Emily Austen has set up her own PR company and worked with some household celebrity names. We chatted to her to find just what it takes to be your own boss and to get the goss on some of the difficult celebs she's had to work with.
What advice would you give someone setting up their own company?
Accept the responsibility that you have taken on by running your own business. You should be more tired than everyone else, more stressed, first in the office and last out. It’s your business. Building your team will make or break your business. The idea is to bring in people who you can learn from too. I know I will hire people who are better than me at certain things, but that’s how you grow. The captain of the team isn’t always the best player. Success is directly proportionate to the sacrifice that you are willing to make. You also have to accept that there will be hard days, weeks, months. Don’t try to avoid that inevitability. Accept it, and learn how to manage it.
Describe your typical working day.
I get up about 7am and am usually in the office by 8am. My office is about half a mile from my house, so the commute is extremely easy. The rest of the team arrives at 9am. Every day varies, which keeps things exciting. We have PR, Management and Events clients, so depending on current projects, each day runs differently. I could be doing anything from attending a photoshoot with a publicity clients, to editing a showreel, doing a site visit, to liaising with a production company or planning a press campaign around a book launch. In the evening we could be attending an event with a client, or meeting stylists, journalists and friends for a catch up.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I studied Criminology and Criminal Law at Manchester University. I loved the course, but hated my time there. I interned at a number of PR agencies, all of whom spent their lives trying to product place on high profile individuals. My exposure to Management companies’ revealed that the highest earner for celebrities is through endorsement deals. It made no sense to me that both those industries were not under the same roof. The combination of both means that opportunities are maximized at every level, and staff learn the entire development and promotional process of both people and products. This means the service offered is considerably more rounded. It also gives Management clients control to have people at the same company promote their products or brands, as well as themselves.
You work closely with celebrities in your day-to-day job, is it as glamorous as it sounds?
I doubt it! The public sees the finished product, whereas I see the mechanism behind it. We might start working on a project 12 months before it’s announced to press. By the time that happens, any glamorous shine is probably dampened slightly! I’m lucky in as much as the clients I work with are all incredibly driven, switched on young people, and they are very grounded. They don’t ask for star treatment, and they are all super humble about the opportunities they have been given. My friends get jealous if I go to a premiere or a celebrity party, but it is just work at the end of the day.
Have any of the celebrities you’ve worked with ever been difficult?
Yes. The profile of a celebrity is anchored on their popularity. Sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with them. As a manager, part of your job is to make the celeb the best they can be, giving them access to opportunities. If they are underperforming or need to work harder, you have to have that conversation. I always have my client’s best interests at heart, and am always working to help them achieve their goals. But that can only be done if they work with you. There can be a tipping point where the individual fundamentally doesn’t understand the hard work that has to go into maintaining their profile. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, nothing is handed to you on a plate. You have to work for it. If they aren’t prepared to do the work, I’m not prepared to work with them. Celebrity or not, I don’t like working with people who have a sense of entitlement.
How do you unwind after a tough day?
This is an area of my life I haven’t yet managed to master successfully. It’s very hard to get away from work because you can’t lock the office door and leave it there. My client’s needs will always come before my own. If I’ve had a particularly difficult day, I’ll go for a long walk to de-stress. Recently, I have started doing Pilates after work, and I find that quite an effective way to unwind.
So you’re not the best person to talk to about work-life balance then?
My job overlaps with my personal life so much, that it’s hard to differentiate. There isn’t really a switch off point. Certainly not at the moment. Hopefully once the company has grown and progressed, I can take some time out. I have a very supportive group of friends who understand that this is my focus. It’s relationship suicide, though, as any boyfriend either has to be incredibly busy, or incredibly independent.’
How would your colleagues describe you?
I think they would say I was fair, loyal and hard-working. I also like to have a laugh with them, so they should probably accept that I’m quite funny…
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