Laura Sutherland

Laura Sutherland

Name: Laura Sutherland
Job: Founder and Director, Aura
Industry: Public Relations and Communication
Class of: 1998
House: Bannerman

What do you do?

I founded a strategic communication and business advisory, Aura, 14 years ago. Aura has a specific focus to help businesses accelerate to a sustainable future.

I essentially work in partnership with clients and the internal teams, to help future-proof their businesses and organisations by putting people and planet at the heart of strategies and decision-making, making real-life impact.

I’ve developed an industry-first ESG framework, the Synergy Framework, which integrates stakeholder analysis, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, strategic communication and reporting, as a guide and practical way to develop a sustainability plan and engage all audiences, bringing them on the journey.

I love what I do and seeing the impact of collaborative work.

How did you get to where you are today?

Through a lot of hard work!

I left school after fourth year to study Hospitality. From a young age I wanted a career in the trade. After three years of study and being accepted onto a management training programme within a Scottish-based hospitality group, I was a restaurant manager by the time I was 19 and had a team of 30 staff. The programme taught me many valuable and transferrable skills in finance, marketing, customer services and managing people.

The group went into administration and I was approached by a regular customer to go and work for her lifestyle PR agency. I did. That was over 20 years ago! I’ve since worked in-house and for PR agencies, but grabbed an opportunity in 2008 to launch Aura, with my then business partner. I bought her out in 2012.

My practice has evolved and my continuous professional development has allowed me to work with some brilliant companies, work globally and collaborate with some brilliant people.

To run your own business you need to be strategic, thick skinned and think from a diverse perspective. It’s highly rewarding but you need to take the rough with the smooth.

What is a standout memory of your time at The High School of Glasgow?

Winning the public speaking competition in Transitus (or it might have been first year?!). I’ve won numerous awards at school and through my career, but that one was special. Why? Because nobody even considered that I could win the competition. That’s the challenge of being amongst some seriously clever people.

However, my efforts in research, planning and rehearsing, paid off and my argument was convincing enough for me to win.

What one piece of advice would you give to current pupils and recent leavers as they look to their futures?

Oh I’ve lots!

My one piece of advice is to get a mentor. You’re never too junior or senior to have a mentor and you might need more than one!

Mentoring in whatever your chosen industry/sector will generally be in the form a scheme through the trade or industry body. For me, it’s through the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which I’m a Fellow.

I believe so strongly in mentoring, that I developed a free mentoring scheme for the CIPR, for its members, to help those who just need some encouragement, shared experiences and some wise words. It’s already helped hundreds of practitioners with career challenges, promotions and more.

Your university or college lecturers will also play a key role in shaping your preparation for working.

One final piece of advice, which is too good not to share and you might remember in times of conflict – know your worth!

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