Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall and Tony Hawk at his skateboarding show at the Grande Palais in Paris.

Sarah Hall
Communications ’84
President, Sarah Hall Productions, Inc. Public Relations

When did you first realize your passion for public relations?
My passion for PR arrived early. My mother worked at Columbia Pictures and as a child, I loved visiting the publicity department. Teachers and family said I was unusually persuasive for my age -the markings of a true publicist. At 15 years old, I called the School of American Ballet for a talented friend who had no experience but dreamed of studying at SAB. I requested an audition for him (to perform his mime routine!) and stated that if they were as impressed as I thought they’d be, they’d have to offer him a scholarship because his family didn’t have the funds. He got the audition and started studying the Russian technique of ballet on scholarship, that week. That was the beginning of me really enjoying giving voice to other people’s talents.

Why was FIT a good fit for you?
During my school tour, I really responded to the creativity and ambition of the students.  I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of that community.

What was your first experience of New York City like?
My NYC experience was so great that I still live here with my husband and 3 children. FIT  encouraged you to meet students in and outside of your major; everyone was so talented. My routine was school, internships, work and once a week, dancing with friends at Xenon and Studio 54.  It was a special time to be in NYC. 

As a student, what steps did you take to reach your goals? 
My plan in college was that one of my internships would lead me to a great job upon graduation.  And, that’s exactly what happened.

What was your first job?
To clarify, I had 3 “first” jobs & 1 non-paying internship at FIT, all from their placement board. 
1) Hand-painting on ballet slippers that sold to Henri Bendel, 2) Hand-painting on jewelry that sold to Lord & Taylor,  3) Babysitting for a film editor who let me house-sit her loft on 5th Avenue when she was out of town, 4) A non-paying internship at a production company. None of this felt like work, I assure you. Interestingly, it was the internship that led to my first real job. The owner of the production company I interned at helped me land a job with his wife’s family business, which was Ford Models. I worked there as an agent for seven years.  After, I worked at William Morris, traveled with a pop star, and upon returning from a 1 year tour, I was ready to try PR. I opened SHP with only two clients and it steadily grew from there.

What were your favorite classes at FIT?
I switched my major from art to advertising and received my degree in Communications, so there was a lot to love.  Favorite classes were Life Drawing, Sociology, Sculpting, Writing, Public Speaking and Art History. And, design classes where you scrutinize jaw-dropping, iconic fashion like the painstaking construction of a Balenciaga gown, including the detail of a hand rolled hem on miles and miles of chiffon.

Did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you?
The time I spent at Xenon and Studio 54 was incredibly inspiring to me. At 18 years old, I saw Halston, Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger plus countless others I had read about, in this incredible setting.  It showed me that NYC offered special opportunities for success if you were willing to work hard.  It also offered fair warning of how quickly it could be taken away if you should falter.

How long have you worked in this industry?
I’ve had my company for 17 years. I am grateful to be making a living doing something that I enjoy so much. My clients are fascinating people and I love giving voice to their creativity.

What was the pivotal moment of success in your career?
Thankfully, there continue to be many.  Early on, it was realizing with all of my combined experience, I’d make a strong personal publicist. Getting my office, signing my first west coast client (many followed), my first UK tour (many followed). More pivotal moments to come!

What inspires your work?
Art, travel and my kids, but not necessarily in that order. Also, a client that is interesting, talented and/or charismatic. One element is good, all three and you have a triple threat.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Doing what I do on a more global scale.

If you could have been in a different line of work, what would it be?

What is your most treasured possession?
My three magical children.

What is a little-known fact about you?
Patti Smith and I used to write to each other when I was in the 10th grade.  I sent her watercolor postcards that reminded her of her sister.  She loved them and that started our exchange.

What was the best advice you received that you’d like to share with peers and current students?
You will get what you focus on, so be responsible with your thoughts and with your words.

What is your motto?
With the given amount of time, the improbable becomes the inevitable.

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