An Interview with Caragh Cook

An Interview with Caragh Cook

This International Women’s Day we’re spotlighting Caragh Cook, MD of Organic, four time winner at the Screen Awards for PR Team of the Year. READ ME Commissioning Editor Louisa Maycock sat down with Caragh to talk about the modern state of entertainment PR,  how all rules go out the window for Oprah and how much they both love getting into bed at the end of the day. 

Louisa Maycock: Where did your career start? 

Caragh Cook: When I was at school, I wanted to be a newsreader. I studied Journalism, Film & Broadcasting at Cardiff. Then I realised I wasn't really the right character for journalism and I became really interested in the film and tv part of my degree. I quickly realised I wanted to work in film, but I didn't know what. I'd done some promotion work handing out flyers for a promotions agencies. When I came back to London and doing work experience at Carnaby St I just happened to pass this company and I saw the name and thought 'that's the promotions company that I did the flyering work for!' Speculatively, I was on my lunch hour, so I knocked on the door and asked for the person I'd been in contact with at uni and he said 'yes! that's me, come on up!' I said 'It's Caragh for Cardiff uni, I don't know if you even know who I am...' 

That was back in 2001 and I ended up getting a job. That was working at DDA, and I was there for 5 years. I did a bit of international work, worked on all the Lord of the Rings films, it was really amazing. 

I can imagine the industry can sometimes be quite cutthroat.

It's tough. I think what we have at Organic is unique, it's just lots of passionate people who love film and tv who are all like-minded and want to enjoy coming to work. There's not the politics. Film and TV publicity is not a 9-5 job; you're working long hours, you're working in the evenings, some weekends. You've got clients you've got to keep happy, you've got journalists you've got to keep happy, TV bookers, talent, talent reps, groomers and hotel people, car companies...there's a lot of people you're dealing with on a daily basis just to get your job done. 

You must have to wear lots of different hats. 

You do. That's something we've been really careful to do, is just make sure that there's a real variety of people. So we hire people from all sorts of backgrounds - studio backgrounds, agencies, niche arthouse backgrounds and that helps build a team that can do anything. Here we do such a variety of work. It's a real range, that's what keeps it interesting. People can also get involved in things they wouldn't necessarily have had experience doing before. It's good to be able to give people that range of experience. 

Film PR must have changed a huge amount, now social media is such a massive aspect - I couldn't do my job without it. What are the most meaningful changes you've seen in terms of the technology you now use? 

When I started I was mailing out 1000 press releases in the post. A big part of our job is giving people access to stills so they can run reviews. We used to have to send them in the post - it makes me sound so old! Around 2005/6 online was becoming much more important. The big change actually was that I had a baby five years ago. My little boy was 5 last week - 

Happy Birthday! 

Thanks! So I went to have my baby and I remember coming back from maternity leave and I sat in a meeting and everyone was talking about Influencers. Before, it was a thing that was around, but I guess in that 9 months I was had completely changed.

I can't imagine what it must have been like before social media. 

Everyone just spoke on the phone! 

Now it's like 'someone is phoning me, why?!' 

If you could go back to the beginning of your career, or if you could sit and have a cup of tea with your past self, what would you tell yourself? 

I'm not sure I'd have done anything differently. I think I moved at the right time, I moved at a time I wasn't happy and an opportunity came along and I thought it was a sign. I'd definitely make the changes I did. I've only been at 2 different agencies before Organic but both of them gave me very different but very valuable experience. I haven't mapped out a career where I wanted to be the MD of a PR agency. If someone had asked me when I was at my first job, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I'd have said "Just doing publicity." But it happened this way - 

You could say it happened Organically... 

Yes! I am really proud of being a female MD, because yes there are a lot of women in my industry, it's very well represented.

Probably one of the only areas in film that is...

It's always been very female dominated. However, right at the top there has always been men. I guess that's the one thing I'm really proud of.

Something I struggle with a lot, and I feel maybe it's not a feminist thing to admit to, but sometimes I struggle so intensely with imposter syndrome. Is this something you experience too? 

All the time! 

I think it's empowering to admit it. 

Yes! What I'm doing now, is completely different to when I first started. I was a publicist for 15 years and I was really good at it, I loved it. Now I do something completely different. I dip into publicity now and then. I'd like to do it more, but I can't because I'm running a business. You don't suddenly go "right I'm going to learn how to run a business now!" I've had to learn on the job. You sometimes feel like "I shouldn't be here! How am I doing this?" But I've been doing it for quite some time anyway without any specific outside training, and muddling my way through! Organic has become very successful over a relatively short period of time, so that success is all about the people...and not me particularly. I'm very lucky I've got a such a brilliant team. I couldn't do it without them. 

Is there a particular ritual in your day? Something you do to make the day feel like it's not just running away from you? 

It's probably when I get into bed. 


In the morning it's too crazy; I wake up and I'm running around trying to get my son ready. Some days I'm able to take him to school but most - I'm lucky I'm in relationship and a company where the people around me supporting me can be flexible. I then get myself to work, I get my breakfast, go to my desk and catch up with everybody. Sadly, it's not full of yoga and gym working out. It should be but it isn't. 

I think we need to get rid of the word 'should'. 

I do feel I could do more for myself. I'd go running or whatever...I used to do that. You do need something to focus the mind. I recently went full time again after having my little boy and being four days a week, which again was quite challenging. I was the first person to do that, to do this job part time. It was lovely to have my day with him… but I was never completely switched off. I was still checking emails and taking calls. When I went back to full time, there's no switch off. 

Who are your favourite women working in film? 

Well, I’m wearing my Ava DuVernay t-shirt today. The stories she is telling are with such heart. Her partnership with Netflix is just so powerful because her stories can reach millions of people. She's had the support from Oprah which helps! We worked with Oprah about six or seven years ago, and she came over last minute so we had to get a working schedule together in 2 days. Which as you can imagine isn't very difficult because everyone wants to talk to Oprah. All the rules go out the window for Oprah. 

And, Tilda Swinton. She's an icon for me. I've had the pleasure of working with her. She's just amazing; an incredible actress but just so lovely. I have huge amounts of respect for her. My first encounter with her was years ago, I did the publicity for the Edinburgh film festival and she was a patron. She'd just come down and do photos and just support the festival - whether she had anything to promote or not. 

Aside from that - just a lot of women I've worked with over the years. There's so many women who have dedicated their whole lives to this job. I've worked with so many who just give everything to it. They've all inspired me in some way; sometimes I've learnt not to give too much because then you don't have anything else. You have to have a life outside of it, otherwise you become consumed by it. It's a weird little world to get lost in. Lots of women who I've worked with along the way, who I've learnt a lot from and I have a lot of admiration for. Too many to name! There are so many brilliant women in this industry. 

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