Lucy Werner is a busy woman. She’s the founder of The Wern, a PR consultancy aimed at small businesses, and also hosts a podcasts, teaches workshops, is a regular speaker at PR events in London, and is bringing out her first book in a few months. Oh, and did we mention she’s currently on maternity leave with a newborn baby?
Lucy’s book, “Hype Yourself: A no-nonsense DIY PR toolkit for small businesses”, shares the expertise she’s cultivated throughout her career working for some of the world’s most well-known PR agencies. She uses her own platform to show how small businesses and freelancers can amplify their voices. It’s working well – so far, Lucy’s work has been featured in The Guardian, Stylist, the Huffington Post and The Telegraph, amongst others. And now she’s showing us how we can do the same.
The embodiment of a boss babe, Lucy proves that women can have it all – as long as they learn how to balance. We chatted to Lucy to find out about her experiences starting her own company, and the importance of sharing your wins with the world.
Hey Lucy! Could you please start us off by introducing yourself in a couple of sentences?
Sure! I’m the founder of The Wern, which is a PR consultancy for small businesses, entrepreneurs and independent brands. In the last year, my partner has joined the business as well, and he’s leading the creative arm. We’re doing branding, design and PR, so we’re trying to be a one-stop-shop for emerging businesses, to help get them out there essentially.
Great! How did you get started with your company?
I founded the business 5 years ago. I love PR, but when you work in a PR agency and you get to a senior level, you’re not actually doing the public relationships part anymore – you’re a team leader and doing a lot of strategy and documents, but not the implementation. That’s normally done by the juniors, and you’re managing them. When you’re in a big agency, you’re obviously slave to the money in a way, so I didn’t get to work on the clients that I necessarily felt passionate about.
I met a really interesting entrepreneur who suggested that I do some communications work with him, and his energy and attitude was so infectious. It just made me realise that I love working directly with the founders, and becoming a partner and really making a difference to their business. Especially in the UK, the emerging market of small businesses and startups is huge, and the traditional PR agency model doesn’t serve that.
That makes sense. What were some of the hurdles you’ve faced in your business journey, and how did you solve them?
The first hire! I think there’s a tendency when you have a small business to spend as little as you can on staff, and think “I’m going to get somebody and train them up to be my right hand man”. But actually, when you do that, all your time is spent on doing that. So it’s actually better to invest in people who have more experience. It took me probably three hires to get it right!
Also, it’s a struggle to not follow what was done before you. It’s so hard, when you run a PR agency, to not think “I’m going to run it how I’ve been taught”. Now, I use the freelance model a lot more. If I’m working for a food brand, I’ve got a good food freelancer I go to. If I’m working on a ‘mum brand’, I’ve got another great freelancer. The same goes for B2B tech services. There’s different people that I will pull on for bespoke projects.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
That’s a good question! I wish I’d known that success is not based on the number of staff in your office.
Ooh, interesting – we haven’t had that one yet! What’s the most important quality you need if you’re self employed?
Motivation! I think you have to love what you’re doing. Motivation and being multi-skilled. You have to be able to be willing to get your hands dirty. I try really hard not to work evenings and weekends, but there are times where it’s inevitable, and it has to not feel like an eye roll moment when you’re dealing with those things. I always take a clean break off social and email when I go on holiday, and when I come back I’m genuinely excited to get stuck in again and get my sleeves rolled up.
Which business women have inspired you in your career to date?
You know what, it’s a difficult question, because we don’t have as much access to women as we do to men – although that is slightly pivoting. There are lots of women who I’ve worked with who inspire me, and who aren’t necessarily well-known. Some of the women I’ve worked for previously like Jane Austen, who runs Persuasion Communications.There’s another woman from my first ever job, and I was PA to her – she’s called Camilla Harrison.
As far as women as leadership, they inspired me by showing that as women, you can have it all. They had these great positions in business, but they were also kind and caring. There’s this quite archaic view that you can’t have it all. I think you can, it’s just obviously balance. I hate the word balance, but it is about balance. Part of that is enjoying what you do. It’s an empowering position to be in, to work for yourself and not be enslaved to someone else.
Apart from your own book that’s coming out in January, do you have a great book recommendation?
I’m going to say Be More Pirate, by Sam Conniff. He’s a natural, playful disruptor. It’s very rare to get a guy who is white with middle class privilege who actually puts it to good use.
Can you share a top with with us from your book on promoting yourself and amplifying your voice?
It sounds cliche to use my book title, but I found that one of my most popular Instagram posts in the last year was when I asked people who were following me to hype themselves, and to share one thing from that week that they were proud of. A lot of women were thanking me privately, saying “thanks for giving me permission”.
I think you should give yourself permission to shout about your business wins – or personal wins. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Someone said “I managed to get my hair brushed this week with a newborn”. I think we’re worried about celebrating stuff and worrying that we’ve got big egos, but actually if you don’t talk about what you’re doing, nobody knows that you’re doing it.