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Inside Job: What it takes to become a PR powerhouse
July 25th 2015 / 0 comment
Lauren Stevenson, Co-founder and Director of Aisle 8 gives us a glimpse into her journey up the career ladder and provides her career advice for anyone looking to enter the world of public relations
When it comes to incredible CVs, Lauren Stevenson has the kind of one that most would aspire to have.
From the Head of PR for Harrods to PR Director at my-wardrobe to co-founding her own agency, Aisle 8, she’s worked for some of the biggest names in the communications arena. With a head for social media and finding creative solutions that merge the worlds of traditional PR and digital marketing, how does she stay one step of the game in an industry that’s constantly evolving?
We spoke to the public relations powerhouse to ask for her top tips for climbing the career ladder, switching off in an industry that never seems to sleep and for a glimpse into the ins and outs of her fast-paced job.
GTG: Could you tell us about what your role entails? What does a typical day look like for you?
LS: No day is really ever the same, but that's why I love my job. As founder and director of Aisle 8, which I set up with Virginia Norris in October, I'm responsible for running our agency, working closely with our existing and prospective clients to deliver the best results for their business. We focus on digitally remastered communications, which means we offer 360 communications across traditional channels but always underpinned with digital activity.
In terms of a usual day, I get up at 7am, feed the dog and take her to the dog minder, before getting to the tube to work. I use the journey to catch up on emails and start planning the day ahead. I will also look at all of the social media channels, particularly Twitter and Instagram to catch up on the news that happened around the world overnight.
Once I'm at work, my day can include developing and writing strategies, meeting with editors, bloggers, influencers and brands, working with the team on events and media pitches.
Our clients are varied, but everyone is just as important to us and we only work with brands we truly believe in which shows in the passion and energy the team has every day.
GTG: Could you tell us about your background?
LS: I studied marketing at Southampton and within minutes of starting the PR module I knew I wanted a job in PR. I ran home to research PR agencies and clearly remember finding Ketchum, Hill + Knowlton and the then leading luxury PR firm Aurelia PR during my search. I would later go to work for all three of them.
After a two week internship at Aurelia PR working on brands such as Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo and La Redoute, I was given a job as an Account Executive. I finished university on the Friday and moved to London on the Saturday starting work on the Monday.
Following Aurelia, I worked my way up the PR ladder at local agencies Ketchum and Hill + Knowlton, working on brands such as Whiskas, Pedigree, Oral-B, Baby Einstein, Intel and Dating Direct. Every role taught me something new and I can't count the number of people who inspired me and helped me learn during those years.
It was at Hill and Knowlton that I worked on my-wardrobe.com, a just launched luxury fashion e-tailer. After a year working as the Account Manager, I moved in-house to build and lead the PR team as PR Director. It was here that I was fully thrown into the world of e-commerce and digital, working across all communication channels to launch the brand in Australia, Scandinavia, the Middle East, France, Germany and the US.
Living in New York with the my-wardrobe US team, I was approached for the Head of PR & Communications at Harrods. The role brought me back to London to work for the world-famous store, where I oversaw the PR, social media and events.
It was during this time working with multiple agencies that I saw an opportunity for a communications agency, which bridged the gap between traditional PR and digital marketing. Virginia and I had spoken about starting an agency together many times and we knew it was the right time.
We launched Aisle 8 in October 2014 with three e-commerce fashion clients: Very Exclusive, STYLEBOP.com, Covetique.com and the charity chaired by Samuel L Jackson; One for The Boys.
Now we have a team of eight fashion, beauty and lifestyle clients ranging from Ferrari, STYLEBOP.com, Atterley Road, One For The Boys, blow LTD and Catherine Quin, as well as a number of consulting clients.
GTG: What motivates you and what would you say is the most exciting aspect of your job?
LS: Our clients’ businesses motivate me. We are here to provide the best service to the brands that we work on, whether it's a social media strategy, digital content creative ideas, traditional and digital PR results which drive traffic and sales or events and activations to connect new customers with their brand. The digital world has changed the world of PR and communications, making results clear to see and measurable and when you can see how your work has impacted a business commercially, it's incredibly motivating and rewarding for everyone.
Most importantly is the team and culture we are creating at Aisle 8. Virginia and I set out to create an agency that the most talented people want to work at. We know what drives our team and we want each one of them to love what they do, the clients they work on, the campaigns they deliver and even the office we sit in. Seeing the connection, passion, energy, loyalty and drive among the team excites me every day knowing what we can achieve together.
GTG: How do you organise yourself?
LS: I've always been very organised (although some may say not in my personal life!). I love to-do lists, schedules, briefing packs, timelines and KPIs. Working at global agencies, you are taught about process. I always know everything that is going on with every client however big or small.
People say that I spend my life on my mobile phone and yes, I do. I'm the queen of multitasking. I even once secured a feature while walking into Ushuaia in Ibiza. I very rarely switch off, but I absolutely love what I do.
GTG: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you do?
LS: Get as much experience as you can and take every opportunity offered to you, developing relationships and growing your network. Being able to experience working in different agencies and in-house roles as part of an internship will help you to discover which type of PR you would like to start your career in.
The internet and social media give you incredible research tools to understand the ever-evolving media and digital landscapes and inspire you. Relationships are everything and social media has opened up communications channels with the world.
When I look back at my career, it was working at global agencies Ketchum and Hill + Knowlton, which thoroughly built my understanding of PR and how it fitted into the wider marketing mix, but working in-house for an e-commerce brand honed my skills in digital on a global scale.
GTG: How do you achieve a work-life balance?
LS: If you ask any of my friends they will say “she lives on her phone.” Our clients and media are not 9-5 and neither am I - my phone allows me to work from wherever I am in the world at whatever time.
I do find time to switch off when I'm with friends and family. I love Ibiza and am looking for a house there, so I can live between London and Ibiza throughout the year. I feel myself relax as soon as I step off the plane and working in the sunshine is the perfect work-life balance for me.
At home in London, I love running, hot room yoga and walking the dog on the common. They give me a few hours to switch off the phone and truly relax.
GTG: What 3 things do you do to maintain energy, focus and motivation throughout the day?
LS: I always try to have breakfast meetings. I'm quite alert in the morning and breakfast meetings tend to be quite productive and don't eat into the day. It means I can action the points of the meeting on my phone on the way back to the office.
I will always go out and get lunch and if I have my dog at work I will take her for a walk. We work in Shoreditch, so are spoilt with the choice of restaurants and food stalls. It's important to get out of the office and get some fresh air to come back refreshed for the afternoon.
I will always go to the gym, go for a run on the common or go to hot room yoga in the evening. It means I switch my phone off for at least two hours and completely unwind.