We recently had a conversation with Sarah Lafferty about her experiences in the PR industry.
Pagezii – Sarah, please tell us about yourself.
Sarah – I’ve spent most of the 20+ years of my professional career in tech PR in London, focusing on the B2B software industry. I became fascinated with software as a kid after visiting the science museum in Boston and playing tic-tac-toe (or noughts and crosses as the British say!) against a computer. In my career, I’ve headed the European subsidiaries of two international PR firms, worked in-house as European marcomms director at a high-growth supply chain software company, led internal comms for Centrica’s IT department and now run Round Earth Consulting with my business partner Kathrin Eiben.
Pagezii – What is Round Earth Consulting?
Sarah – Round Earth Consulting provides PR and communication services to B2B software and supply chain companies looking to grow. We came up with the name after working on our first big consulting project together, providing services to a Swiss software company. The client really liked a slide that we included as part of our pitch that said we couldn’t help clients that belonged to the ‘flat earth society’ – or denied the reality of their current situations. There’s also a really important book about journalism called ‘Flat Earth News’ by Nick Davies that exposes some the worst practices in PR. We didn’t want to name the agency after ourselves or something cutesy, so Round Earth it was.
Pagezii – What is your most memorable marketing campaign?
Sarah – Back in 2007, I led a PR campaign called “From Bedroom to Billboard” to launch Indiestore – a music streaming service for unsigned, independent musicians. This was a major departure from my normal B2B software world and was a lot of fun. A music lawyer friend of mine helped us find a really talented unsigned band called Paris Motel. We made a music video featuring them in a free studio space we managed to hustle. The whole thing was really on a shoestring budget! We got great coverage on the BBC and national press. We blew away our targets for getting artists to sign up to the site. Our team won an industry award and Indiestore were acquired a few years later.
Pagezii – How would you describe your experience as a founder?
It’s all about lean, agile ways of working
Sarah – My experience as a founder has been the best in my career and I’m never looking back. Having worked in every possible type of corporate and agency environment, I was really ready for this. Kathrin and I started the business with strong networks and track records and were really passionate about designing a service that wasn’t the traditional agency experience. So we decided to focus on providing an exceptional service to high growth companies in the industry niche we know best – B2B software.
We threw away the rule book and started doing everything differently – proposals, budget structures, meetings, how we work and reporting. It’s all about lean, agile ways of working, focusing on outcomes (not output) and really becoming part of our clients’ teams and networks. Not only has this really been successful for us and our clients, but it’s a lot of fun. I wouldn’t have done anything differently, to be honest – you’ve to experiment and make mistakes to reach the right conclusions. If you think you know everything from the outset, then you’re headed for trouble!
Pagezii – What are your business plans for the future?
Our network and reputation is everything
Sarah – Our network and reputation is everything. We want to stay small so that we keep offering an exceptional service that continues to attract referrals. In terms of services, we recently launched a workshop called ‘Finding Your Plot’ that improves upon the traditional messaging workshop. Instead of starting with company and product USPs and developing messages to push out, Finding Your Plot takes an outside-in approach, starting with personas. Through this, it becomes clear where the bottlenecks, inconsistencies, and opportunities lie for redesigning a company’s business. It’s gone down extremely well so far. We aim to do more of these workshops and eventually write a book that includes case studies from the field.
Pagezii – As an American living in London, what cultural difference in business have you come across?
Sarah – What I like best about doing business in London compared to the US is that it’s a lot more personal. I go out and meet clients and journalists so much more than I ever did working in Boston. My American colleagues seem increasingly chained to their desks and screens. Yet this doesn’t appear to be helping their productivity – quite the opposite. The dark side of British business is the blame culture. People become terrified of making mistakes because there’s so often a witch hunt to find out whom to pin blame on and demand apologies from – and I’ve seen this in companies of all sizes and structures.
Pagezii – Sarah, thank you for sharing your experiences and insight into the world of PR. Some interesting lessons to learn for all of us.