Student stories: Sarah's leading digital thinking in the PR sector

Posted by Jenni Armstrong on 02 November 2015

Sarah Hall is setting the scene for us.

'There's been something of a turf war of late. Lines between disciplines are blurring. Many public relations practitioners have a mistrust of any model that includes paid media despite it being a huge opportunity. As an industry we have to redefine how we do things and embrace PR's role as a management discipline with a clear part to play in achieving organisational success if we are to stay relevant.'

After a successful career in numerous PR agencies in the North East, Sarah set up her own consultancy in 2009. As an early adopter in using video and social for her clients, Sarah could see the way digital was moving and wanted to smarten up her knowledge of the full range of channels and strategies.

'PR as a sector needs to reinvent itself,' she explains. 'The changes in tech have meant we no longer need to rely on the media as a broker, we can use digital tools to connect brands with their audience. I wanted to make sure that we as an agency were leading the way.'

So Sarah decided to upskill, and joined Squared Online. And now a year after graduating, she's spearheading #FuturePRoof, a book and emerging community with big ambition.

#FuturePRoof's mission is to tackle the key issues that managers of communication teams and agencies need to consider to ensure they remain relevant and command appropriate budgets, especially as disciplines merge.

So, how did it come about?

'Throughout my career I've spent time in a lot of different agency environments, I've seen good practice - and bad - and it's helped shape the approach I wanted to take with my business. Namely agility, innovation, best practice - and a structure enabling work-life balance.'

'I found a lot of people asking me how I did it,' she continues. 'Looking around the latest industry articles and comment I realised there was no one book that distilled everything I'd learned into one handbook. I suddenly saw a gap in the market to create a unique and powerful resource for the comms industry.'

Working with Stephen Waddington, the founder of community project PRStack, Sarah curated and edited 33 chapters crowdsourced from academics and practitioners across a wide range of topics.

Looking back at her Squared Online experience, she can see a lot of the key themes and concepts from the course helped set her on the path of this forward-thinking initiative - and determine its goal.

'The fail fast-fail forward approach to ideas and innovation is something that's stuck with me ever since I graduated, and that definitely gave outside my comfort zone and take on the project in the first place. And then there's the importance of making sure you always have that critical eye, continually scanning the horizon to see what's coming next. Question everything. And the aim of this book is exactly that: engender innovative thinking, and encourage PR practitioners to create disruption - not just embrace it.'

And she even got an endorsement for #FuturePRoof from digital marketing guru Brian Solis, whose thought-leadership surrounding the customer journey and the Ultimate Moment of Truth features in Squared Online.

Chapters describe newer areas of practice such as the move towards paid and automation, as well as traditional topics such as measurement, budgeting and stakeholder management. Whatever your role in marketing or PR, there's a lot to take away from it - and a lot to talk about.

You can read #FuturePRoof in full as a free download from www.futureproofingcomms.co.uk. Then join the conversation at @WeArePRoofed.

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Topics: Student stories