As part of our Trusted Advisors series, our web editor meets with the Firm’s leadership for one-on-one interviews on their experience, expertise and professional journey. We’re happy to present the latest of these interviews with marathon runner and proud East Coast girl Sarah Young, managing partner of our Atlantic Canada offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sarah, what types of mandates do you mostly work on?
I love to work on mandates where we can make a difference, and that tends to be navigating challenging issues and complexities. I’m drawn to projects that require integrated communications efforts – blending traditional public relations, creative strategy and digital strategies and tools to bring people together. And doing so in a manner that will generate outcomes that are useful not only to clients, but to the communities that they are going to impact.
Would I be right in assuming that a big part of your work relies on building relationships?
I do a lot of stakeholder and community relations, public engagement, coalition building and marketing. And that requires earning the trust of clients. Earning trust is at the heart of everything that we do at NATIONAL. Once you earn the trust, you’re able to inspire action. The complexity lies in finding commonality and determining common goals between organisations and communities that have disparate interests. Our job is to bring them together and collectively take action even if every party doesn’t agree on everything. In other situations, our role is to help ignite a movement, such as with the Ships Start Here project and the 100 Wild Islands campaign. And that also requires convergence in its many shapes and forms, be it public engagement, digital advocacy, in-person events or media relations. That’s the part that I love – the blurring of the lines between approaches. There aren’t any silos anymore.
There seems to be a certain team-thinking behind your approach. All for one and one for all…
At NATIONAL, we have brought together a collective of outstanding people. Organizations and clients come to us because they need our help in solving very challenging problems, and because they want us to make significant things happen. We have attracted some very talented, intelligent and creative people to our firm. One of the reasons why I love my job is that I get to be in a room where, no matter what the challenge is, everyone dives in. The way the team embraces and approaches each challenge or opportunity is just amazing. We’re a group of people with all these different skillsets who come together to build trust not only between ourselves but also with our clients and their audiences. And we do it in a collaborative way, always including our clients in the problem-solving and strategy. When they come to us, when they call us, they know that we’re on the same team. People from across the NATIONAL network come together to help clients accomplish what they need to do, and this lack of geographical boundaries in our approach is highly appreciated by our clients. Our Ford of Canada work or collaborations with AXON are just a couple of examples of this kind of thinking in action.
What would you say truly sets your team apart?
In Atlantic Canada, we have an incredibly strong team of people with such vast experience and expertise, ranging from digital strategy and social media to branding, marketing, media relations, creative services, storytelling, issues management, public engagement, aboriginal relations, and government relations. We even have fashion experts!
On a regular basis, we have to earn people’s trust, prove ourselves, and push ourselves to make sure that we’re constantly innovating because people are changing and the way they’re communicating is changing. We have an innately curious team of people who are very engaged in the world around them. No one is ever satisfied with the status quo. So to our clients, that translates into us always asking “why?” or “what’s next?” because we know that the people they care about the most are changing. And at the end of the day, what really sticks with our clients is how much we care.
Fun facts about Sarah
I was born in: Halifax
Favourite food/restaurant: Local, wherever local is
Favourite series: This week it’s The Mindy Project
Favourite book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
If I didn’t work in PR: I’d have a gallery for emerging artists
If I could be on a reality TV show, it would be: My life is a reality TV show!
If I could be a superhero, I’d be: Nancy Drew
Number one travel destination: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Most memorable vacation: Our own version of National Lampoon’s European Vacation
Favourite past time: Marathon running, paddle-boarding and going on family & travel adventures
First concert I went to: Bob Dylan, Skydiggers or maybe it was Haywire
Favourite music group/musician: Most influenced by Leonard Cohen
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate. Definitely chocolate.
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