Marie Louise Pumfrey has a knack for being ahead of the curve. After graduating from university, she started her career in the press office at the cult publisher Virago, and from there went to work at the buzzy, ground-breaking agency Lynne Franks PR. A successful stint in Sydney, Australia working at another creative agency, Spin, gave her further insight into fashion and lifestyle PR, with a variety of brands from designers and drinks to music.
Returning to London at just the right moment – the mid 1990s – when the capital was in the midst of the Cool Britannia wave of energy, she was quickly snapped up to work with the launch team of Channel 5. Initially brought in to the press office for her fashion expertise – in order to oversee coverage of the British Fashion Awards – Marie Louise soon moved into a broader, more senior press role encompassing drama, documentary, arts and chat shows.
“I learnt a lot about working with celebrities, dealing with the tabloid mentality, and how to keep everyone happy,” she says. “Also what makes a good story, and how to distil information and present it to the press. Crisis management was another thing I learned there, and when to call in legal advice.”
In 2004, Marie Louise left Channel 5 to launch her own business, starting small with two clients, luxury leather-goods brand Connolly and optician Michel Guillon. She was soon positioning the brands in prestigious publications such as Vogue, GQ, Esquire, Sunday Times Style and the Financial Times.
Before long, others were seeking her out. Handbag design duo Wilbur and Gussie was among her early success stories, and remain a client now. Marie Louise built awareness of the brand from scratch, with red-carpet exposure and some stunning celebrity endorsements – and some outstanding coverage in Vogue, Red, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire, among others.
From there, the word spread wider still about MLPR. The results spoke for themselves, and the company’s status as a professional, results-driven outfit was firmly established, along with Marie Louise’s reputation as a PR who is determined and pro-active – but never brash – and who inspires confidence with her calm, amenable manner.
The company has grown organically and steadily – now there is a team of five, with a smart office and showroom in London’s Queen’s Park. Along with the printed media, online image and social media are now also fundamental elements of what MLPR do, and the agency has built excellent relationships with key bloggers.
As she puts it: “We’re a boutique agency that punches above its weight and achieves the results that the big guns aim to achieve. The kind of credibility you can get from editorial is not possible to achieve through advertising. Knowing when and how to raise awareness is key.”
Unwavering instincts and a great breadth of experience and knowledge have stood Marie Louise in good stead. “You have to know what works. I select clients because I love what they do, I know I can get coverage for them, and deliver the same results as big agencies. My clients often become friends, and I frequently advise on the product itself and general branding.”
Marie Louise is a sharp, lateral thinker, and she is fast and strategic in her approach. Monitoring the catwalk collections at the beginning of each season, she identifies key trends, and predicts what fashion editors will be looking for. Her team is trained to act quickly when necessary.
“Truth without fear,” was Marie Louise’s family motto when she was growing up, and she has stuck to it. It has worked for her – she is a highly trusted figure – by both the media and her clients. With great passion and determination, she understands her clients and delivers results for them. And best of all, as she puts it herself with a wry smile: “I’m reasonably pushy and determined but I’m not a nightmare PR person.”