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Backtalk: Q&A with Sadie Groom

Sadie Groom, managing director of agency Bubble & Squeak, talks to Dave Robinson about her work to promote females in the industry

Sadie Groom founded Bubble & Squeak, a PR, marketing and events company focusing on entertainment technology, in 1999 and is still very much the driving force. She manages a team of ten, plus many freelancers in their network called the Big Bubble, and you can spot them a mile off at a tradeshow from their pink striped shirts. A keen traveller, she is trying to go to 50 countries before she is 50, is a wife and mother, is going to Glastonbury for the first time this year and would like to spend more time on the golf course.

You just founded FBI (Females in Broadcast Industry) – what’s that and what does it aim to do?
The FBI was created a very, long time ago by a bunch of friends who all worked in Soho. Two decades later, I decided to bring the group back as there didn’t seem to be an association for females working in non-craft roles at manufacturers, service companies, broadcasters and post houses. This means women in sales, marketing, operations, engineering and management roles. We then held two packed events at IBC 2015 and from there Lesley Johnson, BBC and Nicki Fisher from Clear-Com and I decided we needed to create a proper group.
Whilst we are pretty new and currently surveying the 300 members, our current aims are to: change the perception of women in the industry (we aren’t the only people on a tradeshow stand that can scan badges), encourage more women to want to join it, provide mentoring, a forum for discussion and, of course, some networking! One of the biggest issues that seems to come up is about confidence, so our next event on How To Speak in Public will be held in May in London.

You also work with Sound Girls…
This is a great association that now has over 2,000 members worldwide and supports women working in professional audio and music production. I met with them at NAMM this year and attended their She Rocks event which was a fantastic celebration of what women can achieve in a very humble way. Karrie Keyes the founder and famous for her work with Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers says that women in her field are still a rare occurrence and its’s mission to change that. I think they will.

…But you’re still best known for your agency, Bubble & Squeak. How did that come about?
I was let go from Avid in November 1999 with the promise of the PR account if I went to another agency. I worked for several agencies, but ultimately got fed up with them all… So I phoned my parents and asked what they though about me setting up on my own. Luckily they also owned their own business and said, what have you got to lose? – I replied, a portable TV, a clapped-out Peugeot 205 and quite a few handbags… but I decided to go for it.

Age 26, I went out and got myself a tiny office and a computer and sat waiting for the phone to ring. Someone said I was like Bubbles from Absolutely Fabulous – that was not a compliment. Anyway, as I didn’t want to call the agency after my own name, somewhere in my weird imagination I thought of Bubble & Squeak, and it stuck. We’re never going to get the account for the Bank of England with such a name but it really suits the team’s personality and the way we do things.

What’s the biggest mistake your clients make?
None, they are all perfect in every single way… Seriously, though, I don’t think they make that many, if they have engaged with an agency usually they have an understanding of how we work and what we can achieve together. It is always easier if the client doesn’t see us as an add-on but as part of their team and to tell and involve us as much as they can. We do have crystal balls but they tend to have off-days.

What’s the best event you’ve ever organised?
I think that the party we did for Fugitive Studios where we built the band’s stage in the swimming pool at the Haymarket Hotel was pretty cool. People still talk about it today. We also organised the first few MPG Awards and these were brilliant because the recipients were so pleased to be rewarded and the artists so happy to present to them. As someone who loves meeting musicians, I got to meet some great people, though my favourite band Deacon Blue never made it onto the VIP list. Very disappointing!

How does Sadie Groom measure success?
Professionally it comes when a client says they won a deal or met a new business partner from any of the work we have done. Also I have always said that the minute I stop getting excited when I see my clients name in print is when I will give up. Personally, I measure it from all of the additional work that I am doing in the industry and if I can encourage 20 manufacturers to think differently about what roles women could play in their company that would be a huge success.

Do you think there’s something missing from the broadcast arena in terms of show/event/services?
Yes definitely lots more tradeshows said no one ever. We love a tradeshow in this space but I don’t think we need anymore and all sectors are covered well in all territories. Services-wise I think there is something missing where people can find a mentor or industry training – the big companies are great at things like this but the smaller and medium size companies could do with this. There are also a lot of lifestyle owner businesses and I think some business and financial training would be great – we could always hold them at a tradeshow!

What do you always carry on you?
Mobile obviously, lots of pens, lipstick, numerous things to charge my phone, notepad for my millions of lists I make and usually some Lego, all in a nice handbag, of course.

Do you still always go on holiday to Grenada?
Ha-ha, no I don’t now, we have moved on to Antigua, complete with kids club for Elliot and spa club for Mummy. In my mission to get to 50 countries before I’m 50, the Grooms might need to start going to other places pretty soon.

Before you were married, your were Sadie Paris, so you were surely the only person to be named after two DAWs (for those that remember the Ensoniq PARIS)? Plus: Avid is one of your longstanding clients. Was this pre-ordained?
I would love to say yes, especially as I grew up in a village in Oxfordshire so lots of my friends parents worked for Solid State Logic. But no I am the fourth Sadie in the village that I grew up in (we got free babysitting from the other Sadies), Paris apparently comes from Scotland and I was bought up on Dr Hook, so there are no real audio credentials in my family.