PR Pros: Sarah Farrant Of NINICO Communications On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro

An Interview With Kristen Shea


Keep learning — In this business, you should never stop trying to learn. There is so much to discover. Even after all these years, I’m still learning new things that make my public relations skills even more formidable.

Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sarah Farrant, vice president of NINICO Communications, a top rated PR agency with offices in San Jose and Los Angeles.

With more than two decades of thoughtful leadership, Sarah Farrant is a powerful and trusted industry player. A consummate public relations professional with an intuitive grasp of brand strategy — from her time as a copywriter in the tech industry and editor in a newsroom to senior leader at Silicon Valley’s powerhouse PR agency — she works with clients to deliver compelling messaging and effective campaigns that translate into press opportunities and resonate with consumers. Mrs. Farrant’s vision and passion for process have been the force behind the public success of some of California’s most reputable brands.

Thank you so much for your time! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path to public relations started with a love of writing, which led to my pursuit of a degree in English. After college and as my career progressed, I made my way from technical writing to marketing writing. Then a chance reunion with a previous coworker, Nicholas Adams, brought me into the wild world of public relations and I haven’t looked back. I love doing something different every day, working with so many amazing people, and using my background in writing to create messaging for clients that creates real impact.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We are lucky to have a real diversity of clients. One of things I love the most about this work is the fact it’s different every day. One minute I’m working on an op-ed for an architecture company and the next I’m writing a press release for a commercial real estate groundbreaking or crisis communications messaging for a tech company. One of my favorite projects right now involves a tech company using DNA science to verify ventilation and filtration efficacy to ensure safer air quality indoors.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Competence, flexibility, and humility. Competence speaks for itself. It is my experience and knowledge of successfully crafting messaging that enables clients to trust me with their brands. Flexibility is its own animal. In the world of public relations, success is dependent on the ability to pivot and shift messaging and tactics. Lastly, humility. Public relations isn’t for the faint of heart. Sometimes you have to admit a strategy isn’t working and change gears, but you can’t take it personally. Public relations is an always moving target. That’s part of the fun!

Can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?

Owned, paid, and earned media. Each type focuses on strategic communication in media relations, community relations, social media communication, internal communication, and crisis communication. Owned media is marketing or marketing channels a company has control over, such as their website or social media. Paid media is anything the company pays for including advertisements. Earned media, the strongest of all media, is publicity or exposure for the company that is gained through pitching or other methods not paid.

Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism?

The basis of any PR career is strong writing skills that enable you to tell a story. Messaging is the key to communicating effectively to and for clients. While there are many routes to getting to that goal successfully, a degree in English, communications, or journalism is a good start. Ultimately, it is experience that makes any PR professional stand out. It is a constant learning process so the more you do, the more you understand, and the more successful you can be.

PR professionals are known as master networkers. Can you share some tips on great networking?

As a naturally introverted person, fine-tuning my networking skills has been a process. I have been most successful by taking the time to make meaningful connections and good working relationships one-on-one with the people around me so they introduce me to other potential opportunities. Instead of a blanket or cold call approach, a quality over quantity approach has worked best for me.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

It’s all about connections. The best leads are those garnered through happy clients referring our services to friends and colleagues. My strategy to generate good leads is to keep our current clients happy through hard work, good communication, strong content, and positive coverage — including strong key performance indicators — so they speak well of us to their own network.

Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why.

  1. Strategy — Know what you want to accomplish and the steps to follow to get there. Without a plan, both you and your client are open to disaster.
  2. Commit to the process — It may be tempting to skip steps, but each one is important. We follow the process because it works.
  3. Be patient and persistent — Public relations doesn’t always happen as fast as we want or the way we expect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be successful. Sometimes patience is the key to getting what we want.
  4. Build strong relationships — This will increase your credibility, help deliver messaging, and create connections that can bring good leads.
  5. Keep learning — In this business, you should never stop trying to learn. There is so much to discover. Even after all these years, I’m still learning new things that make my public relations skills even more formidable.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could inspire a movement, I would hope to do something that could inspire young girls to go out in the world and succeed. Don’t wait for someone to make space for you, create it for yourself.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.



Kristen Shea, President of Tribe Builder Media
Authority Magazine

Kristen Shea is a publicist and the President of Tribe Builder Media, an award-winning boutique PR firm.