Sara Stewart Q&A

August 16, 2021
Sara Stewart brings her Portland marketing cred to Minneapolis.

“The food and beverage industry is driven by consumer needs, which means a lot of research and strategizing happens behind the scenes long before products ever make it to market. Every brand is trying to reach and influence the behavior of a target audience, which may sound dubious but it’s not. It’s fascinating to see the role that marketing plays in appealing to the right consumer segments and ultimately driving business growth.”

What first got you interested in marketing?

I was a bit directionless upon graduating college in 2011. Compared to my peers with specialized degrees or those who funneled directly into the job market by way of pre-grad internships, I struggled to stand out with a BA in Communications. Mostly out of pure desperation, given my lack of job prospects, I purchased a copy of PR for Dummies and spent the next week at a coffee shop absorbing the (largely outdated) information and scribbling notes into a spiral notebook. I eventually landed a coordinator role at a tech PR firm in Boulder and was immersed into the world of marketing and communications. Over time I came to love how dynamic and varied the work was. New opportunities were presented every day to help clients solve interesting challenges, whether it be crisis management for a recall, earning media for a new product launch, and more. A decade later, and with a bit more experience under my belt, I still feel like I’m learning something new every day, which keeps me both engaged and humbled.

You’ve worked on campaigns for some of the biggest food and beverage brands in the world. What do you like most about the category?

I love being privy to the inner workings of CPG companies on the marketing side. The food and beverage industry is driven by consumer needs, which means a lot of research and strategizing happens behind the scenes long before products ever make it to market. Every brand is trying to reach and influence the behavior of a target audience, which may sound dubious but it’s not. It’s fascinating to see the role that marketing plays in appealing to the right consumer segments and ultimately driving business growth.

You’re well-versed in many facets of integrated marketing, from earned media to social to influencer. What would you tell college seniors about what to expect from the industry?

The industry is multi-dimensional and constantly evolving as digital technology advances. It can be dizzying to keep up, but there are loads of resources available (often free) to support new grads. Firstly, I recommend signing up for industry newsletters, seeking out webinars and leveraging other learning tools to fill in knowledge gaps. Entry level folks will likely use PR software like MuckRack, Meltwater, and Cision, and those companies also crank out exceptional content focused on essential industry topics like earned media, digital advertising, influencer marketing, and more that will help you level up your skills in short order. Secondly, find a mentor and/or support system outside of your place of employment that you connect with regularly to get an outside perspective. Thirdly, if you don’t know something, you can always try Googling it. We are all just Googling things.

You lived and worked in Portland for many years. How accurate is Portlandia?

Portland as a city has evolved greatly, even in the relatively short time I’ve lived here, so I think there was a moment in time when the parody of Portlandia was a bit more relevant than it is today. But I can confirm that the “No You Go” sketch is a true and fixed representation of four-way stop etiquette in Oregon.

You went to college in Boulder. Do you miss the mountains?

Absolutely. In 2012 I decided to trade the Rockies for the West Coast, but there’s nothing quite like that fresh mountain air and high altitude. My family still resides in the house I grew up in, so I get to visit often, and it feels like nothing much has changed.

You’re new to the Twin Cities. Have you identified a favorite restaurant yet?

One of first orders of business after officially relocating to Minneapolis this fall will be to explore the restaurant scene. I have a gift card to Demi that I received from a sweet client as a parting gift that I’m excited to use. I’ve heard several Ponies sing praises for Bar La Grassa and I’m always on board for pasta. Additionally, I love coffee shops and will be on the hunt for the perfect chocolate croissant to hopefully rival my favorite cafe in Portland.