President, Sarah Hall Productions, Inc.
With 26 years of experience in the entertainment business working with models, celebrities and brands, Sarah Hall represents high profile entertainment and lifestyle clients.
Known for her unswerving dedication to clients and meticulous attention to detail, Sarah represents high profile clients in the entertainment and lifestyle categories. Clients include athletes, authors, chefs, designers, doctors, fitness experts, television personalities and more. Sarah has an excellent track record of building brands through strategic media placements.
Since founding SHP in 1994, Sarah has built a reputation for her ability to take personalities or products from niche industries and cross them over into more mainstream press. For example, upon signing underground skateboarder Tony Hawk in 1998, Sarah designed a strategic, national media campaign, which included feature stories in select, high-end media as well as an introduction to a talent agent. This winning combination of publicity and a steady stream of new projects propelled Hawk and his talents to become a pop culture icon in record time.
"The kind of publicity we secure for our clients is the hardest type of PR because there is usually no editor for clients or products in those fields,” says Sarah. “My agency is very pro-active in securing media placements. Once a number of feature stories are secured, you can actually see the client’s career leap to a higher level. And, once on target with our PR, we end up branding the client as well. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Prior to founding SHP, Sarah worked in the Contemporary Music Department of the New York offices of the William Morris Agency. Before that, Sarah worked as an agent at Ford Models, Inc. for seven years. Her roster included some of the most beautiful women in the world such as celebrity models Jerry Hall and Christie Brinkley as well as Christy Turlington and Jennifer Connelly, who she helped transition from newly discovered models to stars.
Sarah earned an associate degree in Advertising Communication with a minor in Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Sarah is proud to work with the Children's Craniofacial Association. Although she travels for business, Sarah resides in Manhattan with her husband and three children.
WHAT does a sleep doctor, an author and a celebrity skate-boarder all have in common? They share the same fairy god-mother, publicist Sarah Hall. Hall adores the offbeat talents her boutique firm handles. And, like them, she has an unusual gift: She dreams up PR campaigns that can propel dormant careers into multifaceted marketing juggernauts.
SARAH HALL PRODUCTIONS, INC. —“the little company that does big things” occupies a sky-lit loft on lower Broadway in Manhattan. The firm counts premiere lifestyle brands and entertainment personalities among its clients. Sarah Hall represents just 25 brands at a time, enabling her to “sit down and blue-sky a creative strategy, an entire campaign for each client.” She lives near the office with her husband, an entertainment attorney at William Morris Endeavor, and their three young children.
WHEN ASKED about the future she’s dreaming up for herself, Hall says: “I just hope I can continue to recognize talent other people are not necessarily seeing.”
WHAT DO YOU DO? I started SHP 20 years ago. I’m still very hands-on, signing business, attending photo shoots, events and traveling to London and Los Angeles constantly to meet with clients, managers and agents.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO PR? My career in the entertainment world included stints at Ford Models, the William Morris Agency, and as a personal tour assistant to a pop star. Eventually, I wanted to work on the personal and professional aspects of a client’s career. PR felt like a good fit for me.
WHAT WAS YOUR BEST PITCH? After being rebuffed by every East Coast media outlet I pitched Tony Hawk to back in 1998, I targeted the (more difficult) business press. The pitch was, “Here’s a guy who wakes up in the morning, but instead of driving to the office, this clean-cut, soft-spoken dad drives to the half-pipe to support his family.” It worked. It was interesting and eventually led to bigger features in mainstream outlets.
WHAT’S THE MOST DARING THING YOU’VE EVER DONE? Starting an arm of my business in the UK during the recession. Sometimes a strategic move during an uncertain time can yield great results. The other most daring thing might be walking through Shoreditch
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST ITEM YOU’VE EVER PUT ON EXPENSES? As I am the boss, everything is approved, or so my accountant tells me.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HADN’T SAID TO THE MEDIA? “My client is never late.” Of course, I said it on the one day his car service got lost.
WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO WORK WITH? I love a challenge. Trying to turn around the career of a celebrity who’s gotten a bad rap.
WHICH HISTORICAL FIGURE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO REPRESENT? Most historical figures didn’t seem to need publicists. However, being a publicist in the old days of Hollywood would have been very exciting as you were literally “building” an image and a career. It must have been a very glamorous time.
NAME ONE THING ABOUT YOU MOST PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED TO LEARN: When Eileen Ford threw dinner parties at her townhouse, I would occasionally have to baby-sit the teenage models who lived there at the time. Looking back, babysitting teenage models seems an unlikely part of someone’s job description.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET TO SUCCESS? I really love what I do and I find my clients fascinating. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
BEGINNINGS: WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOUR PASSION/TALENT FOR THIS LINE OF WORK? My passion for PR arrived early. My mother worked at Columbia Pictures and as a child, I loved visiting the publicity department. People said I was unusually persuasive for my age–the markings of a true publicist! At 14 years old, I called the School of American Ballet for a talented friend who had no experience but dreamed of studying at SAB. I requested an audition for him (to perform his mime routine!) and stated that if they were as impressed as I thought they’d be, they’d have to offer him a full scholarship because his family didn’t have the funds. He got the audition and started studying the Russian technique of ballet, on scholarship, that week. That was the beginning of me really enjoying giving voice to other people’s talents.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF NEW YORK CITY LIKE?
My first NYC experience was when I was about 5; my mom would bring me to the city. Even as a child, I knew I would live here. Then college at The Fashion Institute of Technology, which was a fantastic experience, complete with cool jobs and the most interesting array of people. NYC continues to deliver, so much so, I still live here with my husband and our 3 children! All of the things Eric and I liked: the museums, the theater, the food – we now enjoy with our kids. We really love raising our kids in what we feel is one of the most exciting cities in the world.
AS A STUDENT, WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO REACH YOUR GOALS?
My “plan” in college was that one of my non-paying internships would lead me to a great job upon graduation. And, that’s exactly what happened. The owner of a production company I interned at helped me land a job with his wife’s family business, which was Ford Models. I worked there as an agent for seven years. After, I worked at the William Morris Agency, then I traveled with a pop star, and upon returning from a 1 year tour, I was ready to try PR. I opened SHP with only 2 clients and it steadily grew from there.
DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR OR SOMEONE WHO INSPIRED YOU?
The time I spent at Xenon and Studio 54 was incredibly inspiring to me.
At 18 years old, I saw Halston, Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger plus countless others I had read about, in this incredible setting. It showed me that NYC offered special opportunities for success if you were willing to work hard. It also offered fair warning of how quickly it could be taken away if you should falter.
I’ve had my company for 20 years. I am grateful to be making a living doing something that I enjoy so much. My clients are fascinating people and I love giving voice to their creativity.
WHAT WAS THE PIVOTAL MOMENT OF SUCCESS IN YOUR CAREER? Thankfully, there continue to be many. First, it was realizing with all of my combined experience, I’d make a strong personal publicist. Then, getting my office, traveling for work, signing my first west coast client (thankfully many followed), my first UK tour (thankfully many followed). More pivotal moments to come!
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WORK? Art, travel and my kids, but not necessarily in that order. Also, a client that is interesting, talented and/or charismatic. One element is good, but all three and you have a triple threat on your hands.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS? Doing what I do on a more global scale.
IF YOU COULD HAVE BEEN IN A DIFFERENT LINE OF WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A Profiler.
PERSONAL: WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
My three magical children.
WHAT IS A LITTLE-KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU? Patti Smith and I used to write to each other when I was in the 10th grade. I sent her watercolor postcards that reminded her of her sister. She loved them and that started our exchange.
LAST WORD: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH PEERS AND CURRENT STUDENTS?
You will get what you focus on, so be responsible with your thoughts and with your words.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? With the given amount of time, the improbable becomes the inevitable.
OUR VERY OWN ENTREPRENEURS
Sarah Hall, FIT Alum
Major: Advertising and Marketing Communications
Sarah Hall is the founder of Sarah Hall Productions, a public relations firm right here in New York. A former FIT student, she is celebrating her 20th year in business. Hall is known for her attention to detail and her dedication to her clients. She has dealt with some of the best in their respective industries, such as Tony Hawk, Jennifer Connelly and Christy Turlington. Having met both models when they were first discovered, she played a role in helping them become the superstars they are today.
W27: How did you attract the accounts that your firm has?
SARAH HALL: When I first wanted to get into PR, 20 years ago, my first three clients found me through friends that I had known when I worked at The William Morris Agency or other past jobs. It’s pretty much been a steady flow of word of mouth ever since. Only now, word of mouth is not only from friends, but also among publishing houses, talent agents and managers I haven’t even met yet. We have been told that our work and our reputation precedes us (literally), which is very flattering and has been very good for business.
W27: How do you get new business?
SH: Fortunately, my phone rings, a lot. I do reach out to thank people for recommending SHP or try to schedule a lunch so I can get to know the people who are standing behind our work and recommending us during their round table meetings. I am always networking because people may forget what you said and what you did but people will always remember how you made them feel. And I always remember that it is as important to be kind as it is to be smart. People want to work with people they like.
W27: Since you started, what was your most difficult moment?
How did you deal with it?
SH: I find the best way to deal with a difficult moment, is to just deal with it. I am not the type of person to sit on my feelings or walk around wondering how to position the “reality” of a situation. For most things in life, it is what it is and I try to have that conversation. As long as I know that I have done everything that was within my power to address a situation, that my side of the street is clean, I am actually very confident about having that conversation. When you look back, dealing with life’s difficulties tends to make you stronger.
W27: Why did you start your business?
SH: I never planned on starting my own business but my very first client and her agent implored me to start my own company because they had worked with many of the other PR firms at the time and were deeply dissatisfied. So I did and it grew from there. It is wonderful to have a client believe in you so strongly.
W27: Why did you choose FIT?
SH: I had interviewed and visited with a lot of schools but when I walked into FIT, I knew I was home. This was IT; the students, the vibe, the teachers. It was and still is, such an incredible place. Whether people realize it yet or not, your education at FIT will serve you well on many, many levels. I also have to say, living at the dorms for 2 years was amazing. I would liken it to living in the hippest hotel in the world. Everyone across the hall or next door was just incredible at what they did (majored in) – so you were living next to an amazing fashion designer, photographer, illustrator, jewelry designer – to be surrounded by that much talent was overwhelming and a feeling I will never forget.
W27: Did you have a mentor at FIT?
SH: New York City was my mentor. There were incredible people everywhere at FIT from the teachers to the students, each with a fascinating story to tell, along with great museums, restaurants, performance spaces and nightclubs.
W27: Looking forward, how do you see your business?
SH: Looking forward, I see the opportunity to continue doing what I love but on a more global scale. Many people may not realize it, but the lifestyle footprint in London and Australia is very similar to the lifestyle footprint here. I love crossing a client over from a niche into more mainstream press and would love to continue building these arcs with more international, global clients. I would like to think that the work we are doing at SHP is helping to build a more global, pop culture tapestry.
LESSONS FROM THE WOMAN WHO GROWS LIFESTYLE & WELLNESS SUPERSTARSBy Lashaun Dale
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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 & 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 & 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.
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. “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.
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!”