She’s been involved with the CIPR for the last 16 years, enthusiastic about the idea of giving back to the industry that she radiates passion about. Having been elected, and re-elected, to the CIPR council previously she’s going to take the reins in 2018, looking to lead them at an uncertain time and support the view of PR as being a lot more than just talking to the media.
“There’s a horrible misconception that it’s very fluffy but it’s not; it’s a hard-nosed business process and it’s a management discipline.”
And this year she’s had the desire, the feeling in the pit of her stomach that she needs to get more involved in leading the direction of this institute – and so she is; and you feel in talking to her that there’s little that Sarah puts her mind to, which doesn’t come to fruition.
“I thought at school I’d probably work in languages – that was pretty much the careers advice at the time,” she smiles, as I enquire about how she chose the career path that brought her to this point. “But when my mam helped me use some software that suggested a career for you, it came up with PR and it seemed like a good fit!”
And so PR it was. After her time studying at university in Leeds, Sarah secured two internships and she quite literally hasn’t looked back since – because she’s far too busy, always looking forward.
“Public relations is a very dynamic career, and I loved the hustle and bustle from day one,” Sarah enthuses. “And it’s not just about making money! You can be working with the NHS to teach people where to go depending on what’s wrong with them, or with the fostering and adoption teams, making the right people enquire about becoming an adoptive parent. These are the things that really matter.”
Starting off in Tyne Tees Television, she moved quickly into an agency environment which felt like a home-from-home after an earlier internship. And it wasn’t until the recession hit in 2008/9 that she considered entrepreneurship as an opportunity for herself.
“I wasn’t really doing very much hands-on stuff and I was missing it,” she says, “and clients were saying to me, ‘we want to work with you, but we’re not getting you!’ but they needed to cut back on costs, and so they asked me if I’d considered it.”
The advent of homeworking enabled a culture shift which really helped Sarah to work independently, and so when she set up by herself in 2009 it was the perfect move. Now boasting a team of ten, she has seen her business and the number of clients using her service grow to a
“There’s a core team of ten of us now, who are able to work their life around their jobs. The agility of the team is such that there is often one of us around at different times of the day,” she says, and that flexibility not only helps her clients but also helps her team - to pursue hobbies, enjoy their lives outside of work, and even to work on entirely different projects. It’s this richness that makes Sarah Hall Consulting what it is.
She cites a healthy business development pipeline as one of the reasons this business has always gone so well. Not one for resting on her laurels, Sarah is keen to make sure that she properly understands opportunities around her. Equally, she selects clients and projects carefully, to make sure they’re a good fit for her business.
“Somebody said to me that you never work harder than when you work for yourself. But I worked really hard for my last employer, and I found that really challenging because I had the weight of so many people’s roles on my shoulders,” she says. “I knew when I set up that I’d do whatever it takes to feed the kids!”
Sarah’s work-life balance is critically important to her. Her decision to have children was a big driver in setting up her own business, feeling that the agency environment wasn’t particularly conducive to the kind of work-life balance that she wanted for herself and her family.
“There is absolutely no magic, and you have to give something up somewhere. I always say to define your measure of success; for a lot of people, success is having an office and a firm and making lots of money. That was never my measure of success for this. I wanted to be able to have a family and spend time with them.” And she does; her children’s nativity plays non-negotiably takes up space in her calendar.
“I don’t always get it right, and I have to remind myself constantly!”
Choosing to live by the coast, outside of the city centre, Sarah’s focus is definitely on maintaining the balance between finding the clients she loves, doing great work for them, and fulfilling those CIPR duties in her working life.
“There’s no plans to make it a huge agency. This size makes me happy, the team are happy, and that’s my priority really.”