Name: Laura Sutherland
Company: Aura PR
Job title: Chief
Twitter: @laurafromaura @AuraPR
LinkedIn: Laura Sutherland
Did you go to university?
I didn’t go to university – perhaps I should have? I was too eager to get out into the world and start earning money and having more responsibility.
I had good grades at school and went to college for two years and studied Hospitality Operations. By the time my course was coming to an end I had already been accepted onto a fast track management programme within the Scottish hospitality operator (now no more!), Big Beat. I was a restaurant manager by the time I was 19 looking after a staff of 40.
What was your first job in PR?
When Big Beat went into liquidation, due to a bad business decision made about a venue in London, I knew the company which was going to buy the company, and I didn’t want to work for them. One of my regular customers asked me to go to her office and have a chat about working in PR because I ‘had balls’ and a good attitude to hard work. So I did. I went to work for the Scottish boutique agency which looked after brands like L.K. Bennett, Laing the Jeweller and sister company Parkhouse and Wyatt, but I also got to work with all the luxury brands they worked with, such as Ebel, Patek Phillipe, Bulgari and Rolex.
The role was varied and I worked on everything for my clients, integrating campaigns in advertising, editorial, website development and events. I was even involved in Scotland’s first CGI design house! It was a baptism of fire!
I worked hard over 8 years developing my skills, knowing my strengths and weaknesses.
How did you get from there to your current role?
I held various positions within agencies and in-house, stepping up a level every time I moved.
My current role is running Aura, which I do as an independent practitioner, working with other skilled practitioners in design and development – technical creative skills I don’t possess.
I worked hard over 8 years developing my skills, knowing my strengths and weaknesses. Aura was launched in November 2008.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
In short, I get stuff done and make things happen! My days are generally jam packed from morning until night!
I start the day by checking emails before I’ve even got out of bed, scanning news and making mental notes for priorities as soon as I get to the office. I try as much as possible to use telephone calls and Skype for meetings, allowing maximum time in the office, although I do face-to-face with clients and get out and about to network at lunch or after work.
I have one main action plan which I update regularly and that is made up of actions from each of my client’s work programmes. That keeps me in check! I receive a lot of emails every day, many of which I subscribe to for blogs. I try and read one quality blog post during the day, in case it’s something I can react to. I do most of my reading in the evening though. If it’s a day I post a blog, I try to ensure I’m office bound to be able to maximise posts and react to comments.
My work is very practical and I’m hands on with creating content, writing new business proposals and at the moment, I’m working on The PRofessionals, Scotland’s first PR festival, which takes place 16-17 June in Edinburgh. It’s an idea I had a while back but took a few years to develop it.
Challenges are opportunities
What do you like most about working in PR?
Right now, working in PR, it’s the most exciting time for the industry. We’re moving on and moving fast, keep abreast of algorithms and data as well as executing creative engagement campaigns.
No one day is the same! Challenges are opportunities and it’s both exciting and rewarding to face a challenge and turn it into something great.
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
I wouldn’t say there is anything ‘hard’. PR to me is natural it’s the want and passion that drives me to learn and develop. Again, I like to think of challenges as opportunities!
For women working in PR, we need to showcase more success
Who is your PR inspiration?
I don’t really have an inspiration. There are a number of people who I have engaged with through my role in the CIPR who are people I have much respect for. I’ve also had the pleasure of working in different PR communities where I have met other great PR people. Each person has possibly inspired me in different ways, to learn something new, to read a book or to have more confidence in myself.
I think that’s the thing, too. For women working in PR, we need to showcase more success, so that younger women in PR have an inspiration or someone they consider a role model. If we do that, then we’re helping the gender issue we currently face.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
I have to give credit to my parents. Sadly my Dad passed away so won’t see it, but both my parents have always encouraged me to be the best and to believe I can do anything. They let me leave school early to pursue my ambition in hospitality. My Step-Dad gives good advice, too! He always says ‘keep your feet on the ground’ (whilst pointing his famous finger!).
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
Too many to mention! My top five daily/weekly reads would be Stephen Waddington’s blog, PR Week’s daily email round-up, Moz, Spin Sucks and HubSpot’s Marketing blog email. I also read PRdaily, Social Media Today, Mashable and I also love Sir Richard Branson’s blogs – he’s a bit of an inspiration. There are many others!
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
- Demonstrate professionalism – Join a professional PR organisation such as CIPR and commit to CPD
- Make sure you are learning wherever you work – if you’re not, it’s time to move on
- Seek a role model
- Grab a mentor
- Join PR communities which interest you and actively participate
- Don’t be scared to be confident and ambitious, but act with integrity and don’t be arrogant
- Have a bigger plan for yourself – where do you want to be in five years and how are you going to get there?
- Lastly, have fun and enjoy what you do!