' he

explains.



In this role Mahony's passion for 'wooing talent' was unleashed. It is a

passion that stems from a real interest in people. He says: ' I want to

know what my staff are doing, about their domestic situation, their

social lives. I find they don't seem to mind telling me, I suppose it's

the accent, they say to themselves, oh, he's Irish, he's just being

nosy.'



Another passion he could indulge in London was his love of reputation

management specifically for CEOs, his flair for which was tested to the

full when he managed flamboyant Millennium Dome boss P-Y Gerbeau.



Within two weeks of taking up his new appointment in England, Gerbeau

was savaged by the tabloids and says of the time: 'My personal life was

being crucified. But John worked very hard to get me into the right

frame of mind to face these people. He even convinced me to say sorry to

them.'



With Mahony as the sole CEO, the target for Edelman London over the next

three years is to double its turnover from £12.5m to £25m.

Once that target is reached, it is probable that it will be Mahony doing

the stalking - he will be looking for the next big challenge.



HIGHLIGHTS

1987-88: Aide to Australian prime minister Bob Hawke

1992: Director, McMahon Sheedy - Ireland

1999: Managing director, Edelman - London; Chairman, Edelman - Ireland

2001: CEO, Edelman UK



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