In line with International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2021, we’re hosting a morning session of webinars with female leaders in content marketing to celebrate the achievements and impact of women in our industry!
We’re kicking off the Women in Content event with a series of interviews with the speakers to find a bit more about them, and get an insight in to their careers and how they manage their work.
Sara Nourizadeh is an Exec Producer for the EMEA team at Bloomberg Media Studios. Sara works on international content partnerships running across Bloomberg’s multimedia portfolio, including Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg.com and Bloomberg Green. Prior to this, Sara developed and produced critically acclaimed documentary series including London’s Great Bridges: Lighting the Thames (CH4), A Year at English National Ballet (BBC), Diary of a Children’s Ward (ITV) and On The Frontline in Afghanistan (SKY).
Sara Nourizadeh, Executive Producer at
Bloomberg Media Studios
I spoke to Sara about her career progression. Check out what she said…
Hi Sara, great to have you join us for our Women in Content event! It would be great to hear a bit more about what you do. We know you are an executive producer at Bloomberg, can you run us through what that is and what you do?
I am an executive producer at Bloomberg Media Studios where I develop, produce and direct custom content that runs across Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg Green and Bloomberg TV. I wear many hats and I’m involved in just about every stage of production from the initial pitch and idea development through to producing and editing the content. I also put teams together for the shoots – a key skill not to be undervalued – great productions really are about having the right people involved. This is even more so during Covid where we face more challenges with production, so ensuring we have the right team make-up is so important. It involves our editors, cameramen, designers, post-production partners etc. – the whole team plays a role in creating brilliant content.
How did you get to where you are now?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to do something creative. I started recording my own radio shows when I was 6 years old. I had a red Fisher-Price cassette player that I would spend hours recording shows on. I’d tell stories, interview people (mostly my Mum and Dad) but also if we had guests at the house, I would ask them for an interview too. I always knew that I didn’t want a regular office job.
After school I went to university to study Law because that was considered a ‘good thing’ to do. But I freaked out after university and I had quite a lot of anxiety about what I was going to do with my life. Lucky though, throughout uni I managed to work in radio and I absolutely loved it! I worked on student radio first and then got a job at a local radio station in Cardiff. I got to meet new people, tell interesting stories, interview guests, and write scripts – it was all about connecting with the audience to make features that people wanted to listen to – experimenting with that content was a lot of fun.
I hit a crossroad in my life when there was a decision to be made about going into law or taking a big jump, moving to London and getting into the media. Much to my father’s dismay, I chose the latter and moved to London. I got a job as a runner and after 9 months I got promoted to researcher on a documentary for the BBC. The documentary was filming behind the scenes with the English National Ballet – it was unprecedented access to film with the ballet company at the Albert Hall. I learnt how to unearth a story, how to craft a narrative and learnt all about character development. It was an incredible experience. The documentary got nominated for a Grierson Award. After that, I started getting ahead and was offered more and more work – and my dad stopped worrying about me!
That’s such a big and bold move to go from studying law in Wales to starting at the bottom in tv in London! You obviously had a passion for it. Is that core passion, that you’ve had since you were young, what has motivated you, or do you have other motivations that have seen you get to this point in your career?
I have always been motivated by challenges that scare me. Moving to London was scary at the time – especially because I had turned my back on doing Law. But I think fear can sometimes be good for you. I often look back at my early career days and say ‘I got lucky’, but when my friends say the same thing to me, I tell them – you make your own luck. So, there were lots of factors, but I was incredibly open to opportunities and I wanted to learn. I still do – learning is a never-ending journey. When I moved here, I lapped it all up – I did an internship at Warner Brothers before I got my Runner job. Whilst I was at Warners I wrote to Executive Producers, and bosses of production companies asking for advice, asking for a job, anything that would help me get a foot in the door, even if it was to make tea and coffee. Having that drive and determination right from the beginning set me up.
What motivates me at work is changing the narrative and changing perceptions of what’s already out there. It’s a crowded space in terms of content, so making stories that connect and persuade audiences is an exciting place to be. I am also motivated by having a brilliant team around me; I love that we can thrash out ideas and I enjoy the variety of working across different projects. Plus, no two days are ever the same – in normal times I can be in the office one day, on a shoot the next, and then be sat in the edit suite the day after.
How is the content that you create with Bloomberg different to traditional journalism?
At Media Studios we create branded solutions for people to connect with content that adds value in an already crowded space. As you can imagine, there’s so much content and news out there, so we try and bring something more to the table by adding data and intelligence – this is our unique proposition at Bloomberg. It allows us to produce content that is more authentic. We also have values around diversity, inclusion and transparency which also feeds into the work we create. Bloomberg has creditability in those areas, so when you add that with our data and intelligence, it is a more valuable proposition for the audience.
What do you show with your content – who do you like to work with and where might we see your work?
Our core audience is business leaders, CEOs and C-suites, but the way that we create content is so that it appeals to all audiences – that is why the value proposition is so important – we always think, ‘how can we make this different and unique so that it’s interesting to everybody?’
We work with big brands and governments. The work we do with governments is exciting because it helps with changing perceptions of the nation’s brand. For example, we worked with Georgia (the country, not the US state!) – they came to us because they wanted to shift the perception of their country to be thought of as a great place to do business. We also worked with Greece on a glossy tourism campaign – this was after the pandemic to help with attracting tourists and to highlight the safety precautions that the country is taking.
We also work with big brands in the climate change space – the content we produce for the Bloomberg Green platform focuses on climate change solutions rather than on the negative stories that we so often see in the press.
How much of that is storytelling?
Storytelling is at the heart of our content. We try and focus on impact and relatability so that the story connects with our target audience. We also conduct a lot of research before we get into the development of a treatment – looking at what are our audiences are interested in, tracking views and metrics of what people want to see. We also look at what is effective emotionally – this is important with all our campaigns.
Georgia is a good example of this kind of storytelling, we told a classic business story, and you might think that sounds dull and dry, but we brought the content to life by showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit of Georgia through dynamic and exciting vignettes of the people. The film has lovely character profiles – it is a good example of how you can tell a story of a country through its people. We do lots of research before we begin our campaigns – doing this legwork is important because we can delve into what resonates with our audiences.
When you are looking for people to work with on a shoot, what attributes are you looking for in that team? What makes a good team?
As a company we try and look for people who have values that are in line with Bloomberg’s values. We also look for people that are likely to get on with the rest of the team – grafters who feel inspired by the work we produce. There’s nothing better than someone who is passionate about what they do. We are also incredibly motivated by the diversity of our teams – it’s something I’m conscious of and have an eye on when putting teams together.
What makes a good story?
Tell it in a way that will connect you with your target audience. Have a clear vision of what your big idea is, think about what will cut through with your audience and what will stand out in an already crowded marketplace. It’s also about the people – think about whose story it is – so who can help you articulate the story and bring it to life.
How have you been getting on working from home? Have your team adapted how they work virtually? Do you have any tips for remote production?
It was tricky at first, but now thanks to all the tech we are managing well. We have done loads of remote shoots, and they can be difficult because normally on shoots it’s my job to be the eyes and ears on the ground – it’s not the same when you can’t be there to put out the fires and just generally be the problem solver on set.
My creative team has a catch up meeting every day, and we’ve done that since the beginning of the pandemic. We talk about our priorities for the day and just generally check-in with one another. On a mental health level, it’s energising to see the team every day and have that check in. It also provides a routine – which has been the most important thing for me in the pandemic. I love a good morning routine and I’ve got mine nailed down – it makes the day run more smoothly. The first thing I do when I wake up at 7 is put my gym kit on, once I’ve got my gym kit on there’s no escaping a workout – that’s the most difficult bit for me. Once I’ve done exercise my mindset is completely different – I’m ready to focus and jump into work mode.
Can you give us any examples when you came across difficultly at work, and how you overcame it?
A lot of people have anxiety in their careers. It’s inevitable and often comes up at some point – questions like ‘am I doing the right thing?’ or ‘am I in the right place?’. When this does happen, and we all hit these points, we must keep the accelerator down, because as soon as you slack off, that’s you get into a downwards spiral and lose momentum. This is why having a network around you can be a game changer – other people will see things that you might not see.
Loyalty is also massively important, but so is a sense of knowing when to leave. I have noticed, especially with my female friends, that they feel an overwhelming sense of loyalty. But you can’t be afraid to move on – my advice is to keep your foot to the ground, stay loyal, stay focused and you will find the right way out.
If you were giving advice to someone that has just started out in journalism/content, what would you tell them?
Build a network around you – it doesn’t have to be people in your industry, but a network of people that you can trust and talk to at every step of the way. We all need outside input, especially when things get foggy. Try to look for mentors in your career – for me it has been incredibly powerful to have people that I can discuss work challenges with and get advice from. It helps give me clarity. If there’s one thing to take away, it’s how important it is to have role models and people who inspire you – I would not have gotten where I am today without the incredible women in my life!
On Monday 8th March, Sara will be joining the CMA’s Women in Content virtual webinar series as she presents ‘Finding your great ideas and fighting for them’. Join the CMA, Sara and four other fantastic female content leaders for a discussion about navigating our industry, taking on leadership and other tips for creativity and motivations.