Work hard, keep going and don’t look down – MD Sarah Lee on winning PRCA Scotland’s Small Consultancy of the Year

Huddled two metres apart around a flickering screen in an empty office, Annie, Jasmine, Steven, Alice and Sarah listening to the compere rattle through the categories at breakneck speed. We scooped a couple of Highly Commended’s and held our collective breath as it came to PRCA Small Consultancy of the Year. And the winner is – Hot Tin Roof!  We couldn’t all be together but WhatsApp started pinging, Slack twanging, and we got down to the business of ‘getting it on social’ – in true PR style. It was the most surreal, the speediest, but the happiest of awards ceremonies!

As an agency that recently celebrated 18 years in PR, what does it mean for HTR to be recognised as PRCA Scotland’s Small Consultancy of the Year?

Well, 18 years is a long time, and this is only the second time we’ve ever entered an award! The first was the first year we were in business – and we won Best Sole Practitioner. Yeah, so to win as an agency, as a team, feels extraordinary. 

It recognises all the hard work that goes into every single day. PR can be grueling, exhausting even, but it’s very, very exciting! There’s been a huge amount of change over the years and yet, somehow, everything’s the same. News is still news and that thread has run right through the history of Hot Tin Roof. We focus on making headlines and on telling a company’s story to an audience that’s interested, engaged and captivated. 

I’m incredibly proud of both our team and our clients.

Why did it feel important to put HTR forward for an award this year?

I think this year, I wanted the industry – my peers, the people I respect – to know how good we are. We are a team of experienced and talented individuals. There are lots of different personalities, backgrounds and interests, which form an eclectic mix of intelligence and creativity that really benefits our clients.

2020 has been a pretty extraordinary year for everyone. What I think has been really interesting through all of the lockdown is the way in which news has transcended everything. We wake up in the morning looking for news and as human beings we’re absolutely hardwired for it. News helps us to make sense of our place in the world. And as PR people that’s our job, to put news out there and to tell stories.

What are some of your highlights from the last 12 months at HTR?

We’ve always worked with interesting companies and our current portfolio is no exception. It allows us to tell incredible stories across a really broad spectrum of media. That’s what drives us and makes the work that we do so rewarding.

This year, we’ve helped clients like Kenoteq showcase eco-friendly bricks made from recycled rubble on the One Show, secured an opportunity for CB Technology to share its electronics manufacturing expertise with Good Morning Scotland, and supported SSE Enterprise to launch a ‘virtual power station’ that runs electric buses and could power 150,000 homes!

If you were starting out in the industry today, what advice would you give yourself?

Work hard, keep going and don’t look down.

When I first started out, I used to say this when people asked how I was finding self employment. Like, I’m fine, just don’t look down, just keep running! I had this image of myself as Roadrunner as he ran off the edge of a cliff, as long as I kept my legs turning I would be fine. 

In the past, I used to feel that I never knew enough or had done enough, and that can be relentless. As a PR person you really never switch off and you’re constantly looking for the next opportunity. You’ve got to cut yourself a bit of slack from time to time and recognise when you’ve given a story your all.

Over the years, I’ve learnt to understand that every client has this intensely personal connection with their stories – particularly in the startup sector. The ‘story’ represents not only the brand but themselves as people, their work and their achievements. It’s a real privilege to work with our clients and to be trusted with their news.

What’s next? What are you hoping to achieve in the next 12 months?

Well, we need a new office! We’ve actually grown in lockdown, hiring three new full time Account Execs and a Director, and our current office just isn’t quite big enough. I’m sad to be moving after 15 years on Young Street North Lane but it’s an opportunity for a fresh start and an exciting new chapter for the business.

Business-wise – PR measurement and analytics is the next big nut to crack. As an industry, we have to get better at measuring the value of our work and the impact that it has on a company and its business objectives. The months ahead are going to be challenging for everyone and it’s critical that we are able to show our clients the worth of our expertise. I’m really interested in that at the moment, and I’m going to be working on it a lot over the coming year.

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