Maria Farmer is one of the most experienced and formidable women in Public Relations. Her Sydney company MFPR specializes in brand building/protection/crisis management, publicity and public relations. More than a PR agency, MFPR provides clients with a bespoke service, drawing on her 30-odd years’ experience at the forefront of the communications industry in Australia. With a proud history representing some of the best-known creatives, actors, fashion and lifestyle brands, restaurateurs and authors this country has produced, MFPR leverages its unrivalled network of media and industry professionals – and an enviable reputation – to achieve optimum outcomes for its clients. It’s unsurprising that strong women gravitate to Maria and MFPR represents many: Celeste Barber, Yael Stone, Brigitte MacGowan and Desley Maidment from State of Escape, and the co-founders of bassike, Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan. She also mentors businesswomen across all industries, encouraging them to be unapologetic in business and life. Here, Maria shares the secrets of successfully navigating work and life.
NT: Maria, you are one of the experienced and highly regarded PR practitioners in this country. We love your no BS, heart-on-sleeve approach to work and life. Have you always been a straight-shooter, or did you have to learn this?
MF: Yes, I have always been a straight shooter …being upfront and honest has always worked well for me.
NT: You advise on various boards including NAVA (The National Association for the Visual Arts). What skill sets do you bring to the table?
MF: A no nonsense approach with the issue that is on the table. And if I don’t have anything to offer on the subject, I remain quiet and listen.
NT: So many more women are in positions of power these days but there are still gender biases and prejudices they must overcome. What challenges still face women in the workplace?
MF: The same challenges that face women everywhere. We are the underrepresented majority. And there is still a bit of bullying and slagging off [understatement], and too much mansplaining….and we still have to fight for our place at the table.
NT: How do you help other women to find their power?
MF: I look back on how I managed to become successful over many years and share those stories …How I helped others and how I learned from others’ mistakes. I look deeply at what each person is trying to achieve. I stress that it’s not magic but a lot of hard work and practice. And it takes self-control and being honest with yourself. My approach [straight up] helps those I work with accept the constructive criticism and learn from it.
NT: Health and well-being are incredibly important to you. Is that part of the secret of your success? Looking after yourself?
MF: There is no other way in my book. Who wants to wake up feeling like shit every day when there is so much to do and experience?
NT: Maria, we have seen the phenomenal impact of the #metoo movement in calling out bad male behaviour – particularly in the workplace. How does a woman find her voice and speak her truth without being dismissed as aggressive or emotional?
MF: I hate this question. It perpetuates the stereotype. Just speak your truth and maybe don’t swear as much as I do in the process.
NT: Got it! Finally, you cherish your daughter and granddaughter. Your role in their lives is pivotal but what have they taught you about female strength?
MF: I adore them and they continue to remind me that girls and woman are amazing…