A coffee with Emily Austen
Hi Emily, welcome to the Lepelclub journal. We’re so happy to have you here with us! First thing’s first, can you tell us a little more about yourself?
For sure. I’m 33 years old and live in North London. I run a PR Agency and my passion is discovering interesting and challenging brands, and finding ways to tell their stories. I studied Criminology and Criminal Law at Manchester University. I’m fascinated in etymology, and hope one day to write my own book, as a paper house for all that I have learnt.
You’ve founded your own PR agency, Emerge. What inspired you to start the company?
I set up the business when I was 22 having just left University. I struggled throughout my time at Manchester, unable to direct my energy and passion towards something that felt meaningful. I interned a huge amount in my holiday and for 2 days a week in term time. This was 2010, so pre Instagram, Uber and Netflix. Brands communicated in different ways, and I was front and centre for the social media explosion. I tried lots of adjacent industries, talent management, publicity, publishing, radio, events, and PR. I never worked at a company where I was impressed by the Founder, and I genuinely felt that I could do it better, and add value to the industry.
Founding the agency at the age of 22, what has been the most challenging and rewarding?
In the early days, there were a number of challenges. Learning on the job, lack of contacts and experience, youth was often a negative as many of the marketing managers I was pitching to were ten years older than me. I found it difficult to start and grow a business with a real identity, when I was still figuring out who I was and what I wanted to achieve personally. I started my company because I wanted to create a business where I wanted to work. Somewhere that set people up to win, and challenged the way things had always been done. I didn’t necessarily have aspirations of the growth that has been achieved today, but the most rewarding thing is that 11 years on, people want to join me on that journey. This little business that I started for myself, is now shared with many other people. I am lucky enough to be at the forefront of ideation and creation for the most exciting brands on the planet, and the most talented people, which is hugely challenging and stimulating in equal valour.
Emerge is PR, but better! Can you tell us a little more about Emerge?
Emerge is a consumer focused PR Agency that understands how public relations can create value for growing brands. We work with trailblazers and innovators across multiple categories, advising that there is not a one size fits all mold. Our job is to identify, create and craft stories worth telling, for brands to communicate with audiences wherever they show up, in the feeds of phones, the WhatsApp groups or the imprint of a paper. We create emotional and transactional triggers to enhance the brand relationships with their audiences, and focus eyeballs to build brand fame.
What’s the best piece of advice, personal or professional, you’ve ever received?
If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.
How do you drink your coffee? And if you could share a cup with anyone, who would it be?
My coffee is usually black, unless I’m feeling indulgent and then I’ll treat myself to a skinny flat white. If I could share a cup with anyone it would be Jane Austen. She’s an Aunt (great, great, great Aunt) on my Dad’s side of the family. I’d be fascinated to see her reaction to her success, given than none of her books were published until after her death and she wouldn’t have known the impact she would have on storytelling.
At Lepelclub we love sending letters! You encourage your team to send at least one letter a week. What's the reason behind this encouragement?
I think a lot about the impact our actions have on others. In my job, before I create a system or process, I think carefully about what behaviour I am trying to stimulate. I know how I feel when I receive a letter in the post – there’s a joy that comes from knowing someone sat down, collected their thoughts, put pen to paper and wrote something just for you. I’d like others to have that feeling too. Although it’s seen as old school, there’s a romance to letter writing that I want to keep alive.
Finally, let’s toast! What are you celebrating right now?
Having had our worst year of 11 last year, (our year end is June), we are coming to the end of our first quarter, and we are in a much better place, so collectively we are celebrating that! Personally, I have a new job (half a day a week), which I will be announcing soon (which will happen alongside my work at Emerge), as well as a personal project I’ve been planning for years. All very cryptic but I’ll be able to share more over the next month or so!