Sara Brooks is saving the really dish-worthy details of how she launched her own public relations firm for a tell-all memoir. What she will tell us is that a gut feeling, a giant leap of faith, and a few chance encounters, all played a part in taking Sara from working at big names like MTV and E! to creating her own PR empire, Covet Public Relations.
Specializing in consumer packaged goods, Covet focuses on disruptive food, beverage and beauty brands in the health and wellness space. Companies like Annie’s Homegrown, Suja and Kopari rely on the firm for their media relations. But even more impressive than a big-name client list is the impressive waiting list of companies looking to get in.
One reason for all that success? A passionate, multitalented team of employees who are deeply connected to the work Covet does day in and day out. “Our team is made up foodies, fitness junkies, wellness aficionados and beauty buffs with diverse backgrounds and perspectives,” says Sara. “Because we personally share many of the core values with [our] brands … we approach each task with a genuine passion that is palpable.”
How did you get started in the world of PR?
From the earliest time I can remember, I wanted to be a talk show host. I love talking to people, hearing their stories and spreading the word about their work. However, after a few harsh doses of reality in my early 20s, I realized that, while taking over Oprah’s job might not be in the cards, I could still use my passion, people skills and creativity to shape my career. After working at MTV, E! Entertainment and a regional glossy magazine, I decided if I wanted to make it in media, and really pursue PR, I had to move to NYC. Once I settled on the east coast, it was all about the hustle and believing that you were just as good as everyone else knew themselves to be (I am still so drawn to the ubiquitous confidence that permeates the streets of that city). Soon after I moved into my first NYC apartment, I landed a job at a prominent beauty and fashion PR firm.
When did the idea of entrepreneurship enter the picture? Why did you decide to strike out on your own and start Covet Public Relations?
How I came to launch my own firm is too long of a story to tell, and best saved for a future tell-all memoir (kidding … kind of). Call it serendipity or perfect timing, but a few conversations and chance encounters convinced me to take a giant leap of faith, and set out on my own. With no concrete business plan and no partner, I had this gut feeling that there was a better way of servicing clients and delivering top-notch results, while also taking a more creative, non-traditional approach to building solid teams and attracting talent.
What makes Covet different from other PR firms?
Covet is unique in that we maintain a tight focus on what we know best – disruptive food, beverage and beauty brands in the health and wellness space. Our team is made up of foodies, fitness junkies, wellness aficionados and beauty buffs with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Because we personally share many of the core values with the brands we have the honor of representing, we approach each task with a genuine passion that is palpable in every interaction.
What do you look for in an ideal Covet employee? Tell us how to wow you in an interview!
We are always looking for top talent in CPG PR, but we also look to add unique and valuable skill sets to our team. We have a former broadcast reporter, editor-in-chief and celebrity publicist on staff. To clarify, all three are different people! I firmly believe in finding the right talent, and then figuring out their title and role at the agency, as opposed to interviewing for a specific role and hoping to find a person I can squeeze into that pre-determined mold.
Aside from what’s on paper, there are some qualities that can easily set someone apart from the crowd:
- Show up on time!
- Come prepared. Do your research, bring your resume and always spell check twice!
- Make eye contact! I have interviewed a few people who couldn’t make eye contact, and in an industry that is all about connections, relationships and effective communication, that is a deal breaker for me.
- Show your personality! I want to get a feeling for who the person is, aside from what’s found in their resume. What is their favorite website or blog? Who do they obsessively follow on social media and why? What do they do for fun? What challenges them outside of the workplace?
Are there any challenges that keep you awake at night?
I think one of the biggest challenges for any startup that has seen success out-of-the-gate is properly growing and scaling the business, and making sure it’s done at a sustainable rate. Since I launched Covet, we have been lucky enough to have a relatively substantial client waiting list, including some brands that I have personally been dying to work with for years. As flattering as the opportunities can be, I will never take on any client unless I am 100% confident that we not only have a team in place to handle the work-load and deliver results, but that we also have the right team for the given client, regardless of their potential retainer size. I have had to say no to some amazing clients, because at the time, we were at full-capacity. If you are a client at Covet, you will always get the A-team working on your account, and you will also get served at the level promised. As a result, finding the right talent to grow the team, in order to allow us to take on more clients, has absolutely been the most challenging part of the business so far.
What does work/life balance mean to you? Do you find it a challenge?
Of course work/life balance is challenging when you have a career in PR with long hours and never-ending emails, but we try to maintain a work hard/play hard attitude. I make sure to take time to take care of myself, and also to take care of my team. I never want my staff to dread coming to work or feel burned out, so I’ve made it a priority to put programs into place to prevent either from happening. This year, we launched a wellness initiative that gets all employees out of the office and participating in fun monthly activities together to nurture our minds, bodies and spirits. This has become a favorite perk among the staff, in addition to having the best and healthiest office snacks imaginable, of course!
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
As cliché as this sounds, when I walk into the office and see everyone at their desks, excited to come into work each day, there is no better feeling of accomplishment.
What are three pieces of career advice you’d like to share with our readers?
- If you want a job in PR, know your subject. The best way to do that is to become a voracious reader of new and traditional media. Read everything you can get your hands on for fun, content, trends and bylines.
- Old-school manners can go a long away. Write a thank-you note after an interview, don’t have your cell phone out when talking to a client, and always remain engaged and professional.
- I always tell people that PR is like medicine. You could have a 5-year career in tech PR, but if you want to switch over to CPG, it’s a whole new ballgame. Just like if a cardiologist wants to suddenly become an oncologist, it’s not an easy or clear-cut transition. Like medicine, there are many subsets of public relations, so when you’re interviewing for a PR job, don’t take any old job just to get your foot in the door. Figure out what industry excites you, and don’t stop searching until you get a position at a firm that specializes in that arena. I have had a few applicants apply for jobs at Covet that have great PR experience but none in the CPG space – switching gears in PR requires a new set of skills, new industry knowledge and, most important of all, new relationships.
Any last advice for readers who may say, “Hey! I want her job!”
Email us! We are always looking for creative, kind, intelligent and hustling spirits to join our Covet team.
Person I’d love to grab coffee with:
You’ll find these three things on my desk right now:
Pink Trident, a Lavenade Suja and a monitor that I never know how to properly work.
My go-to office outfit is:
Jeans, a simple t-shirt and heels.
You can find me lunching at:
My desk … I know. Sad, but true.
I can’t live without:
My family and friends. They keep me grounded and remind me there is more to life than just work!
My favorite way to unwind is:
A workout at Orange Theory Fitness or playing Jeopardy with my fiancé.
I feel my best when:
The end of a long workweek is coming to a close, and I know my team and I did excellent work and helped further the mission of our clients.
If you want a job in PR, know your subject.