Industry Profile: Principals director Sandy Belford

By AdNews | 25 September 2018

Our Industry Profile takes a weekly look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

This week we head to Sydney to speak to Sandy Belford, director at branding design agency Principals.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

I have just completed 15 years with Principals.

In one sentence, how would you describe what the company does?

We help our clients achieve brand leadership, via brand strategy, brand identity and brand experience

In one sentence, what does your role involve?

I work on new business planning and pitches and then work to create a compelling strategic platform for a client’s brand communications.

Within the last six months/year, what stands out as the company’s major milestones?

The most important thing is that we are now well on the way to building our next generation of management so that I, and others in the business, can heave off responsibility right, left and centre and think more about the future of the agency.

Best thing about the industry you work in:

We are constantly exploring and finding out what matters to people, as clients, as employees and as audiences. And then there is the variety: being a project based company, I could be working on a bank one day, a charity the next and a branch of government the day after that. And even when you think the project is not going to be stimulating, you always find something.

Previous industry related (ad land/ad tech) companies you have worked at:

I have been in this job/company so long but pre 2002: UK branding agency The Partners and before that lots of freelancing in London and two interesting jobs on the client side.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in three years’ time?

I see myself doing a great deal less than I do now. Still advising. Mentoring, if anyone will listen. And thinking about many things other than branding.

What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about: but they should be.

There’s the impact of digital. There’s brand experience and how that connects to what we do. The role of innovation. Consulting firms muscling in on some of the above. We have to be very clear and focused and work out what we have to say about any and all of these things.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you.

I hold my school records for the 100 and 220 yards sprints but that’s only because the year after I claimed the records, they changed them to metres.

Top networking tip:

Whatever you are really looking for from a connection (work, a job, etcetera) don’t ask for it.

Ask, first of all, for advice. It’s my experience that people like being consulted. They like being and feeling helpful more than they like being asked to give out business or even give you a job. In the process of asking for advice (if you do it smartly) you invariably gain invaluable information (and leads and new contacts) that you would not get by simply asking directly.

My favourite restaurant for a business lunch is:

Fratelli Fresh in Walsh Bay. It is close. You can perch at the bar, they serve Vermentino (my favourite new tipple), they have a good menu though it is not as interesting as it was before Urban Purveyor Group bought them and when truffles are in season, they sell a knockout tagliatelle with parmesan and… truffles.

My favourite advert is:

I don’t think I have one. Really, I don’t.

My must-have gadget is:

It has to be my iPhone. Predictable but true. I would quite like to be liberated from it one day.

My favourite media is:

Judging by how much time I spend on it, I will have to say social media and surprise myself in saying so.

My favourite TV show is:

Currently, it’s Nurse Jackie, a New York hospital drama with Edie Falco. I like hospital dramas and I like the black humour and the alarming probability of its being realistic. And the bite size 30 minute episodes. And … I just like it all. I laugh and gasp in equal measure.

The last book I read:

I am currently reading John Simpson’s We came to speak of war and strife which is essentially a history of the role of the foreign correspondent. Crazy people. Brilliant stories.

My mantra/philosophy is:

I don’t have a mantra either.

I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc because:

I saw an advert for a communications manager, aged 27. I didn’t know what it was but it kind of described me. Turned out the company was a client of branding legend Wolff Olins. Then they were known as ‘corporate identity consultants’ but basically, they invented branding. And I was hooked.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

Swanning around the world going to concerts and galleries and trying to catch up on all the stuff I feel I should have learned decades ago.

In five years' time I'll be:

I will be doing as much of the above as I can afford.

Define your job in one word:

Pleasantly nerve-wracking.

What's your poison?

Wine basically in all its forms, apart from Sauvignon Blanc. And a very limited range of savoury cocktails. Bloody Mary and Margarita to the fore. Recently, in Canberra, I had a margarita with jalapeno juice, which was a revelation.

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