Faith Russell is one of the founders of leading podcast production and promotion agency Mags Creative which brings a number of UK voices to the podcast space including Laura Whitmore, Deliciously Ella, Alice Liveing, Amy Lane and Clemmie Telford. In a world of mindless scrolling, Mags Creative believes that the power of the spoken word brings us all a little closer together. Their shows have been downloaded over 12.4 million times to date.
Here Faith tells us about being an introvert and being pushed out of her comfort zone, letting go of the urge to plan right now, and why listening to podcasts and talks of vulnerability has got her through this year.
Tell us about your work
“I started a podcast production and promotion agency called Mags Creative with my sister Hannah 18 months ago and we’ve grown to a creative team of producers, sound engineers, brand experts and researchers. We actually named the company Mags Creative after our unsurpassable grandma, Margaret – known to the many that loved her as Mags or Maggie. I think of her every day and I love that her name lives on in this company.”
Where do you physically work currently?
“I work at my home in Camberwell and I somehow manage to work in every room in the house during the working day. I tend to change my background for every call to keep things fresh in my own mind..!”
What is the best thing about your work?
“It’s such an incredible feeling to be creating content that has a meaningful impact in showcasing stories that wouldn’t have previously been heard or progressing important conversations. This month, for example, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Lily Cole on the release of her podcast Who Cares Wins: an ancillary audio supplement to her Penguin released book earlier in the year.
The podcast series holds a series of divergent opinions that ‘solve for climate change’ with insights from the likes of Elon Musk, Patti Smith, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir David Attenborough to name a few. It’s such a buzz to work on a podcast that is rooted in a sense of mission and purpose.”
What is the worst?
“Hopefully a lot of business owners can relate to this one, but when you really love what you do and have real ambitions for growth, I think it can be a challenge to give yourself permission to switch off without guilt. Guilt is such a useless emotion, isn’t it? I’m working on this one because I know that my most creative moments have come from the unexpected – when I’ve given myself space and freedom to think inventively rather than being bogged down in the minutiae and consistently staring at a laptop 12 hours a day.”
What has been the most pivotal point of your career so far?
“When we first launched Mags Creative, we were a marketing agency that supported brands across podcasts, events, social media and influencer campaigns. Twelve months in, we saw the growth of podcasts and made the (daunting) decision to relaunch solely as a podcast agency. We had to turn down other work along the way but we’ve stayed true to our belief in the podcasts we were producing – and thankfully we haven’t looked back.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever had?
“My mum is great at advice and my sounding board when I can’t quite get perspective on something. As we’re hitting growth goals, I naturally have an ‘onto the next’ approach but my mum always encourages me to appreciate the wins in real time. It’s so easy to be waiting for the end destination and end up missing the journey of getting there.
Another thing I learnt really early on is that mistakes are inevitable – I’ve made many mistakes in my career and no doubt I’ll continue to get things wrong in the future. I love any insight around reframing failures as opportunities for growth and try to instil this in my team.
Ultimately, my biggest challenges have taught me so much more than any successes and I’m now the first person to hold my hands up and say ‘this is really hard, isn’t it?’ It feels like this takes more courage than ‘faking it till I make it’.”
What’s your context outside of work?
“Hannah gave birth to the most beautiful little girl called Alba in the middle of lockdown and I fell in love with her instantly. When work is overwhelming, I’ll message Hannah ask her for some ‘Alba-therapy’. Babies are great at keeping us present as Alba will never let me look at my phone and get distracted with work emails!”
What was your ‘normal‘ day-to-day life like pre COVID?
“I’ve always been a morning person – it’s the only time of day I feel free to be slow — whether that’s taking my time to enjoy (rather than inhale) a cup of tea, an online yoga class or a long walk before the rest of the world has woken up. When the pandemic hit, my mornings became more sacred than ever – it’s the time I feel most centred and set up for the day ahead.”
How has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally?
“Personally, I feel that the crisis has made my relationships more meaningful and helped me find happiness in the simplest of things.
Professionally, lockdown happened at the same point as Hannah went on maternity leave, which means that there was a whole new set of business challenges during this time. Hannah would usually oversee new business pitches whilst I manage our existing clients but this year, I’ve had to step into her (very large) shoes and take on the role of being more outward facing for the brand. I have to admit that, as a natural introvert, there have been moments of imposter syndrome and doubting my pitching abilities, but ultimately it’s built my confidence and made me feel empowered to grow the business.”
What are you now finding challenging right now?
“An ongoing challenge is releasing the urge to plan. When the world has no idea of where we’ll be in 1 month, I have to sit with the discomfort of holding off on planning the next 12 months of Mags Creative, but trusting that with my team (who are awesome) we will continue to be reactive and adapt to the situation in real time.”
What has got you through?
“A predictable answer from me, but podcasts! Listening to honest conversations of vulnerability make me feel so much less alone. Some of the podcasts that saw me through lockdown include Mo Gawdat’s podcast Slo Mo for perspective on happiness, The Squiggly Careers podcast for career advice during a very uncertain time for so many people and Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place (the episodes with Glennon Doyle and Russell Brand were particularly incredible).”
Do you feel that Lockdown has changed your outlook and if so how?
“I am embracing the knowledge that there is so much that happens that is outside of our control. Sometimes we just have to sit in the not knowing. (I know, it’s uncomfortable just typing it…!) No hypotheticals or no future plans to hide behind. Also, realising that we actually pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things which can either be a scary thought or a liberating one – and I choose to take the latter approach.”
Personally how have you managed your mind and wellbeing throughout Lockdown?
“From the start of lockdown, I’ve tried to keep checking in with myself, my friends and family and my team to encourage a dialogue about how we are all coping through such an uncertain time. We have a team check-in everyday to not only touch base on what we’re working on but to share how we’re feeling and to voice if we’re struggling. There will undoubtedly be low moments but having a support system is so important and something I don’t ever want to take for granted.
I realised this when I started volunteering with Independent Age where I call the elderly once a week who don’t have any relatives to support them through this time – it can be heart-breaking but also incredibly rewarding to be doing something to help. Practically, I try to bring some consistency to my wellness routine with yoga videos or walks in nature, cooking healthy and delicious food and enjoying boxset Sundays with my boyfriend.”
What are your thoughts on travel right now?
“I had no idea how much I value travel until we were told we couldn’t go anywhere. For me, the act of physically removing myself from my day-to-day routine and setting gives me so much perspective. I usually do one big trip a year and often I go alone (solo travel is the best kind in my opinion). Last year I went to India on a solo yoga retreat, and I had plans to go to Bali this December to do the same.
This isn’t happening in the current climate, so it’s definitely encouraged me to appreciate the escapes closer to home. Instead, I’ll be going to St Mawes this December for cold, wet walks, warming soups and box set days. Dreamy.”
What are your current handbag essentials?
“I’ve never really been into lots of ‘stuff’ apart from the usual keys, wallet, phone but one thing I’ve always done since I was little was carry around a snack stash wherever I go. (It used to be Wagon Wheels and as an adult, I’ve upgraded to Deliciously Ella bars).”
What gets you through Working from Home?
“I’m a creature of habit and my lunchtime scrambled eggs made my boyfriend is always a highlight. I also love the ritual of making a matcha latte in the morning and drinking it really mindfully.”
What is your work wardrobe like now from what it used to be?
“I’ve always been into the less is more approach when it comes to my wardrobe – I’d rather buy quality pieces that I wear again and again. One benefit of lockdown was that it prompted me to reorganise my wardrobe and re-wear items that haven’t been worn for years.
When we started Mags Creative from our kitchen table, I would get fully dressed in my work outfit to help get me into the mindset of productivity. When lockdown happened, I started dressing for work as if I was leaving the house – but as it’s getting colder and darker outside, I’ve gone for comfort instead (think comfortable leggings and warming jumpers).”
What are your current 5 essential items of clothing?
Not really an item of clothing but I love an Anthropologie headband
A colourful print shirt to brighten up winter days
A cosy cashmere jumper
Sweaty Betty leggings
What is your vision for the future of your business?
“We want to keep creating content that brings important conversations to light and reaches audiences in a meaningful way. The big vision that we’d like to become the largest independent podcast company in the UK – and the exciting thing is that I truly believe that we can do that.”
If you loved this article then you will love our other How She Carries On articles. See journalist Sarah Vine’s here