In Conversation with Sarah Hall and Michael Owen


Sarah Hall is an experienced management consultant helping organisations to articulate their purpose and optimise their performance. Sarah is a member of the Northern Power Women Power List, a regular speaker at industry events and founder of #FuturePRoof, a series of books and community aimed at reasserting the role of public relations as a management function. 

Michael Owen is the designer and founder of clothing brand, ALWAYS WEAR RED. Michael helps entrepreneurs build their brands with purpose, making them matter more and last longer.   

We spoke to them both about the importance of growing and maintaining your personal brand, and what they’re looking forward to at Northern Power Futures in Newcastle this month.

How would you describe your own personal brand?
S: What are my brand attributes? I think I’m known for being honest, ethical, driven, innovative, passionate and committed. These are certainly the values I try to live both personally and through my business. That said, it would be interesting to hear what others say as it’s their opinion that matters!
M: The abstract answer is, “…what people say about me when I’m not in the room.” Because all brands exist only in the minds of others. And what do I hope they say about me? That I am generous. That I am an adventurous thinker and a ‘why-notter’. That I am acutely aware that life is finite, and restlessly excited by inspiring others as well as myself to achieve their true potential.

What makes having a personal brand effective?
S: Relationships matter in all walks of life. In business, if you want to make and sustain new connections, whether that’s to get a job or sell a product or service, you need to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Having a personal brand is a way of sharing your core values so like-minded people can understand, get behind and maybe even invest in you and your vision.
M: It’s shorthand. About you. Shorthand that you engineer. Imagine someone saying this when you’re not there, “She’s the one that…” Well – end that sentence for them. So they talk about you in the way you’d want. Engineer a simple, clear and memorable notion that – ideally – includes the change you want to make. Your purpose.

Northern Power Futures is all about connecting creators, innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the North. Why do you think it’s important for these types of events to happen in the North, and not just in London or down south?
S: It’s a very different proposition holding an event up here to down South. We have small and tight communities (people say Newcastle is like a village) which means there is a lot of support if you’re plugged in and you can quickly build a network. However, it’s always good to have interest and investment from elsewhere as that is how new ideas, connections and best practice can be shared and new opportunities created.
M: Whilst I understand why you are asking this, perhaps because the South of England often outperforms the North economically, if there is ever a lack creativity, entrepreneurialism and innovation – anywhere – it is because it has been unlearned, unfertilised or simply ignored. We are all creative. What NPF is doing is valuable anywhere. And I’d hope that the effect of you connecting the blatantly innovative inspires the latently innovative to take action too.

Any advice for people wanting to start their own business?
S: Make sure you have the fire in your belly to make your dream a success. I’m lucky to love what I do which sustains me when things get tough, which they occasionally do. And write a business plan – it terrifies me how many people don’t. Finally always get professional PR and marketing advice. People think they can do it themselves. They can’t.
M: You are not late for anything… so get out of your own way. You have 1000 months. Then you die. So if you want to do it – do it today. You will never be younger than you are today. So – literally – what is it that you are you waiting for?

And, what is the best advice you’ve been given?
S: Trust your gut. Honestly. I’ve avoided so many business mistakes that way, it’s untrue.
M: Get your tribe right. Surround yourself with positive, generous, inspiring people that focus laser-like on the change they want to make. The right people will be determined to support your goals, too. Believe me – they do exist. Oh, and be patient. That’s crucial.

If the North was a colour, do you think it would be red?
S: It would be multicoloured to celebrate the diversity of talent we’re home to.
M: In the world of Always Wear Red, red is a metaphor. A metaphor for confidence. So is the North a confident place? Absolutely.

Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to at Northern Power Futures?
S: I’m looking forward to networking with senior decision-makers who care about the North East’s future and, like me, are helping the next generation of talent on the road to success. It’s a sure way of seeing the region continue to thrive.
M: Creating partnerships, informal and maybe even formal, with change makers. I like meeting people that ‘do’.

Sarah and Michael will be hosting the Growing Your Personal Brand talk at Northern Power Futures on Monday 11th February. Find out more and register for your tickets here

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