Samantha Lee, Managing Director of Publicity Seekers
Samantha Lee chats to BQ about football and the journey from newsroom journalist to PR boss.
What is it the company does?
We are a Public Relations Agency, working with all forms of media including newspapers, online, TV and social to spread the word about our great clients.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Driving the business, bringing in new clients, overseeing planning meetings, sounding board for both staff and clients, looking at new streams of revenue.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After finishing my NCTJ at journalism college in Sheffield with three years of work experience at the Hartlepool Mail already under my belt, I got my first full-time job as a sports reporter on the Lanark Gazette at 19.
I would work there during the day then drive to Glasgow to work the night shift at the Daily Record, Daily Express or Sunday Mail.
At 21 I was offered a full-time job on both the Express and The Mirror (who owned the Daily Record) and I opted for the Mirror. It was a huge newsroom with over 200 reporters, photographers and sub-editors all on one floor.
After four years living in Scotland, I returned to the North East, working for the Evening Gazette and then covering my team Hartlepool United for the Hartlepool Mail. My last game being the League One play-off final at Cardiff when Sheffield Wednesday beat us at the death.
I handed in my notice a day later and after a year in Leeds understanding the differences between newspapers and PR, Publicity Seekers was born in June 2006.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Someone who doesn’t profess to know it all and isn’t afraid to ask for advice and opinions. A clear destination is necessary but be open to the fact that there are a few different routes and if you solicit your staff’s opinions then there’s far more chance they are going to want the plan they’ve helped shape, to succeed.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
To be honest, educating some of the more traditional businesses in the North East on the value of PR.
Many of the old school business owners have the “why do I need that?’ mentality, which is a very fair question and monetising the value of PR is difficult.
You can’t always show the value in the work you do in direct relation to the P&L sheet. However, we have worked with some quite traditional businesses in engineering and construction who have sat down and talked to us and given us that chance to show them what we can do and several years later, they’re still clients.
Clients feel proud seeing their work in print or online in major business or trade journals. They know their staff, clients and potential customers are all reading this too.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I get up at 5am. I follow a routine called The Miracle Morning which includes meditation, yoga, affirmations, visualisations and journaling.
I write my intentions for the day, so I am fully focussed on my day and what I want to achieve.
I then get my 4-year-old son Billy up and he and I try to get 20-30 minutes fresh air before school. I pick him up at 3pm, the phone goes away and we have some quality time.
I think we put too much emphasis on “working harder” all of the time. The key is working smarter. I also train for triathlons, exercise is a great way of clearing the mind.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A footballer or anything to do with football. My dad always took me to Hartlepool matches from being really young and I loved the atmosphere (what do you mean what atmosphere!?!).
I played for Sunderland Ladies when I was a teenager, the female game was almost non-existent then.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Not really, I like to think I’m pretty easy going. If something is doing someone’s head in they tend to shout up, but we are quite a good team and get on well.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We are currently launching a new men’s magazine, called Hype Hunter, which is really exciting. I acquired it from its previous owners and am working on getting it back up to speed with new content and brands.
I’m keen to see where that goes. I’ve been reading a lot of online men’s magazines lately and I think we have a really good product.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Don’t put too much emphasis on the planning.
That’s my downfall at times, over planning. Where you can just launch it, test it, tweak it and repeat. Always measure what you are doing and monitor what works and what doesn’t, then fine tune it.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Stop over-thinking things!
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