Founders / Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Snezana Hay, Founder & Director at SPEAK Communications

Snezana Hay is the Founder & Director of boutique communications agency and consultancy, SPEAK Communications, specialising in sport, technology and lifestyle industries.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I have always had a real love for storytelling, creative thinking and building long-lasting relationships so it was only natural that I ended up working in PR.

I graduated with a degree in Communications, majoring in Public Relations and Marketing back in 2003. After a brief stint working for a PR agency in London, I returned home and embarked upon what would become a 13 year journey in the video game industry. I headed up the publicity and events for some of the world’s biggest entertainment brands across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Middle East.

Looking back over this period I realise how fortunate I was to have had my expertise and approach to PR shaped in this environment. By its very nature the video game industry is driven by virtual or digital relationships with its players and requires a direct link to the consumer – evolving into what would become full-blown digital marketing and communications strategies.

This all happened before most other industries had an understanding as to what “going digital” meant. To this day, the level of sophistication in this area of the gaming industry is probably 2-3 years ahead of any other.

In 2017, I took on an Agency Director role at a prominent Sydney PR agency. I quickly became embedded in the world of fashion and lifestyle and was directly responsible for providing senior leadership and strategic direction within the agency.

I soon came to realise that I had walked through the last door that was open for me in terms of career progression and growth potential. I felt emboldened and empowered to take the next step in my career and launched my own agency in 2018.

I believe that being sat on both sides of the briefing table provided me with invaluable insight and skillset to identify what gaps exist, what the client’s wants and needs are and how best to deliver them meaningful results. As straightforward as it sounds, this is how and why SPEAK Communications was born.

Aside from the two little humans I created somewhere in between, it is my proudest achievement to date.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I have a diverse portfolio of clients that I service so from a work output point of view, no two days are ever the same. In saying that, I’m a real stickler for routine and being organised, so I have implemented rules and processes that are in my control and work really well for me.

I start my day early, with a coffee in hand. The first thing I do every morning is flick through my emails and action any client, partner or media questions and requests in order of urgency and then file each email away in its appropriate folder.

I always have a lot on the go, so having a tidy inbox puts me in the right state of mind – some might say I am a little obsessive about it haha.

Next up, over breakfast, I skim over the main news sites and various social channels as it’s important to be plugged into what the major news stories are for the day and what opportunities may exist.

Following this, I make a note of the tasks I need to complete and this is where things can vary. It might be a client meeting, writing a press release, strategy plan or briefing document, securing coverage for a product with media and influencers. I block out time in my diary for each task as it really helps me stay accountable and manage my time and split between my clients effectively.

In between I pencil in email response time to ensure I stay on top of my inbox throughout the day. In simple terms, my job is to secure and facilitate stories for my clients and make journalists’ lives easier: so I made it a general rule to always reply promptly – usually within the hour – to not miss out on any opportunities.

Between 4:00pm – 6:00pm I relax and unwind with the kids. I then pop out for some exercise which helps clear the mind and eat dinner. Before I switch off, I would finalise any business/life admin tasks that need to be addressed so I can start the next day afresh.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Absolutely. In today’s connected world, technology affords us more flexibility in how and where we work. Like most people when they first establish their own business, it was important to keep my overheads low so for a while there it was just me, my laptop and my phone.

As the business and team grew there were plans to set up an office, but COVID-19 put a stop to that and made me reevaluate the vision, processes and structure of the agency.

I suspect like many SMEs have realised in recent months, I am able to successfully run the business remotely, all whilst still remaining connected to clients and my team – it’s a discovery I find liberating.

Personally, I find I am much more motivated and productive due to the few distractions that come hand in hand with an office environment. Eliminating the dreaded work commute also gives you so much more time to work (or play!).

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Getting the agency off the ground, whilst being a mum to two young kids has been a rewarding experience but naturally has its challenges because they’re both jobs that essentially demand all of your attention.

I manage it by having an amazing support network and being disciplined in what’s negotiable and non-negotiable. I’m at that stage that I can say that experience has taught me how to work smarter and more effectively: I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. If I feel overwhelmed, I take time out.

There are always going to be times where I feel I can do more in one area but I try and not overthink it – that’s just putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.

“Work” and “Life” are always going to pull you in different directions so for me, it’s just important to stay present and focused on the task at hand. I plan my days around what my needs and responsibilities are at the time and I just go for it.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

It’s an obvious one, but making an effort to get out and exercise for an hour each day is one I implemented last year. I saw a huge improvement in my mental health, work productivity and general wellbeing.

The next one I want to apply is leaving my phone in another room when I go to sleep so I am not tempted to scroll late or night or look at it first thing in the morning.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I subscribe to trade outlets like PR Daily, Social Diary and Mumbrella to stay on top of industry movements, opinions, trends and activations.

More recently, I’ve been really enjoying LinkedIn as a way to discover interesting campaigns, news and highlights. I find this social channel inspiring and I love connecting with other like-minded business leaders and entrepreneurs.

To switch off, I am a huge fan of Shameless, the various Mamamia podcasts and The Howie Games. Mark’s interview style is a personal favourite.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I couldn’t live without my phone and laptop, there is rarely a time when I am not in front of them. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom for enabling me to stay connected. G-Suite, Dropbox, Time and Date and various PR reporting tools for work.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Queen Elizabeth II – an inspiring, formidable woman, living what would have to be the ultimate example of blending life with work.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

It’s important to realise that balance is going to look different for everyone depending on individual circumstances but as a general rule I would suggest recognising that working isn’t a choice for most of us these days so finding your structure that will best provide balance between achieving and providing becomes ever more important.

For me personally – I am a place where the lines of work and life have blurred because the reality is, when you run your own business and have family commitments – the buck stops with you.

I think when you take the time to map out where you want to be and what your values are, you develop a real natural hunger for success to make it work. At that point, there is no “grind” – there is only achievement.

For me, getting results for my clients, being a positive role model and providing for my kids is what drives me, brings me joy, gives me purpose and a real sense of accomplishment. If that means I need to work until midnight, or over the weekend – I just do it and don’t question it.

But I’ll always treat and reward myself once it’s done and enjoy those “life” moments that come with it. That to me is how I balance and manage things.

In saying that, not everyone is in a field or job they love: and if you find yourself in that position, you would need to compensate it in other ways by nailing the “life” part: having a good support network, taking the time to do something you’re passionate about when you aren’t at work and being fulfilled in other aspects of your life.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.