Sarah Waddington CBE - Director of Wadds Inc., professional advisers to creative agency management teams.
We caught up with Sarah to learn more about her leap from agency boss to agency adviser.
Did you always envisage a career in the media industry?
Absolutely. A sixth form careers questionnaire suggested public relations (PR) as a possible option for me so I decided to study media relations at Leeds University, hedging my bets by also reading French. By the time I’d done two internships, one at ITV Tyne Tees and the other in a PR agency, I knew I’d found the right career for me.
What has been your career path so far?
After graduating, I immediately took a job in a North East PR firm and was headhunted by various integrated marketing agencies before setting up my own PR, marketing and management consultancy in 2009.
Over time I did a voluntary stint with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which culminated in my election as President in 2018. I also founded #FuturePRoof, a community committed to reasserting public relations as strategic management function and launched Socially Mobile, a training programme to help practitioners learn management competencies.
I closed my business last year to join Wadds Inc., where we support ambitious management teams with company direction. Ultimately, we help creative agencies build value, scale and manage risk. It’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
I’ve seen my fair share of sexism in the industry. I actually set up my own agency to circumnavigate the classic glass ceiling. I love that my work now helps other female leaders smash through it.
Who do you most respect in your industry?
Not ashamed to say it’s my husband, Stephen. He’s one of the brightest minds and most inspiring leaders I know. We met because of our work and his industry foresight and ability to simplify complexity for business and communities alike is a very unique talent.
How did you adapt your business during the Coronavirus and support clients?
Operating as a virtual agency meant there was no change in operations for us. This was a real benefit as it meant that service delivery continued as normal and we were able to advise clients on how to successfully set up remote working, plus maintain company culture.
What is your greatest strength?
An appetite for learning. I’ve always used my time to develop professionally. From earlier in my career, I have an MA in marketing and a certificate in digital marketing, as well as various other qualifications related to leadership and steering complex projects.
The IoD’s qualification in Company Direction has been one of the most beneficial courses I’ve done most recently. I’ve been a Chartered PR practitioner since 2017 and earned the title of Chartered director just this September.
What is your biggest weakness?
I don’t tolerate fools lightly. Maybe that’s actually a strength.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Receiving a CBE for services to public relations and the voluntary sectors. Volunteering was important to me from the very start, sometimes because the cause meant a lot personally, sometimes because it provided a great way to learn new skills and break into new networks. To have been recognised for my work when it was done from the heart is really humbling.
What are your future career aspirations?
I’m really happy with what I’m doing now. Helping agencies build a futureproof, differentiated market proposition that allows them to develop resilience and grow is really rewarding. My main goal for the coming year is to complete my Diploma in Life and Personal Performance Coaching as I love seeing people thrive.
I also plan to keep giving back to the industry. In addition to Wadds Inc., our community interest company Socially Mobile helps those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and under-served groups to increase their earning potential. We’ve big plans to help even more people through the training so that’s a big focus.
How do you see your industry evolving in the next 10 years?
Good governance will never go out of fashion. The focus will be on change drivers – the things that create opportunities and risk for the creative industries. We’re currently consulting a lot on ESG, as well as looking at the impact of AI and securing lots of advisory work in this area.
How do you like to unwind?
There is nothing better than clearing your head on a dog walk or letting off steam in a combat class. A day out with the kids is also the perfect thing for a weekend, although I do love a romantic meal, preferably just for two!