Welcome to the Take Five Interview Series! Here career women share their wisdom, tips, and resources for supporting a healthy lifestyle while balancing their work. We get the inside scoop on how they landed their coveted positions, plus their favorite things like vacation spots, beauty products, go-to dishes, and much more. Today on Take Five, we chat with independent publicist, Sabrina Dax! Sabrina develops and leads publicity campaigns for both established and upcoming artists, authors, entrepreneurs, designers, filmmakers, academics, and more.
What do your responsibilities look like as a Publicist?
I run publicity campaigns for my clients from start to finish. I develop press materials, conduct in-depth research, pitch reporters, prepare media lists, schedule interviews, plan events, and oversee the image of my clients.
Did you always know you wanted to be a Publicist? How did you end up in your role/industry?
After receiving my Master’s Degree in European Literature from Oxford University, I worked in event management for two international non-profits (first at The Center for European Studies in Berlin and then at The Hungarian American Coalition in DC). I had been considering a career in international relations, but soon realized that media (and particularly publishing) would better suit my personality.
I was living in Philadelphia at the time. My then-boyfriend and I were getting ready to attend my cousin’s wedding, and he accidentally cut his hand on the shower faucet. Bandaging him up put us a bit behind schedule, but we dashed out, determined to be as close as possible to on time. We arrived at the venue and ran through the entrance, only to see the bride and groom returning down the aisle together as husband and wife. We’d missed the ceremony.
As it happened, we weren’t the only time-challenged attendees. On our dash inside, we nearly collided with another couple who were also rushing toward their seats – a woman named Gretchen, and her husband, Jean Kim. The four of us wound up sitting next to each other at the reception and struck up a conversation.
Gretchen and I clicked right away. She was also half Hungarian and had transitioned from the field of international relations to publishing. When I mentioned I was looking for a job in publishing, she said that she had just started a book publicity firm in Manhattan and was looking for a publicist. She told me that a love of books and people were the main requirements of the job. My ears perked up and I immediately wrote to her when I got back home. A few days later I was on the train to New York for an interview and she promptly offered me the position.
What do you love most about your job?
I’m a people person, so I revel in interacting with my clients face to face, connecting them with the media, and building relationships with reporters. I enjoy the strategy and complexity involved in figuring out how to best showcase my clients. Also, the event-planning because it’s a rush to see how everything and everyone comes together in the end. I like finding and selecting media outlets that are right for my clients. I love the element of surprise in terms of what kind of coverage I get. No two campaigns are ever the same and the variety keeps me stimulated.
How did you get your first career break?
The biggest break of my career was running hip hop band De La Soul’s Kickstarter campaign. We raised over $600,000 in 33 days. I had previously worked on TLC’s Kickstarter campaign and De La Soul wanted to do something similar.
Do you have advice for anyone trying to break into your industry?
Public relations (PR) is so diverse; there’s a multitude of firms and personalities you can represent. My first piece of advice would be to select the area you’re most passionate about, whether it’s fashion or finance, or hospitality. The next step would be to immerse yourself in that field and become familiar with the relevant publications, ranging from mainstream media to independent blogs. I had no prior background in publicity, but my work running events for international non-profits involved some of the same responsibilities. I recommend highlighting the relevant skills from your prior experience when applying for a position in publicity.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
As a student both in high school and at university, I was consumed by my academic studies. If I could talk to my younger self now, my advice would be to participate in extracurricular activities. I feel I missed out on the variety of experiences offered by university life by being overly focused on papers and tests. I’d tell myself to relax more and enjoy the journey.
What do you aspire to do and how are you working towards that goal?
I love working with smart, talented people, and to that end, I’m constantly widening my net for interesting and diverse opportunities. I have great relationships with my authors, and I’ve been fortunate to have so many referrals that for years. I’ve only worked in the publishing world. Recently some of my jobs have been more eclectic, having included a criminal defense lawyer and a photographer. I like exposure to a wide range of fields because it stimulates and challenges me. As I grow my business, I’ll continue to represent authors while also adding additional types of work and clients who pique my interest.
How do you support your health in-between work?
Long walks, yoga, and dancing keep me grounded.
Favorite fitness regimens?
I play tennis and it’s been my salvation during Covid. I love that it’s both a physical and a mental workout as well as a relatively safe activity because there’s enough distance between you and your opponent on the court.
Do you have a favorite healthy snack?
Cheese paired with fruit. I like trying out different combinations: blue cheese and pear, cheddar and apple, brie, and grapes. I also love hazelnuts.
What’s your go-to easy meal?
Scrambled eggs. I’ll prepare them several different ways, sometimes with spinach, feta, or pesto, and serve them with avocado and a slice of lime. Eggs are so versatile and easy that they make for a satisfying and quick meal.
Beauty product you cannot live without?
Rose water. I’ll add a few drops to a ball of cotton and use it as a cleanser.
Are there alternative health treatments you enjoy?
Hot stone massages.
How do you take five, or a moment to yourself when things get hectic?
I’ll squeeze in a quick workout.
A book that has had the biggest impact on your life? Why?
The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. Larry, the main character, must choose between two paths – one where he becomes a stockbroker and the other where he foregoes a life of wealth and security. The story is an important reminder that the safest choice isn’t always the most rewarding.
Favorite place to vacation?
Turks and Caicos because of the pristine, turquoise beaches. I visited once and would go back in a heartbeat.
Do you have hobbies, activities, or creative outlets that help keep you balanced?
Cooking helps me unwind. I enjoy the precision of following the recipes, the spontaneity of experimentation, and the tactile nature of using my hands to create something delicious.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by authors who are capable of creating fictional characters rich and deep enough to strike a chord in others. Alcott gave us Jo March, Austen introduced us to Emma Woodhouse. TV writer Darren Star gave me a professional role model, Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones – a fierce publicist who defies convention and lives according to her own rules.