Creative Lives — Sarah Waters, Blink’s head of communications, on building brand profiles and dodging data
Having graduated with an illustration degree from Brighton University in 2006, Sarah Waters came to the harsh realisation that destiny had something else up its sleeve: “My lonely days as an illustrator straight out of uni made me realise that being freelance wasn’t for me.” After gaining experience in PR and social strategy at a modelling agency, a friend encouraged Sarah to join the Blink family and lend her skills to the ad world, managing PR for trailers like Parabella’s The Great British Bake Off. Now on the cusp of launching her own communications agency, Sarah shares the essentials of constructing language to promote creatives.
Head of Communications, Blink (2016–2018)
Brand & Social Strategy, Storm Models (2009–2015)
Image Coordinator and Graphic Designer, Storm Models (2007–2009)
Invigilator, White Cube (2006–2007)
BA Illustration, Brighton University (2003–2006)
Sarah at work
How would you describe your job?
I work across the whole Blink family (Blink, Blinkink and Blink Art) to promote our talent’s work and build the brand’s profile. This involves liaising with journalists, overseeing our social media content, and writing press releases, web copy and newsletters.
I head up the communications team and work closely with each company to plan, create and schedule content for press and social. My role didn’t exist at Blink before I joined almost two years ago, so I’ve spent a lot of time building a PR strategy to make things run smoothly. Working across so many companies, I have to be super-organised and have become a master of lists and spinning plates!
What does a typical working day look like?
I work a four-day week, so have to be really efficient with my time. I split my week between our two London offices – one in Soho (Blink) and the other in Holloway (Blinkink and Blink Art). I try to arrange my meetings for when I’m in Soho as most of our clients are based over that way, plus Holloway’s lunch options are pretty limited! I work 9am to 5pm and my commute from Hackney is usually spent checking industry news on blogs and twitter to ensure that I’m up-to-date on what’s out and trending.
“My lonely days as an illustrator straight out of uni made me realise that being freelance wasn’t for me.”
My week is bookmarked by our two internal meetings. We kick off the week with our MMM (Monday Morning Meeting) at 10am. This is an opportunity for the EPs to share jobs they’re pitching on, jobs in production and final projects that have been delivered and are ready to PR. It’s a great way for me to stay up-to-date on what’s coming out and prioritise my work schedule. Then the NBM (New Business Meeting) on a Thursday is my opportunity to present any press highlights to the team and identify and discuss potential PR opportunities.
Blink really encourages a good work-life balance, so I try to stick to my hours, but the nature of my job means I often have to pick bits up in the evenings or on Friday when I’m off.
What do you like about working in London?
I love living and working in London. My commute from Clapton isn’t ideal, but working a four-day week means I’m not doing it every day.
How did you land your current job?
I have Matt Marsh to thank for that! Matt is a friend and a producer at Blinkink. I was on maternity leave at the time and he mentioned that Blink were looking for someone to manage their PR so I emailed them my CV. Three interviews later and I got the job!
How collaborative is your role?
Very collaborative – both internally and externally. Internally, I meet with a communications rep from each of our companies once a week to plan our PR schedule for social. I also chat with our producers and talent to ensure I have the info I need to write press releases and content to promote their work.
Externally, I communicate with the creative agency, label or client to formulate a PR strategy for a project’s launch. I also work with industry journalists to plan features and interviews for showcasing our talent.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Working with such talented and creative people is the best bit about my job. I also love going to shoots – visiting the BBC’s The Supporting Act studio blew my mind! Stop-frame animation is so meticulous and the miniature sets on this one were so true to life. I wanted to touch everything (but I didn’t).
Data analysis is super helpful for tracking press coverage and social stats, but it’s pretty mundane and something I rarely have enough time for. Now and then these mundane tasks are good for giving my brain a rest.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Working with Channel 4 to PR Parabella’s The Great British Bake Off trailer was good fun – despite all the negative press! It’s really interesting how the general public’s view on something as popular as Bake Off can be so divided. Creatively though, this project felt like a real triumph for Parabella and Blinkink, and it was great to be part of it.
What skills are essential to your job?
Good communication skills are essential to my job whether it be written, spoken, on email, phone or face-to-face. Being sensitive to tone and understanding your audience when writing press releases and web copy is also important.
What tools do you use most for your work?
Trello for project management, InDesign for creating press releases, Later for scheduling social posts, Mailchimp for designing email campaigns, Coverage reports for documenting coverage and analysing press data, Dropbox and Google Drive for sending press packs, Keynote for presentations, MacBook Air for everything and an A5 notebook for meetings.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
Growing up I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I used to raid my mum’s wardrobe and put on fashion shows with my friends. This led me to do an art foundation course, where I really got into drawing and I went on to study Illustration at Brighton University.
What were your first jobs?
My first job out of uni was working at White Cube as an Invigilator. I had to stand in the corner of the gallery for hours at a time. This sounds boring, but I really enjoyed it. I’d often sneak a sketchbook in so I could work on my illustration commissions at the same time.
Was there a particular move that helped your development at the start of your career?
Working in the art department at Storm Models really opened my eyes to the world of PR and social strategy. I worked at Storm for eight years and in that time I went from designing model cards and fashion week show packs in their art department to building and managing the brand’s visual identity and online output. It was at a time when everyone was learning how to make social media work for them commercially – we really were learning on the job!
“It’s really interesting how the general public’s view on something as popular as Bake Off can be so divided.”
What’s been your biggest challenge?
I’m actually quite shy, so picking up the phone and talking to people used to be a real challenge for me. The more you do it the better you get, until it doesn’t feel like a big deal anymore.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
Having studied a creative subject at uni, I never thought I’d sit in front of a computer for most of my working day. I also didn’t think I’d work in PR! I’m really not the typical PR person! I guess my lonely days as an illustrator straight out of uni made me realise that being freelance wasn’t for me and that working with creatives was much more my thing.
What would you like to do next?
I was totally new to the world of advertising when I started this job two years ago, so I’ve built a lot of new contacts and met some really interesting people. Now, I’m in the process of setting up a creative communications agency called Hey There. My plan is to work with both creative talent and cultural collaborators to create stories that reach and inspire people. I’m hoping to launch in the next few weeks so keep an eye out!
Words of Wisdom
What recommendations would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Ask lots of questions and always share your work for feedback – the first draft is never perfect. Be nice. Don’t overuse exclamation marks.