Thursday, October 06, 2016

Of Travel, Writing, and Having Your Clients' Backs: Q&A with VP of PR, Sarah Larson

Our VP of PR, Sarah Larson, has spent much of her life traveling
 and meeting people wherever she could,
including these two young girls in central Turkey in 1995.
Our VP of Public Relations, Sarah Larson, is celebrating a work anniversary here at Furia Rubel. To mark the occasion, she shared with us some insight into her career path, her growth as a writer, and her favorite part of her job.

How long have you been working for Furia Rubel?

Three years

I know you’re not a native Pennsylvanian, so, where did you grow up and how did you wind up in PA? 

My wanderlust took root at a young age. I was born near San Francisco and raised in Moline, Illinois. When I was young, my family traveled for months at a time (both my parents worked in education and had summers off) throughout the western states. When I was in college, I worked part-time for a cruise line and traveled throughout the Caribbean, and after I graduated from college, I moved to Hungary to teach English for a couple years, traveling throughout eastern and southern Europe every chance I had. Moving to Pennsylvania for a career opportunity in 2000 was a no-brainer.

When did you first realize you liked writing? Did you write stories as a kid? Were you on the school newspaper?

Before I began to write, I first loved to read. On weekly trips to the public library, I would come home with a stack of 10 to 12 books at a time. Once, a librarian even asked me why I took out so many books. “There’s no way you can read all of these before they’re due back.” I just looked at her blankly. I read every one of those books, and more. 

After consuming so many words, it was inevitable that I would one day begin to release those words back into the world. I really started writing with purpose in fifth grade. I wrote poetry, short stories, murder mysteries, courtroom dramas, and more; I was the kid in class who couldn’t wait for the essay assignment. By the time I got to high school, I worked on the staff of my school’s annual creative arts magazine, and the yearbook, and was first a writer then an editor for the school newspaper.

What made you decide to be a journalist?

People fascinate me. Telling their stories was natural for me - and even policy stories or breaking news stories really are about the people affected by those issues and events. My love of history and politics drove me to see connections and give context to events, while my love of science helped me explain complicated subjects to my readers.

What is the biggest change when going from journalism to public relations?

The move from journalism to public relations is a well-worn career path. Many of the skills you need in order to succeed are the same in both careers. The main difference is allegiance. In journalism, you are an objective third party, but in public relations, you are actively advocating for that client. To advocate effectively on their behalf, you have to believe in them, and they have to have trust in you. 

How has your journalism career influenced how you practice PR?

Having worked in journalism for so long gives me an understanding of how the news is made at both a tactical and a strategic level. This benefits my clients in innumerable ways, from knowing the best day to put out a press release, the best type of story to pitch directly, the best time to hold a press conference, and how to plan an event that will be newsworthy enough that the press will want to cover it.

What do you like most about being VP of PR for Furia Rubel?

Change and challenges are like oxygen for me; I need them to survive, so I love the fact that every day is different. Particularly with the growth in our Crisis Communications services, I never know what the day might bring. My team might be crafting a public statement for a business under scrutiny or arranging a last minute press interview or announcing a major initiative. The uncertainty keeps things interesting.

Do you have any hobbies that help you wind down from a hectic week at work?

I love to travel, and go to shows or museums. I read and write every day. Other hobbies vary with the season. This summer, I spent most of my free time outside in the garden, growing heirloom tomatoes and other veggies, and then in the kitchen, canning and freezing the produce. In the winter, my indoor pursuits usually include something creative (stamping, scrapbooking, card-making, photography, and other artistic pursuits) or related to my family history research. My primary ancestors hailed from Ireland, Scotland, Norway, and Sweden, and I’ve traced the oldest known branch of my family back to 1598 in Gloucestershire, England.

Name four of your favorite apps for your phone.

Paprika, for recipes, meal planning, and grocery shopping
Waze, for driving and navigation
Splice, for video editing
Broadway Box, for discounts to Broadway shows

What are you reading right now?

“Alexander Hamilton,” the biography by Ron Chernow that inspired the Broadway musical with which I am currently obsessed; “The Signature of All Things,” historical fiction by Elizabeth Gilbert; and “Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women.”

To learn more, check out our website or connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.

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