NE comms conversation #2 “Lethargy is something that concerns me”

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At the start of this series I promised you leading lights. Time to deliver on that and, in the words of Spinal Tap, turn it up to 11.

Stepping up today is Sarah Hall, one of the best known PR people in the region and also the only person I know who has won a medal for communications. Take it away Sarah….

What single bit of advice would you give graduates just entering the business?
Never stop learning. Continuous professional development feeds your mind, fulfils you and keeps you employed in the best jobs.

What made you get into the PR/comms business?
I had no clue what to do and just knew I did NOT want to be a teacher. I was probably around 16 when Mum made me do one of those career multi-choice question things and up popped PR as something that might suit. Turns out it was a pretty good match and I decided to study a subject area that has since turned into a bit of a passion for me.

How have things changed in the last 5 years?
It would be easier to answer how things haven’t changed! Digital technology has revolutionised the comm’s industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Smart PR practitioners have grasped the nettle, are retraining and understand that organisations need to tell their brand story in a coherent and compelling way. That job sits squarely with us and complements our skills perfectly.

Are you optimistic about the future?
What’s not to be optimistic about? It’s a hugely exciting time to be in comm’s. After all, change brings opportunity and the industry is crying out for people with digital skills. What’s more, as we climb out of recession, businesses are looking for more support. We celebrated five years in business this August and these past twelve months have been our best yet.

For you, what’s the real benefit of good PR/comms?
Behavioural change is one of the greatest benefits. It requires significant investment in time and resource if you are to properly engage with your audiences and is not something that can be achieved overnight but when you’re pushing a message that can change lives (such as something health, education or enterprise-related), there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a campaign successfully come to fruition. Never fails to give me a buzz.

What are the key traits people in PR need to succeed?
Business acumen, perseverance, honesty and a slight touch of nosiness.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Things happen when they do for a reason. You always have choices, even when you feel like you don’t. 

What do you see as the most important issues in PR right now?
I’m leading work at the CIPR on the gender pay gap (research shows there is an average salary discrepancy between men and women practitioners of £12k). As a female dominated industry, we need to find a way to lead on this issue and become an exemplar for other industries.

What worries you about the industry?
Lethargy is something that concerns me. In the past we have collectively been slow to react to the changing world around us – and that is a criticism of our sector bodies as well as us as individuals. We need to start looking more at the bigger picture and not just focus on the day to day.  We also need to shout louder as we work in a worthy industry and we have a clear role in helping organisations to achieve commercial success.

Who will play you when they get round to making the biopic of your life?
Maggie Gyllenhaal for sure. Although some of my mates would be shouting Kristen Wiig right now as they think we look like each other #winning.

What’s your favourite film?
Have a few but today I’m going with High Fidelity. I’m a big John Cusack fan.

What keeps you up at night?
Right now? My kids * yawns *

Sarah Hall runs her own PR and marketing business, Sarah Hall Consulting Ltd, is a Board member of the CIPR and recently graduated from Google’s digital marketing course, Squared. You can find her on Twitter @hallmeister

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