Head of PR + Events / General Pants Group
Sara Bray has the job of your dreams.
Actually, I’ll rephrase that, Sara Bray has the job of MY dreams.
It’s important to preface this #careerstory by telling you that after you read Sara’s tale, you may experience a wave of enthusiasm, or the urge to shop GP’s Instagram – yep, there is no turning back from here on in. This interview will make you want to work harder, to love more and take more chances. As far as I am concerned Sara is the PR world’s worst kept secret – the life of the party with the brains to create it.
As Head of PR and Events at General Pants Group, Sara wears many hats (Or Ksubi jeans, however, you want to look at it). Not only does she look after the companies influencer marketing program, but she plans and produces events and develops the epic PR campaigns that you see in store and online. In a nutshell, she brings the ethos of General Pants to life.
In today’s #careerstory you will get a glimpse of Sara’s life at high school in Proserpine, her University selection and her career journey to date – including her stint in the UK and her fond memories working for Social Diary. Make sure you take note of Sara’s advice for any budding PR babe. It’s profound.
Time to meet the audacious and effortlessly ‘cool’ Sara Bray…
Hey Sara, we are so excited to have you here. Lets start at the very beginning. Tell us about your childhood, where did you grow up, etc?
I was born and raised in the Whitsundays which is a small community, so growing up you’d often have to create your own entertainment. Our family home was out of town on a couple of acres and, having an older brother, I spent a lot of time riding push bikes, climbing trees, playing sport, fishing with the family and pestering my neighbour’s cows, chicken and sheep. I competed in everything from dance eisteddfods to Athletics, BMX and motocross. I played netball, touch football and even rugby union, because I never wanted to feel limited in what I could achieve. I think that’s instilled in me today because I’m always willing to step up and give anything a red hot crack.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to Proserpine State High School, and at the time it was the only high school in the region. I begged my parents to send me to boarding school in Brisbane because I wanted to leave the ‘small town mentality’ behind. I just wish I knew then that once you’re done with high school, the real adventure begins and you can start to mould the future you want to create for yourself.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
Not really. I always knew I wanted to further my education, but I had no idea what I wanted to study. I was the Publicity Officer for the Whitsunday Youth Affairs Committee, so I had a knack for organising social events and creating noise about them, plus my strengths at school were English, writing, and oral presentations, so I applied for a Bachelor of Arts degree at various universities in south-east Queensland and hoped for the best!
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
We were required to complete work experience in high school and it ended up being valuable in determining what I didn’t want to do. Otherwise, I might have been an Art Teacher today!
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I lost focus at high school around year 10 but hung in there to graduate so I had a chance at attending uni. I was accepted into the relatively new University of the Sunshine Coast and I absolutely loved it! I had some incredibly inspiring course lecturers and tutors and took a variety of classes so I could quickly establish both what I enjoyed and what I excelled at. I loved journalism and thought I wanted to be a sports presenter, but my PR grades outshone everything else.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
I remember landing my first job as a PR Assistant at a small agency. The deal they offered me was to lose my “Queensland accent” and I had the gig. Having lived in Sydney for 12 years, I now know what they meant. For most of my career, I’ve worked in boutique PR agencies on consumer brands. I tend to think there are more opportunities to develop and progress at a rapid pace in boutique agencies, as long as you prove you’re worthy of the shot. Small businesses are tightly resources and they want to give you more responsibility, you just need to demonstrate you’re capable, you’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked before, and you have the best interests of the clients and company at heart.
After four years in agency land, the GFC hit and the integrated agency I worked for at the time was closed. Clients were eager to come with me to wherever I ended up next, but as I worked on them in the interim, I decided I didn’t need to work for someone else to do what I loved doing. My business started in my living room and I worked from morning to midnight to keep clients happy and produce the results that would establish my reputation. I was keeping my overheads low so I was cost competitive but before long I needed to share the workload to retain my sanity. After three stellar years, I decided to relocate to London. It was a character building experience which I’m grateful for, but not all I hoped it would be, and my knowledge of the Australian media landscape in the UK was of no use there. I had event management experience so I took an event production role while also managing the business’ marketing needs.
A year later and my dad required a full-time carer while he underwent chemo so I moved to Townsville then Brisbane to focus on him. After his stem cell transplant, I returned to Sydney for a brief stint back in agency land before joining the team at General Pants Group.
That’s awesome Sara. What a journey. We have so many girls interested in a career at General Pants Group, can you tell us how you got the role?
Craig King (CEO, General Pants Group) had always been a business mentor of mine, and an opportunity arose to join the marketing team leading content and social. I jumped at the chance to take a digitally led side-step from PR and was excited to finally be able to work with him! When the PR Manager departed, I was spread across both roles until I decided to return to PR and events and they appointed a new Head of Social.
What is the hardest part of your job at General Pants Group?
It’s becoming easier now, but for my entire career I’d worked in a hierarchical structure whereas at General Pants Group it is relatively flat. Collaboration is highly encouraged and leadership and respect is earned, not given. It’s been a whole new ball game for me!
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
My role covers everything from developing and executing PR campaigns, planning and producing events, managing our influencer marketing program and building partnerships – so no two days ever look the same! However, I couldn’t get through it all without the incredible team I work with. We could be visiting potential venues, researching new digital influencers, pitching trend stories, meeting with brands to discuss collaborations or mapping out plans to activate around a festival or other event.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
My parents separated when I was 10, and when I turned 13 I went to live with my dad. He would leave home at 5am and return at 10pm, sacrificing time with his children to work hard so he could provide opportunities for us. It didn’t matter what dream I was chasing, dad gave it his full support and made sure he provided me with the best possible chance at succeeding. I would never have been able to move away from home and attend uni had he not helped me financially, so I get quite emotional when I think about the impact he has had on my life.
Thank you so much for telling your story Sara. To finish, do you have any advice that you would you give girls who are interested in a career in PR, or Events?
Be prepared to work bloody hard, and do with a positive attitude. Be accountable and take responsibility for your decisions and actions. If you fail, learn from the mistake.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration!
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: My daily addictions are Who What Wear (fashion), Pedestrian (pop culture) and Harvard Business Review (business and leadership).
- Name an Instagram Account or Snapchat that you can’t go a day without checking: @general_pants of course! @urmumsyadad for lols aplenty! And @taste to feed my food addiction.
- Books: I buy books with the hope of reading them. But I only get around to it when I go on holidays! I’m in a self-development phase, so I recently purchased “Talk Like TED” by Carmine Gallo, “Elon Musk” by Ashlee Vance and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
- People: Former boss and founder of www.socialdiary.com.au, Tiffany Farrington, and my best friend who has worked in PR as long as I have, Lisa-Shae Coulton