While PR is not a 9–5 job, you can successfully find a work life balance. I’ll be honest, I worked from 7AM — 7PM the first two years of my career. I was young, determined, and l quite frankly living at home so didn’t have a robust social life to attend to post-work. But, I knew it wasn’t healthy. I remember my Dad saying one time “do you think you’re just not being as efficient as you could be?” He was absolutely right. I began to work smarter, not harder and was able to successfully find a work/life fit.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Culture Public Relations Manager, Sophie Hamersley. She supports HubSpot’s global recruitment goals by securing interviews and press coverage in top tier media outlets, creating innovative and unique content, and identifying thought leadership opportunities around HubSpot’s award-winning company culture.
With nearly seven years of public relations experience at mid-size and boutique agencies, Sophie’s work has spanned across a variety of consumer accounts, including food and beverage, technology and corporate communications working with some of the largest food companies in the world, including Dunkin’ Brands and Back to Nature Foods, as well as top celebrity spokespeople and athletes such as Maria Menounos, Rob Gronkowski and David Ortiz. In her previous role as Director and Editorial Lead at a full-service boutique agency working with small business owners in the hospitality and fitness industries in Boston, Sophie was in charge of securing both local and national press for the full portfolio of clients as well as leading teams in strategic editorial planning. Sophie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Marketing from St. Michael’s College and lives on the south shore of Massachusetts with her boyfriend, and her black lab Teddy.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When you major in psychology in school, there comes a time when you have to decide whether you are going to pursue the clinical side of psychology or pursue a different route. I knew I was fascinated by behavioral psychology, but not in the traditional sense of studying personality disorders or mental illness. I was fascinated by the art of persuasion, storytelling and the overall philosophy of branding and marketing. The summer going into senior year, a friend of my parents suggested I intern at an agency called RF|Binder. Two weeks in, I secured my first piece of media coverage for an event. Let’s just say I was hooked. After my three months was up, I stayed in touch with my manager and applied early to be a part of their associate program upon graduation. The rest is history.
While my career has always been rooted in traditional media relations, it’s really run the gamut stretching that traditional definition to working with celebrities, managing events, branding and designing restaurants, to running social media campaigns. I’ve been lucky to experience a lot in a short amount of time and really learn from some amazing PR role models.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Just a few weeks into starting at HubSpot, we had our quarterly company meeting. Coming from my last job that had just four employees, I knew it was going to be different with over 2400 employees. I was curious to see how our core values of flexibility, transparency and autonomy would come through in such a large setting.
My career has ranged from working with executives of global companies worth nearly a billion dollars to owners of a boutique fitness studio or neighborhood bistro. I was absolutely blown away over my first company meeting. Not only were founders Brian and Dharmesh transparent in the information they were providing, but they were personable, honest, and real. I left the meeting that day so proud to work for a company with two founders who needed no media training to speak to their own employees, and it made me that much more excited to begin my work.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Working in restaurants my entire life, I thought of myself as decently good at working with different personalities on the phones. Nothing could be worse than someone who wanted a reservation for a party of 8 at 7:30PM on a Saturday night, right? I’d say that my first experience calling tv stations for an event was just slightly worse than that customer. I fumbled, mixed up my own words and in the end didn’t even get out the pertinent client information. Being in an open office, my coworkers heard it all. Thankfully they didn’t hold it over my head for the remainder of my career there, but rather jumped in with advice, tips and encouragement. I was determined to build my confidence, refine my pitch, create a system to prepare and ultimately do better next time.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
While I don’t have my own agency or business, I have experienced having to prove the worth of PR throughout my career, as we all have in this industry. Measuring success is hard, especially when you’re working in a data-first technology company, so it’s important to have your elevator pitch down and find metrics that make sense for your work to really prove your worth.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
In 2016, HubSpot began to share its diversity data to the world along with next steps on how we plan to become more diverse and inclusive. We’re currently working on the 2018 report to launch early next year. I’m very proud to work for a transparent company who recognizes the meaningful progress they’ve made in becoming more diverse, but understands that we’re not where we want to be just yet. It’s an exciting story to tell.
Earlier this year in the peak of summer vacations, we launched a free tool created by our engineering team called the Out of Office Email Generator. It was a way to talk about our commitment to flexibility and the importance of taking time off in a fun and creative way. Similar to how Ryan Reynolds writes his out of office emails, the generator creates witty, personalized OOO replies based on your vacation details. We’re currently working on updating for the holiday season — think crackling yule log on the TV, snow days, and recipes for fruitcake.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
I would encourage those considering a career in PR to a) do it and b) if you can gain experience working at an agency, even better. I think the the exposure to different situations, clients and experiences and the skills you build at an agency will set you up for an extremely successful career. Being able to prioritize seven different clients with a variety of deadlines and asks, switch gears from a software company to an ice cream brand, and working within teams are skills that you will take with you throughout your career.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
I was an only child to two parents who owned and operated a restaurant in Boston for 27 years. That means I was around adults beginning the minute I was born. So, even though I am shy, I find networking easy and enjoy talking to people. My tips for all professionals, no matter the industry, include:
- Get outside your comfort zone. Reach out to someone on LinkedIn who you admire, attend a breakfast or panel and introduce yourself to at least three people in the room, or join in an online dialogue.
- Networking is about listening. People often forget this really important aspect of it. If you approach networking only thinking about yourself, you’re never going to fully be able to make connections or long lasting relationships.
- Fall back on your network: Each time I have felt that it was time to start a new chapter in my career, I started by going back to my network of people I trust and respect to get their opinions and thoughts about my next step. You don’t necessarily have to keep in touch with everyone on a weekly basis, but it is extremely important to maintain relationships and not burn bridges. You never know where your old client may end up or when you may need to knock on an old colleagues door for a favor. Building a network you trust will be invaluable to you throughout your career.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’m a hardworking type A person with a slight fear of failure. Arianna Huffington’s On Becoming Fearless….In Love, Work and Life helped me to start to think about how to master fear and become more comfortable with failing. We have a saying at HubSpot that we not only encourage failure, but we celebrate it. So much so that every quarter at HubSpot, we host what we call Failure Forum, where HubSpotters share with the entire company a time they failed and what they learned from it. It’s pretty incredible that we speak so openly about failures at work, or in life, and it sets the tone that you can truly shoot for the stars without having to worry about where you may land.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My parents have been involved in Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign for as long as I can remember and a few years ago I joined the Boston Society group to help ignite a passion for change in a new generation. 1 in 6 children in America faces hunger, but the truth is that we have plenty of food in this country and there are effective programs to feed kids, but the problem is that not enough families have access to them. I found that helping be a part of the solution isn’t necessarily about funds and money, but about using your networks to inspire change and action.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Public relations doesn’t just end at traditional media relations. The industry has changed drastically since just six years ago when I started, and will continue to evolve. What is considered under the umbrella of public relations can span from event planning, to social media, branding, design, content marketing, influencer marketing and more. One should think of their career as t-shaped where the vertical bar represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field and the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own.
- Your skills are transferable. I worked in PR in food and beverage for the majority of my career and when I made the move to culture PR, many friends, old colleagues, and clients asked how it was possible to make the switch. Not only do we all have what is called transferable skills, but the foundational skills you use in PR don’t change from industry-to-industry. Yes, there will be learnings in all positions, and with every client, but be confident in what you’ve built as your “PR Gut” and what ultimately drives your passion for the industry.
- Use good judgment. Always. You need to constantly be mindful of the information you carry on behalf of your clients and agency when speaking to the media or anyone outside the four walls. I was once interviewing someone for a position when they disclosed the confidential campaign they were working on which would be launching in a few months. While I appreciated the level of comfort they had to be transparent with me, it was an immediate red flag at how quickly they were willing to disclose that confidential information.
- While PR is not a 9–5 job, you can successfully find a work life balance. I’ll be honest, I worked from 7AM — 7PM the first two years of my career. I was young, determined, and l quite frankly living at home so didn’t have a robust social life to attend to post-work. But, I knew it wasn’t healthy. I remember my Dad saying one time “do you think you’re just not being as efficient as you could be?” He was absolutely right. I began to work smarter, not harder and was able to successfully find a work/life fit.
- Most people don’t understand public relations. More often than not, you will find that the average person either doesn’t know what PR is or has a big misunderstanding of what it is. Therefore, you will need to develop and master an elevator pitch to use when speaking with friends, family members, and even clients.