Under the Radar with Sarah Lakos
Stylist's Social Media Editor talks unlearning bad advice, unexpected accents, the power of emojis and a love of sweet and salty popcorn...
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
When I was at school, I loved creating things. I did lots of textiles and design and later, fell in love with English and writing. That naturally made me think, “how can I continue to create things as I look for a job?”
I went to university, did Business Marketing and Media and Journalism. From year one of my studies I knew I wanted to intern at publications, starting at a really small, indie magazine called Yen (which has since closed). I had a great time and the team were so kind and encouraging – they let me have a go at quite of bit of everything. That first internship really sealed the deal for me and publishing.
I think it was a combination of wanting to be really creative and then having that really great first experience at a small magazine that led me to where I am.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
I studied and interned for about five or so years. My internship led to another internship at Marie Claire Australia in the beauty team, and that led to a job as a Beauty Assistant at Elle Australia.
That led to me a role as Editorial Assistant at a health magazine, called Prevention at Seven West Media.
A year later, I started working as a Social Media Producer across a huge portfolio of titles. Later I would be promoted and look after the beauty and fashion titles for social-first branded content strategy and implementation. Things shifted a bit in my personal life, and I moved to London in March 2017. In June of the same year, I got my job at Stylist as their Social Media Editor!
Do you have go-to work outfit?
Today I'm wearing all black. It’s my default. I wouldn’t say I stick to any style - I like to follow certain trends. At the moment I love wearing a dark navy-blue corduroy suit. It's my power suit.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
I chat a lot when I’m on deadline. It’s not so much procrastination but stress relief. If you can’t laugh, you’ll cry, right? In terms of snacks, I’m mildly obsessed with sweet and salty popcorn.
What's the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
Just five months after starting at Stylist, I was on stage at Stylist Live hosting a panel discussion. I don’t know about you, but it takes a lot of faith to back a new employee like that and give them the opportunity to participate in an event where 20,000 people walk through the door over three days. Maybe ‘unusual’ is the wrong word, but it was really surprising that the brand really embraced my involvement in such a key event. It was a career highlight, only to be topped by doing it all over again this year at Kensington Olympia.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
I have a profile on Facebook but I don't really utilise it that much.
Everyone says, " You must be on social media all the time”, and outside work hours, I'm actually not.
I'm on Facebook’s Business Manager all the time, and so the last thing I want to do is go home and open my personal profile. The exception is Instagram. It’s my favourite platform.
Walk me through your typical day.
Every day is quite different because as a Social Media Manager I can be pulled into lots of different meetings last minute.
I get in at nine, we have our news meeting at 9:20am, where I present the traffic and engagement results from the day before. Once that’s done, I look at what's trending, what's happening elsewhere and begin to curate the content that relates to that. There will be lots of discussion around the office about what's happening in the world, and that helps to inspire the content.
I have some lunch at some point and maybe duck out for a walk and some fresh air. A meeting or two, maybe with the video team or editorial, plus more content creation and planning. Sometimes I’m off to an event in the evening, but typically just home to relax.
I love to cook. I know some people get home and they stress out because they've got to make dinner, but I enjoy that.
How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?
We enter so many award categories throughout the year, and it's just so fantastic when you get commendation, or you actually get to win the award, because it really makes all that hard work worth it.
Stylist is a weekly title with a website that creates a lot of content, and sometimes you forget to take a step back and look at what you've achieved, so I do think PPA awards put it all into perspective.
When the brand receives a highly commended or a nod within your brand peer group, it's really fantastic.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
I would travel. If I didn't have to sleep, I'd probably go to Italy for dinner.
What was the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview) and why?
Oh, it was of my Christmas tree. Last night my partner and I decorated it. And when I say ‘my partner’ I mean he very patiently handed me the decorations.
We have a live one this year, so that was a really lovely moment. Splashing a bit of money on a nice tree seems like an extravagance, but I think in the current climate, anything to warm the cockles of your heart helps.
What's your guilty pleasure?
I wish I didn't feel guilty, but it’s time to myself. Time to myself to not achieve anything, but just to be.
The weeks go by so quickly and you get to Friday and you think, "Oh god, that was a quick week," and then look at your weekend and you realise you've booked yourself up completely. In 2019 I'd like to find more time to just potter and to be more creative.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
I kind of wish I had like Michelle Obama on speed dial.
Just to have her opinion on things, and to be able to have a heart-to-heart with someone so intelligent and sure of herself would be incredible. I have Michelle's book. It was gifted to me, and I do plan to read it over the Christmas break, so maybe that will be a close second to having her number.
What’s the worst piece of advice you've ever been given?
This is tricky to explain, as it's not so much advice, but it is the worst thing I allowed myself to believe. And it’s tied to a rocky experience with a really critical (borderline bully) manager in my early years of magazine: I truly believed I wasn’t good enough.
I allowed myself to believe that so strongly that it changed my career path. I think now, I’d probably be writing a whole lot more. It has been a big lesson in un-learning that belief.
What/where is your happy place?
I think about this a lot because I'm away from my family, and it’s coming up to Christmas. My absolute happiest place is at my parent’s dining table. But there's nothing quite like when your parents and your siblings or your extended family, aunties and uncles, you know, everyone is together.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Probably they don't know I'm Australian until they hear my voice. Some people have said, "Oh, that's weird, I didn't see that coming!"
What would be in your Room 101?
Rude people. If I'm going to sort of do a big, overarching switch-off, I would like all rudeness. I find people who are rude intolerable, and that's everything from people who are pushy to people who are rude quite directly. I just don't think that there's any excuse for it.
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film. Except I am binge-watching The First, the series about the astronauts. But at this time of year it has to be film, because Love Actually.
Sweet or savoury?
Depends on what time of day, but more sweet.
Morning person or night owl?
I'm a midday-er. It's hard to get up in the morning, and I can't stay awake past midnight, so I'm a midday-er.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
They're cool. I was listening to Natasha Devon MBE at Stylist Live talk about mental health. She made the excellent point that English is so limiting when it comes to describing emotions and feelings.
One of her points was, when you're talking to someone who's maybe not feeling great, and you can't find the words, you should be creative and one way to do that is to use an emoji.
I just thought that's really clever and really creative, that words do limit us to expressing ourselves, and we have this fantastic vocabulary of emojis, and I think that they are cool, and if you're finding them cringe-y, you just haven't found your favourite emoji yet.
What's your favourite emoji?
I love the muscle emoji and the sparkle star emoji. Then, of course, the Christmas tree emoji has been used quite a bit in the last 24 hours.
I think that when words escape us, there is always emoji.