Behind the Biz: Saara Khan
February is here and so is another Behind the Biz interview! This week we chat to the lovely Saara of Saara Khan PR.
At only 23, Saara is quite a legend in our books. She’s a Senior Marketing Coordinator in her day job, has completed a half-marathon AND freelances in marketing and PR on the side.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of popping over to her Instagram feed you’ll have received the following vibes: vibrant, welcoming and informative, with a generous serve of millennial pink. Expect all that and more from our chat below…
Who’s That Girl?
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Isn’t funny when someone who has a knack for stringing words together gets tongue tied when this question is asked? Haha.
I’m a 23-year-old Brisbane girl who works full-time in Marketing! I also freelance, offering a mix of PR/marketing services to help businesses build and grow their brand image/awareness.
I LOVE long-distance running, tea, the ocean AND creative writing.
Also for someone whose main ‘theme’ on their social channel is pink … I’m probably not as girly as you think!
What’s in store for you in 2019?
In my full-time role, we have a bunch of awesome digital events we’re working on at the moment. So I’m really looking forward to growing our audience and building a stronger relationship within those communities (both online and in real life)!
Freelance-wise, I wasn’t really gunning for clients last year, I was focussing more on building my brand. This year I’d like to work with several kick-ass businesses/individuals and sprinkle some PR goodness throughout their strategies.
My intention for this year (which I shared on my IG) is “slow down, be free”.
What was it like living in Brisbane?
Ooooo so GOOD. I can get to the coast easily in 60 – 90 minutes on the weekends … which is so important to me because I crave a good salty ocean swim every day!!
Also I’m a huge sucker for a good breaky meal and we’re so so lucky with the amount of amazing cafes we have that serve up some of the best coffee I’ve had in Aus + I feel like there’s such a different menu at a lot of them … so you’ll likely never eat the same thing twice (yum)!
Can I keep going? One last thing – I think we’re quite blessed with having a smaller business community compared to Sydney and Melbourne. Pretty much everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has always been so down-to-earth and up for a chat. I think we all like to keep it ‘real’ here, so the relationships you form and build on … well, they’re pretty solid.
What is home to you?
Home is wherever my family is. I’m the middle child of 3, my Dad is a teacher and my Mum is a nurse! We have two dogs – Ari and Hercules.
We own a home in Ingham in North Queensland (near Townsville), so I usually try and get there during holidays … which is a mini-retreat for me because we’re surrounded by sugarcane and our closest neighbour is 1km down the road haha!
What was your professional background prior to going freelance in Marketing and PR?
So I was lucky enough to land an industry job when I was in my second year of University!
I worked as an in-house PR Coordinator for 18 months in the property industry. I learned tonnes in that role. And that’s also where my love for building brands and connecting with audiences really began.
Once I graduated, I finished my role there and I switched it up slightly and moved into a Marketing role for a different company.
Did you complete any formal studies or are you self taught?
I hold a Bachelor in Media and Communications with a Major in Journalism from QUT.
What inspired you to choose a path in PR and Marketing?
I’ve ALWAYS had a love for words. My ‘dream job’ when I was growing up was a Journalist. That dream shifted slightly when technology started having the impact it did on the journo industry.
Working in the PR/Marketing industry allows me to fulfill my passion for words. As a superpower … I think it’s quite cool. You have the power to connect an absolute stranger to a brand, business or person. The magic happens when you can form a relationship with them, from that initial ‘meeting’.
Okay, give us the goss (please!): what does a typical working day look like for you?
Haha. You’ve caught me in a whirlwind of a week, which is good!
I’m up at 6.00am most days to get ready for my full-time job. I’ll usually do social engagement for my PR account on the bus.
Once I’m in the office – depending on what the priorities are for the day – I could be working on anything for our two main events/brands from back end website changes/updates to social content/planning to EDMs.
Once you throw our events into the mix, my working day looks a lot different! That’s a story for another time though.
What’s a common mistake that you see a lot of brands make online?
There’s a few.
1. Trying to be everywhere at once
This one is simple – Choose your platforms wisely. Identify where your target audience is. Hone in on them. Don’t worry about where your competitor is – your priority is your audience!!!!
2. Being inconsistent
Customer journeys, comment replies, story templates, content, branding … the list goes on. Your audience is quite cluey, they’ll pick up on inconsistencies and guess what? Humans tend to not like change. Find what works and stick with it.
Likewise … you need to know your WHY in order to limit the amount of tweaks you need to make!!!
3. Using tools that harm vs help
Those random bot comments, generated emails, DMs …. they’re not key to growing your brand. They’re key to annoying a heck of a lot of people. REAL, quality engagement will always triumph over a bot that is costing you $$$.
Consider this: If you don’t have time to input real engagement in the form of comments/likes/DMs, then you might need to hire a professional who can do this for you. Watch the difference in results.
When a small biz invests in PR, what type of results can they expect?
I think the term ‘PR’ still confuses a lot of people. PR services really do overlap with Marketing and vice versa.
PR professionals though … they really do live and breathe YOUR brand image. They want you to SHINE, to be the STAR, to OWN your space and they want to show the world how much you are THRIVING!!!
Expect your brand awareness to grow. Expect your confidence in your biz to grow. Expect your relationships with customers/clients/stakeholders to grow.
A friggin’ good PR profesh takes your business and looks at every single public and private interaction your biz has (or could be having) and rounds it out to a T.
They may be interactions you have never even considered before … your email signature, follow-up meeting ‘nice to haves’, customer service care (not journey – care), events you should be attending … the list goes on. Sure, these may be small but I can’t give away all of my secrets!
Do you have a favourite/most memorable project?
There’s many. I’ve been really lucky with the projects I’ve worked on!!
Being 19 years-old and having a press release you worked on published in The Courier-Mail is definitely one.
Building a brand-new digital community from the ground up and turning that into the physical presence of 400+ people in one room is another.
What was it like launching your own business/deciding to go freelance?
Ahhh scary haha. A lot of self-doubt (ugh). But you know what happens when you step of the ledge into the unknown? You fly! I’m also blessed to have a strong support system at home, in the industry and with my friends.
I don’t like pretending I know how to do everything – I do like owning the sh*t I can do and being open that I’m still learning and growing!
What is your point of difference from other digital marketers/ PR gurus in the biz?
In terms of freelancing, the main things behind my magic touch:
- What you see is what you get. I’m upfront about the tasks that I can own and champion for your business, and I will always let you know when something you ask for is out of my depth – and refer you to another profesh.
- I only take on 1 – 2 clients at a time. Which means I’m always producing quality work with a quick turnaround time!
- My energy. It’s infectious. Hit me up for a tea/coffee – I’d love to prove this to you in person haha.
Do you have any advice for those just starting out in marketing?
Take advice with a grain of salt and pay attention to data/insights. Just because XYZ says it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Plus, data/insights exist for a reason, listen and use them!
ALSO, don’t be afraid to ask your customer/target audience what IS and ISN’T working for them.
What is the best part about running your own biz?
I love meeting new people and having my hands in the industry in my own creative way!!
I’ve worked hard to create and own a brand that is mine – no one can take it away from me!
And the worst/most challenging?
Juggling. My full-time job and my health is my priority, so if I’m too tired to run some social engagement or mock up an IG post for my freelance account, then it takes a backseat for that day/week … sometimes even month!
How do you use/interact with copywriting in your day to day business life? Do you use it at all?
Omg I use it everyday for pretty much every task I do. Social media captions, IG stories, blog posts, website copy, emails … the list goes on.
I switch through a few different ‘brand tones’ throughout the day so it keeps my brain quite active.
What’s something that people don’t see/realise that you do (the nitty gritty, behind the scenes stuff)?
My full-time job is for an events company. So throughout the year there’ll be a lot of long days which consist of anything from setting up venues, checking in delegates, taking photos, stage management, speaker management, pack down + interviewing speakers!!
It’s pretty cool to have a physical presence at events that you’ve been running the marketing for! It’s even better when people put two and two together and realise you’re the human behind the social posts!
And of course: what inspires you?
The answer to this question will be my parents. Always. I wouldn’t be half the person I am without them.
How do you take your tea (or coffee)?
Breaking the rules here, sorry. Green tea and Almond Cappuccino!
Fave coffee shops/cafes at home
Kettle & Tin in Paddington Brisbane, Felix for Goodness in Brisbane CBD.
Go to outfit
White top, denim skirt, tan sandals, gold earrings, brown bag! Simple but a staple.
Completing my very first half-marathon in 2016!
Lazing around and going with what I feel like during the day – whether it’s a movie, reading a book or napping. Finishing the afternoon off with a long run (if I’m feeling extra energetic) or a walk (no phones allowed!!!).
The Alchemist and How I Live Now (both books).
Ultimate travel destination
Italy (I’ve been already but honestly would go back in a heartbeat).
We hope you’re loving this interview series as much as we are! We are curious in nature, and very much enjoy learning the ins and outs of business and start up stories from other female entrepreneurs.
If you have another wonderful lady in mind that you’d like us to interview, drop a comment below or straight to firstname.lastname@example.org
Until the next brew,
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