Founded by Strategist and Communications Consultant Sophie Greenwood. Originally from North Yorkshire, Sophie’s career in communications has spanned nearly 15 years. She began in London working in luxury residential property before moving into the health and wellness industry. Here she started to work closely with some of the world’s most globally recognised and best loved lifestyle, fashion, beauty, health, wellness and travel brands.
Today Sophie lives in New York and her agency, Belle et Bien specialises in building businesses with purpose all over the world. With a comprehensive understanding of what PR and marketing means in todays digital world, she applies her knowledge, creativity and commerciality to continually make positive impacts and scale businesses.
- What made you decide to start your own company?
A few things. One of which was that I saw a clear gap in the market for an agency which bridged traditional PR, digital marketing and brand identity. I was also at a pivotal point in my career where I found myself frequently being asked to do freelance work but didn’t have any capacity outside of my full time role to commit. I also quite simply just wanted to see if I could do it. I’d always daydreamed of working for myself. If I’d questioned it for a second, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I just needed to take a bit of a leap of faith and always go by the notion of nothing ventured, nothing gained. You just have to be fearless when it comes to the pursuit of what makes you happy, take it day by day and don’t stress too much about tomorrow.
- If it is possible to narrow it down to three top tips, what pieces of advice you would give your clients?
1: Think positive. As a natural optimist I do find my role becomes very supportive as many clients are in the start-up phase of their businesses. It’s so important though to always look ahead and break the work down into manageable chunks. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
2: Be Consistent. It’s important to remember that even though you see your brand and key messaging everyday, many don’t. What you may consider a tired campaign, half your ideal target audience might not have even seen or engaged with yet! Try not to be too impulsive when changing direction.
3: Smile and Unwind. When you work for yourself, the hours in the day can become very blurred. It’s important to have time to rest the mind so it can perform at its best the next day. Keep smiling too. I find on those days when you feel a little defeated it can really help!
- What is unique about your approach?
For me, I’ve always been focused on the term PR in full which may sound blindingly obvious, but having worked with many agencies over the years, I found that for the majority, their overriding focus was always solely on achieving traditional PR – whether that be in print or online, which always striked me as being far too linear.
Considering its breadth, it implies looking at everything relating to a business, brand or individual. It embraces engagement with partners and clients both new and existing. Some clients wish to start with full brand development, in other cases ‘redevelopment’, then we look at producing great events that have real value and impact, clever campaigns, solid partnerships with longevity as well as social strategies to deliver growth objectives. and the press on top is the cherry on the cake. I’m also acutely aware that my role is to help deliver big dreams and aspirations, as well as risk mitigation.
Ultimately, all channels need to be considered as one. We do the whole shebang and look at quite literally, everything to do with the business! No stone is left unturned, which is why we continually achieve strong results and have very happy clients.
- What are the things you enjoy the most about your job?
The freedom it allows. As long as I have my laptop, phone and good wifi, I’m able to work from anywhere in the world.
- What are the challenges?
The pace in which the industry evolves at. It’s amazing for clients as they get an opportunity now more than ever before to have a global stage and great for me in that there’s always something new to learn but the digital world is moving so fast – sometimes it feels as though if you even dare to blink you’ll miss the next development!
With print PR these days I have to really manage client expectations. You just don’t get the same number of opportunities as the good old days. That said, it’s no bad thing – I actually believe more digital press is better anyway to boost your sites SEO ranking.
As an independent, there’s also always an internal pressure I have to deliver above and beyond and due to the nature of the business, each day brings multiple yet incredibly varied deadlines to juggle. Sometimes the phone rings and it changes your whole day. You just never know what could happen. It’s a challenge but also half the fun!
- To what do you attribute your success?
Probably my determination since failing my A-levels. I’ve always been creative and never particularly academic, that said I was consistently predicted high grades across the board – I knew my subjects inside out, I just couldn’t answer the questions in the way they wanted when it came to exams. It was a frustrating time for all. My poor parents! The feeling of failure is one I have tried my best to avoid ever since.
- What book are you currently reading?
My client Rachel Kelly’s book Walking on Sunshine. I can’t recommend it enough – it’s a deceptively simple guide to a less complicated life. Her descent into depressive illness is a cautionary tale for all of us trying to juggle the multiple demands of work, family and everything else that comes with modern day living; endless to do lists and the pressures we put on ourselves.
- What does the future hold for Belle et Bien Communications?
I’m really pleased with how the business has naturally grown since I launched it 18 months ago. We’ve got some great clients that are a joy to work for and I have a small wider team around me including the UK’s best new designer of the year which was a rather exciting win for her at this year’s DRUM awards and means we deliver exemplary brand development too.
I want to keep Belle small – you can always sense when an agency becomes too big and even though it’s achievable, it’s not on my agenda. I’m hugely ambitious though and am a little obsessed with continually learning, reading and being inspired by new things to make the work we deliver on, the best it can be. I’m in a very fortunate position now where we are able to be more selective with who we take on as clients – they have to be the right fit as I effectively become an extension of their team.
For 2019, I’m looking to recruit a full time digital marketing expert so my focus can be on all the other deliverables. It’s always of great benefit to get fresh eyes, especially as the PR industry is much more accessible, digitally driven and moving at an incredibly fast pace. Brands now know they must adapt to survive whilst staying truly authentic to themselves and to do so, it takes a much broader strategy. At Belle, we will still continue to look at the whole business to capitalise on earning positive brand awareness, than aiming for just a feature in a glossy and that’s the way it shall always be!