Natalie Hughes chats to SEEN Group’s Account Director Sandeep Sumal about the digital landscape, how to make time for being offline and the trick to creating a shareable wedding.
I first met Sandeep in what feels like another life, back when I was a blogger and she was the resident marketing, PR and digital guru at SASSOON. It was girl crush at first sight. Sandeep was thinking digitally before 'blogger outreach' and 'social media engagement' were liberally-used terms. She, like so many of the amazing women we interview for My Digital Life, was a natural-born multihyphenate, balancing marketing, PR and their respective digital strands with mastery and complete unflappability. Plus - little-known fact - she had also already had a book published. Now that's what I call multi-tasking.
I've been lucky enough to call Sandeep a friend for six years now, and bear witness to her well-deserved ascent. These days, she's Account Director for global creative agency group, SEEN Group, working with some of the world's most iconic beauty brands to supercharge their digital strategies. And she hasn't quit the multi-tasking; she not only organised her (spectacular) wedding last year, but also ensured it had perfect branding, on and offline. She remains as unflappable (and fresh-faced) as when I first met her. What are her secrets? Read on to find out...
NH: Let’s start from the beginning - how did you come to be doing what you’re doing now?
SS: From a young age reading Mizz and Sugar Magazine, I always knew I wanted to be in the fashion and beauty world. I went to university in London and studied Media and Communications. When I left, I knew I would unfortunately have to find internships and work for free. My first internship was at Sunday Times STYLE with the amazing Katherine Ormerod, who was so inspirational. I then landed a role at MatchesFashion.com as a copywriter, which I loved; I was able to write every day and be around my dream wardrobe. My next step took me to L’Oréal, where I had my first real insight into the world of PR. Something just clicked, and I knew this was what I wanted to do. After a couple of years at L’Oréal I moved to SASSOON, where I worked my way up to PR & Marketing Manager.
After five years at SASSOON I felt like I needed to take a risk, leaving people and the in-house world to do something that would challenge me. I started looking into agencies, and Beauty Seen stood out as an agency full of vibrant, fun girls and the best beauty client list out there. I remember I waited and waited to hear back from them and then literally screamed with joy when they said yes.
Since joining SEEN I have had the incredible privilege of working for some amazing clients, with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met – and the future still excites me!
NH: Did you always think you’d be working in digital?
SS: Right now, PR isn’t just about the traditional ways of working; there is so much change and I think understanding consumer behaviour towards the digital landscape is truly invaluable. I would say anyone in the Communications Industry needs to be digital savvy!
NH: What is your earliest social media memory?
SS: Probably ten years ago when I created my Facebook profile. An American girl I lived with at university (who is now one of my best friends) thought it was the strangest thing I didn’t have a page. How times have changed!
NH: What was your first email address?
SS: email@example.com - I thought I was being creative but it’s pretty cringe!
NH: What is your favourite social media platform?
SS: Instagram for sure!
NH: And least favourite?
SS: Snapchat - I think I am too old to be using it!
NH: You recently got married - complete with amazing, Insta-ready graphics! Talk me through the branding process!
SS: Haha! All my friends who know I work in PR said that it was basically a PR event. My husband thought I was crazy when I questioned – ‘Is it socially shareable?’ It’s what we do though and if you have a hashtag you have to be prepared everything is on brand! I was so lucky that one of my best friends, Cilena, is an amazing graphic designer and she took me through everything as she would a client (although she did say I was the hardest client she’d ever had)! The results: an Insta-obsessed bride and an even more Insta-obsessed husband!
NH: What apps are on the first page of your phone?
SS: Right now, Instagram and my banking apps - boring!
NH: What podcasts are you loving right now?
SS: Desert Island Discs, obvs. I’ve just listened to The High Low from Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton and loved it! I also have This American Life downloaded which I have heard is amazing.
NH: Have you discovered any brands on social media? If so, which?
SS: We have just started working with ICONIC London at SEEN, an amazing vegan and cruelty free brand which I first came across online. Fashion brands are endless and I love coming across them - to name a few of my favourites at the moment: @kaj.finejewellery, @jessicarussellflint, @rdervenel.
NH: Do you make time for being offline?
SS: I always say that when you work in communications it is so hard to 100% ‘switch offline’ – I do think that it is important though. I love working out in the mornings and don’t have my phone next to me. The hour before work kicks off gives me the headspace.
Follow Sandeep on Instagram.
Interview by Natalie Hughes