Sarah Thompson is an influential entrepreneur and PR consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri, who runs a successful media production and creative process business. She is well known for her Public Relations and Marketing feats. Sarah had earlier work at BBC. As a freelancer, she continues to produce independent TV projects, writing and on-air works for local stations. She is a familiar face at KMOV, a CBS affiliated TV station, as the “Stepping Out” contributor on Great Day St. Louis, where she talks about events around St. Louis.
Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.
OpenBeast: Hello Sarah and welcome on OpenBeast. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
In short, I work in public relations, media and TV/video production in St. Louis. After being in the agency world, I decided to branch out on my own. It was the right decision at the right time and I haven’t looked back since. In a much broader sense, I’m probably like most ambitious working women, balancing marriage and children (I’m a new mom) with personal and professional goals. It can certainly be a struggle to find a happy medium between my professional ambition (and what it takes to achieve that), my personal ambition (wanting to make a difference in the world, leave my mark, etc.), spending dedicated time with family and that restless passion inside me that wants to explore, travel and stay connected to the world and see all of God’s glory if you will. Three adjectives to describe myself: passionate, hardworking, and empathetic.
What is Sarah Thompson Productions? And what kind of clients do you help?
I work in both public relations and TV/video production and it wasn’t until I branched off on my own that I was able to truly and fully do them both to the capacity I desired. Some of my clients are strictly PR related while others solely request production services. Occasionally, I have clients that want and need both (i.e. producing/directing a PSA campaign, web videos, etc.).
When I started working in PR, many of the clients and accounts I worked on were in the areas of arts, culture, education and lifestyle. Since branching off on my own, I’ve mainly stayed in those niches. As a result, many of my clients are nonprofits based here in St. Louis, but I also work with for-profits such as restaurants and small to large businesses on everything from event production to retainer PR to video production. Clients [past and present] of Sarah Thompson Productions run the gamut from the St. Louis Symphony to smaller nonprofits like Gateway to Hope to bigger companies like Whole Foods Market.
You started off your career in the TV world. How does that fit into your life now?
My first TV job was with the BBC. I was living in England, completing a master’s degree and was
fortunate enough to work at the BBC during my time there. I loved every minute of it. When I moved back to the States, I started working in PR full-time while freelancing in TV. I always wanted to find a way to properly merge the two and now I have. Outside of the video production work I do for clients, I produce stories and shows for some local stations and do on-air work as well.
What’s you typical working day?
Hmm…each day is very different. It can range between writing press releases or a script for a TV package to meetings with current or potential clients to actually being on-air for one of my TV projects. Other days might consist of a full morning of media interviews for clients whereas other days I’m glued to the computer, pitching stories, researching or doing proposals and PR/marketing plans. No matter what, I’d say each day starts by checking and responding to e-mails, each day ends by checking and responding to emails and every middle-of-the-night insomnia bout starts and ends by checking and responding to e-mails. (3am e-mails are not unusual for me!)
Tell us about your best PR effort thus far?
I’ve been very fortunate to have some wonderful clients and work with some pretty amazing people in the media over the years and, thus, achieve really great results, so it’s hard to say what has been the “best.” In my previous agency experience, I spearheaded a PSA campaign for Dance St. Louis. I produced and directed the TV spots for the campaign, which I later received an Emmy Award for (along with my husband who was the editor of the TV spots). A couple years prior to that, I worked on a big project for the Saint Louis Zoo in which I landed the client a small but fortunate write-up in Vanity Fair as well as the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That was very memorable. More recently, especially with the changes of the local media market, I would say I consider the ability to secure consistent and continued coverage for my clients such as the St. Louis Symphony equally as important to the big blowout PR projects.
PR is more of a continuous communication strategy, which needs clients’ participation as well. So how do you build a relationship with busy client to get that kind of a support?
I make my work plan and efforts very clear to my clients. It’s not about tacking on unnecessary billable hours or building a long, unmanageable roster of clients solely for reputation versus quality of service. It’s about providing the best creative solutions for clients. As a result, I’m very honest from the get-go about how best to achieve a client’s goals and expectations even if it means a smaller (or no) project for me in the end. I think this honesty can foster healthy and trusting relationships and as a result my clients are interested and supportive of the work I am doing for them.
Would you like to share about your upcoming projects or business expansion?
I actually just had my first child, so I’m learning to manage my business while being a new mom. It’s much harder than it seems, but it’s also made me more introspective about how I want to grow professionally and personally.
Any advice for young starters?
Work hard, work smart and work with integrity. Be a self-starter and commit yourself to the highest work ethic regardless. Do it for yourself and not because your boss or someone is watching over you. And, of course, follow your dreams. I’m a firm believer that pursuing a career that makes you happy works out best in the long term. You may not make as much money as others or you may doubt yourself at times (or be doubted by others), but hone in on what you love and what you want to do and pursue it.
Would you like to add anything?
I could go on and on, but I think I’ve shared enough. People can check out my website if they want to learn more. (I also have a YouTube page of some of my TV/video production work). Thanks so much for your interest in my work.
Thank you Sarah!
To learn more about Sarah Thompson Productions visit www.sarahthompsonproductions.com