Founder and Director of GoodFit PR, Sarah Thompson has more than ten years experience working across public relations, marketing and event management in the lifestyle sector, and has held positions representing global brands in London, New York, Jakarta and Sydney. Sarah founded GoodFit PR in 2012, identifying a gap in the market for PR agencies catering exclusively for companies in the fitness, health and wellbeing space.
Sarah’s vision has seen GoodFit become the leading PR agency for all products, people, services and causes committed to promoting a positive, healthy lifestyle.
Expert hula hooper.
“It is better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t.”
To find out more about Sarah head over to GoodFit PR http://www.goodfitpr.com
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Happy reading! Now here is the full transcript of the podcast.
Ingrid: Hello, and here we are today with Sarah Thompson, talking to her about her PR agency. Hi, Sarah.
Ingrid: So, just how do you describe your business? If someone says to you, “What do you do?” How do you describe that business?
Sarah: We are a PR agency specializing in health and wellbeing sector. So, I represent clients and personalities and tell their stories and get them out to the media.
Ingrid: Fantastic. And when did you start your business? How long have you been in the business?
Sarah: I started my business at the end of 2012, the start of 2013. I identified a gap in the communications sector to be dealing specifically with the health and well-being space, and that’s when I decided to get started.
Ingrid: Great. And what did you want from your business from the start? What was it that you were wanting to achieve by starting your own business for yourself?
Sarah: Sure. Well, I think that I always knew I had a passion for health and fitness myself, and living an active lifestyle. And I also enjoy communication, but really enjoyed working with people that had a positive healthy message to share. So, I wanted to combine those two things, and realized that the way I could do that was by identifying people in organizations who were doing just that, working in the health and wellbeing space, and helping them to share their stories.
Ingrid: Fabulous. And so, had you been doing that for somebody else? Had you been working in PR in another agency?
Sarah: Yes, I’ve worked in the PR and media space for over 10 years now. I’ve worked in a few different agency environments, working from luxury brands to youth brands, I’ve done some not for profit work. So, I’ve worked in a lot of different roles, and had that diverse agency experience, and then really wanted to focus it on something that I was passionate about.
Ingrid: Great. And so, when did it feel like you were in business? So, you started at the end of 2012 and in the beginning of ’13, and so you were doing — you had started to get your own clients and you’re doing your own work — when was that moment when you went, “Wow, I’m in business.”
Sarah: I think when I started out, I was definitely juggling, ending a full-time career working for someone else and starting working for myself and making the money to get by. And I think the moment I realized I was really in business was when I could quit all my day jobs. I managed to pitch to, at the time, my dream client. I sent them an idea, they loved it so I got on a plane the next week and went to Brisbane where their Head Office was, pitched them an idea, shook hands with them and the next day they were my client. So, I think that was the big stepping stone for me; knowing that, “Wow, I made it happen.”
Ingrid: You made it happen. Fantastic. So, one of the questions I always ask people who are starting their business is how they funded the early days. It sounds like you funded the business with part-time jobs and contracts. Is that how you funded the early days?
Sarah: Yes, pretty much. So, the beauty of PR is that you don’t need a lot of intensive set-up. So, it’s really — I can do most of it with a laptop, sitting in your bedroom, and your mobile phone. As long as you’ve got a stable internet connection most of the time. That was definitely something that helped, but yes it was all pretty much self-funded and I just really gave it a shot.
Ingrid: Fabulous, thank you. So, often people start a business and they take a bit of time to work out what their audience wants and what their customers want. How did you know that your customers needed you working in a niche? How did you know that what you were providing was going to be different to everybody else?
Sarah: I think it was a combination of things. My customers, or the stakeholders I work with, are a mixture of the media and also the people I represent. I knew that the health space and the crossover between health and lifestyle was a major global trend, from the work I’ve done working in London and working in trend reports, I knew that concern around healthy eating, organic produce, maintaining weight and weight loss.
Those sorts of big issues were not going to go away and brands and people working and continue to innovate in that area, and it was becoming increasingly interesting to people, and part of their aspirational lifestyle. Things like activewear and drinking green smoothies, and knowing where your vegetables came from, they were definitely of interest to me and I could see that there were more and more businesses being developed in that space to meet the consumer demand that’s already out there.
So, I guess identified that that was something that I could help with, and increasingly — the other part of my job is just meeting with and liasing directly with media on a day-to-day basis, and I realized through talking to a lot of them that there was a need for experts in that area for them to be talking to. The day-to-day dietitians and maybeHealth food brands and sports experts out there which is not meeting the demand for content.
So, I was able to be two and two together.
Ingrid: Very smart. And even just a couple of years ago, it was still trending, whereas now it’s…
Sarah: Yes, it’s messy. Now, there are whole aisles and columns where it’s dedicated to it.
Ingrid: And you’ve got a really nice, strong foothold in that niche.
Sarah: Yes, absolutely.
Ingrid: Well done. That’s great. So, you thought up your dream client. Did you create an avatar persona for that — you said your dream client that you pitched to them? Did you have a clear idea of who that was and then went out and looked for them? How did you know who that client is for you?
Sarah: That’s an interesting one. I think I looked at… As I think a lot of people do, sometimes formally, sometimes informally, I looked at people who I thought was successful and who I wanted to emulate. And not necessarily copy every single part of their strategy, but I looked at particularly women in the health and fitness space who had already created their own legacy or their own brand and thought, “How could I work with them? How could I help them?” And in some cases, they don’t need help, but in some areas I could see that maybe they could connect with someone, the communications space, that was doing something new and different. So, that’s sort of the approach that I took.
Ingrid: So, how you could help, yes.
Sarah: Yes, definitely. You’ve got to think as a business owner. If you’re going to take up someone’s time and trying to get in front of them, get that coffee meeting, send them a pitch, what are you actually going to offer them that they haven’t got already?
Ingrid: That’s great, thank you. And so then, how do you now — how do you find your clients? How do you go about that? Because there’s an evolution of clients coming in who do the work. Some stay, some move on. How do you find new clients now?
Sarah: The majority I do organically either are referred to me or within the industry I’ll notice that someone’s doing something different or new, and I specifically — if I encounter someone, whether they contact me or I notice their brand, I want to know… With PR, it’s always about what are you doing that’s new, what news are you creating? Because someone could have a great idea but it’s already happening in a lot of different places, and the job of communications is to constantly update people and share new ideas.
So, for me, it’s looking for innovation; looking for people who are doing something differently and then working out whether what they’ve got going is sustainable.
Ingrid: Great. And without going into details about your pricing, how do you work out a pricing strategy? Because many people going into business really don’t know how to set the price for what they do. What was your thoughts around setting your own pricing strategy?
Sarah: I think with me, it was very much looking at what I could offer mostly on a time-based level. So, charging people for my time. PR is different — it can be difficult to explain to people the cost because you can’t predict results at the end of the day. You can definitely do the work, make contact with people, but you can never have complete control over the new cycle. So, showing the effort that you put in, the content that you create, the relationships that you forge on behalf of a brand, have a lot of value in that the time that you’re putting in is worth investing in. It’s important as actual results, I think.
Ingrid: Great, thank you. Now, in terms of your business, I mean it’s still early days, but have you thought about an exit strategy? Would you look like to go look into an agency and sell it, or is it something that you see going on for a long time? Have you thought about what happens at the end?
Sarah: Yes. I think that at the moment, what matters to me most is knowing that I’m making a difference and making a contribution. And I think when that day doesn’t look like it’s on the horizon anymore, I think that’s when I feel like it’s the time to move on.
Ingrid: Great. Now, thinking back to end of 2012/early 2013, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently?
Sarah: Gosh, I’m very grateful for everything that’s happened. To be honest, not really. It’s all been a pretty exciting, crazy ride.
Ingrid: That’s fantastic. And is there anything you wish you’d known? That’s a slightly different question. Things that have sort of came about that you thought, “Gosh, if I had known that a bit earlier, I could’ve foreseen or preempted.”
Sarah: I think probably time management. It’s something that comes up every single day, but it’s not just about managing your work priorities but ensuring you make enough time for yourself and your own health. Because if you don’t look after yourself, then you won’t be able to do the work at the end of the day. And so, just always having that top of mine.
Ingrid: Yes, that whole looking after yourself. Nice. So, and if you think about the people who have either influenced you or assisted you along the way, either mention names or not, who have been influential or a great assistance to you?
Sarah: I mean, I’ve been lucky in the jobs where I have had in my career working for different people. Some of them have been ruthlessly determined, but they’ve all been very inspiring. I started my career working in the film industry in the UK for a very pioneering visual image artistic director at the British Film Institute.
I then worked in a trend consultancy in London, looking at youth trend forecasting and had to deliver reports until 4:00 AM in the morning, and got quite used to working very hard and meeting very tough deadlines. And I then went and spent time working in Indonesia working for a non-profit, helping earthquake disaster victims. So, I think what’s really stuck out to me in my career is working with people who are really, really committed to quality and what they’re doing, making a difference and putting in the hard yards, but also knowing when to enjoy yourself.
Ingrid: Thank you. So, if someone came along to you and said, “I’m thinking about starting a business in any field.” What would you say to them?
Sarah: I do get asked this a bit, and probably the first question that comes up is, “What makes what you’re doing different and how do you stand out in what’s already out there?”
Ingrid: Great. Some characteristics about you? Because you’ve talked about quality work and being able to meet deadlines, but if you think about your actual personal characteristics, what makes you successful in business?
Sarah: I think you have to be pretty resilient. Being able to laugh at yourself and being a good communicator, because you’ve got to talk to people constantly on every sort of level in all sorts of different parts of the world, so that definitely helps.
Ingrid: And would they be the characteristics that you would suggest to a startup they need, or is that something that comes later? Would they need something else first?
Sarah: I think those three things are pretty core, yes. Maybe some self-belief in there as well.
Ingrid: It is self-belief as well. Thanks very much, Sarah. Anything else that you would add that we haven’t covered in terms of your startup journey?
Sarah: No, I think you’ve… Definitely, I think we’ve covered everything
Ingrid: And you’ve been enormously generous. Thank you so much.