Sarah Jenkins is the definition of a girl boss. She is the head of White Oak Communications, which has an impressive list of clientele. Read on to find out how Sarah values her team above all else, balances her workload, and keeps White Oak thriving. The main takeaway - work hard, play harder.
Hi, Sarah! Tell us about yourself and how you got started in the PR & social media industry.
Funny enough, it was bartending that got me into PR! I had always worked at restaurants & bars, but I found myself living in Tel Aviv, bartending, and I would reach out to the English-language papers to spread the word about events & happenings! When I came back to LA, I realized I could do that as a career. I began working in entertainment PR, with celebrities & athletes, segued into the luxury real estate world, and here I am a decade later! When I first started in this industry in 2007, social media wasn't a "thing" yet, but I have always been super interested in staying on top of all trends and development within the industry. We were one of the first PR firms to create a particular social media department to work in tandem with the PR peeps to create holistic campaigns.
How have you managed to grow your business as well as your team and how does your average workday look like?
Through hard work. Like really hard work. Everyday is a hustle. I keep clients by keeping them happy and killing it for them in the press and on social media. My team is unreal; they are some of the toughest, sharpest ladies I know. Our clients are like family, and I think when people see that, they look at their current PR teams and they're like, "hmm why isn't my publicist at my daughter's dance recital?" That makes us appealing and helps us grow. We only represent brands we are passionate about, and our clients value our sincerity and excitement about what we do for them. As far as building my White Oak team, we have created a place where people want to come and work. I took everything I hated from all my past jobs and vowed to create an environment where none of that happens. We've built a family here.
Company culture is something we value here above all else. We respect each other to the highest degree. If someone goes through a personal emergency – I am always their first call. No work day is really alike! Some days we are in the office pitching, writing press materials, planning social posts, and using PLANOLY to schedule things out. Other days we are on set covering TV shoots, doing photo shoots, interviews, or meeting with social influencers and journalists. At the end of the day, our work and play are intertwined.
What made you decide to focus on the food side of PR or was it more of an organic process?
Since I started my career in entertainment, I learned how to handle and manage talent. It was a great lesson for me in how to deal with egos, personalities, and all kinds of crazy situations. That said – as my career progressed from real estate to hospitality, the transition seemed somewhat natural since those two things go hand in hand. Launching White Oak with a food focus appeared to be the natural thing to do. I wouldn't call us all foodies, even though we enjoy food. We are first and foremost publicists and social media gurus who work in the hospitality industry, and I believe that makes us as efficient as we are.
How do you come up with a strategy when taking on a new client?
Every client is different – different voice, look, feel, concept. That means every campaign varies. Certain things remain the same on the backend in terms of social media calendars, but almost everything else is a variable. We do in-depth brand voice workshops with our clients to learn more about who they are. From there, we create a visual aesthetic for them to approve, and then we get to the good stuff of creating all social content. At the end of the day, we are here to help bring our clients' vision and voice to life.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned so far in your career?
I've learned that your worst enemy is your own ego. Sometimes a client isn't a good fit, or something goes wrong, and you will get yelled at. You can't let that get you down. You should learn from mistakes, not take things personally, and learn to shake it off. But also accept responsibility for your mistakes, treat everyone with respect, and in the long run the karma of the universe will end up back on your side. I've also learned not to force things. Always work with people who want to work with you, and vice versa.
What are some tips you'd give to social media managers or entrepreneurs like yourself managing a team?
Stay on top of all new trends and developments across all industries in the social media sphere. Just because you work in one industry, doesn't mean there won't be room for crossover. Regarding growth as an entrepreneur, my client and mentor, Adam Weisblatt of Last Work Hospitality, told me to always be working on my business, not in it. I think that's so clutch in giving perspective to how large you want to grow. Always stay close to your internal team, and be a hands-on leader. You set the tone for your office, and you set the example for your team. Hard work begets hard work. And most importantly, your team is your family, so treat them as such. Have fun together, learn and grow together. These are people you could conquer the world with, should you chose.