Lessons From the Woman Who Grows Lifestyle and Wellness Superstars
By Lashaun Dale
Sarah Hall, founder of the award-winning boutique PR firm Sarah Hall Productions, has lived many lives. From an agent at Ford Models to an assistant music agent at the William Morris Agency to traveling on tour with a pop star, Hall has always loved anything related to pop culture and lifestyle. So it was only natural that she would end up in public relations.
Sarah Hall and Sarah Hall Productions NYC
“I was always fascinated with media and pop culture,” she says. “Plus, I’ve always enjoyed working with creative people, so I felt that PR would be a good fit for me.”
Armed with nothing but her industry know-how and steadfast drive, Hall started her own agency out of her Manhattan apartment. Since its founding, the once little operation has grown into a highly sought-after, award-winning boutique firm, representing clients from various industries, including professional sports, fashion, interiors, food, health, wellness and more. SHP just celebrated its 25th anniversary in an industry where PR firms rarely last a fraction of that time.
To succeed and endure in this fast-paced, competitive industry for the last two and a half decades means Hall has definitely been doing something right, which could very well stem from her uncanny ability to really understand her clients’ brands and stories on a global, domestic and regional scale. And, perhaps, it’s because she’s so accountable to them—a quality that’s she’s implemented and instilled at the very core of her company and especially with her staff.
“We share ideas easily, but I have really worked to teach my team to be honest and direct with media people as well as clients. We’ve been told that our honesty was incredibly refreshing by clients who feel that other agencies try to ‘sell’ them. Hard,” she explains. “And, I find, most people don’t want to be sold. People are actually looking for authenticity, and when they see it here, they really appreciate it. Plus, we’re always looking for a partnership with our clients. We want to be shoulder to shoulder with them on this journey. And they feel that commitment and connection.”
PR and social conversations
Hall’s candor is so refreshing in her industry that her reputation precedes her, and she doesn’t recruit clients but rather they seek her firm out. That’s not to say Hall and her team don’t hustle. As an agency that’s not afraid of the phone pitch, publicists at Sarah Hall Productions are proactively reaching out to media companies for several hours a day because Hall has learned that not only is it more personal to make a phone call, but it’s also the best way to communicate her clients’ unique and nuanced stories—a task that she excels at, especially in the health and wellness realm.
Hall is best-known for crossing niche clients into more mainstream press while building their brands. Interestingly, Hall pioneered mainstreaming spiritual gurus, life coaches, self-help authors and other influential individuals before it was common. And though there were many skeptics, Hall remained steadfast in her goal to represent these creatives because she believes wholeheartedly in the health and wellness space.
“I am the person who would buy my client’s book if I wasn’t their publicist,” the PR firm founder says. “I’ve always loved the personal growth and wellness space, and that’s the section of the bookstore where you find me. I’ve always had such respect for their area of expertise.”
Change takes time—play the long game
Early success reaffirmed that Hall should continue to only represent clients that she personally believed in. So when she had the opportunity to work with speaker and author Gabrielle Bernstein in 2012 on her “May Cause Miracles” book, Hall was all in. SHP brought that book to The New York Times best-seller list, but one of her most memorable placements was in Elle magazine years later for another book called “Miracles Now.”
“We brought [the book] to Elle and they told us that although they loved Gabby, they’d never covered a book like this. They didn’t even have a place to put content like that,” Hall says. Undeterred by the initial hesitation, SHP maintained a dialogue of new ideas over the next four months and finally the publisher agreed to a feature.
“When Elle did that full page on Gabby, we felt it was an important moment because they changed their format to include her,” Hall says. Today, health coaches and wellness gurus grace the magazine’s pages regularly. “We felt it was a win because everyone will benefit from reading about Gabby and her content,” she adds.
Caring for yourself and others along the way
Practicing what she preaches, Hall implements the concepts she learns from her clients into her daily life. She has Pilates classes for the entire office twice a month, and almost every day at 4 p.m. Hall and her team gather for a meditation in order to lead a more well-balanced life.
“As a business owner, mother of three teenagers and wife, I have to find a way to settle and quiet my mind in order to refuel. There is a saying that if you don’t have five minutes for yourself, you’re doing something wrong with your entire day,” Hall says.
Finding new ways to create work-life balance, Hall says, makes all the difference. “One way to create work-life balance is letting my kids intern in the office when they want to fill their schedule,” she says. Another way is when Hall travels for work, mostly to Los Angeles, London and Cardiff University (where she speaks to communication students on distinguishing themselves from their peers upon graduation by seeing themselves as their own brand), she brings her children on these trips whenever she can. “I feel travel is the best education that I can give my children,” Hall explains. “For them to experience different cultures and make international friends creates a new understanding of the world while building empathy and community.” That and she says staying highly organized (she lives by her “to-do” lists), getting right back up when life knocks you down and making fun a priority along the way (Gabby taught her that one!) also helps her maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Elevating your message with a memorable story
In the end, though, what keeps Hall coming back are her clients and their stories. Despite living in an era of social media influencers, likes and follows, Hall is certain that in the long run, unexpected authenticity and relatable or universal storytelling are what garner mainstream media attention. For example, a clip of pro skateboarder Tony Hawk (a client of Hall’s for 21 years) letting his daughter paint his nails went viral, Hall says, not because of his super stardom but for its unexpected sweetness and glimpse into his real life. So while having millions of followers is impressive, it means more when there is a level of authenticity attached.
Love what you do and the people you’re with
When asked how she stays motivated after 25 years in business, Hall points to her team and clients.
“My team is amazing, and I think my clients are the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. And signing clients that you truly believe in is certainly one way to keep it real. Because we all become friends, and you always want to deliver the best for your friends. Same goes for my incredibly talented staff. They are so gifted at personal PR and yet are always open to learning new things from me and each other. They are also really good human beings,” Hall says. “It’s such good energy that the staff picked the hashtag #SHPfamily [on their @SarahHallPRInc Instagram] because they said they had never had a work experience that was so supportive and warm. It actually felt like family. I’m lucky I get to work with people I really love—my clients and my staff—every day!”
Video and photo credit: Sarah Hall Productions, Dale May, Harrison Macharia, Julie Skarratt