Sarah Lay is a digital strategist, experience designer and customer experience writer as well as a journalist, record label boss and speaker. She has worked across the public and private sector with councils, the NHS and high street brands as well as having run her own consultancy and PR agency. She is focused on user and data driven experience, has designed and delivered large award-winning transformation projects and been recognised as a Digital Leader.
She is also a freelance music journalist, editor, record label co-owner and author. Both sides of her career have successfully run side by side over the last two decades during which she has worked in-house and as a consultant across Digital for organisations and companies including Nottinghamshire County Council, Derbyshire County Council, the NHS, Northcliffe Newspapers and Boots UK as well as running her own independent and ethical record label Reckless Yes. In music journalism she founded an independent culture publication for Derbyshire, launched a long-form music journalism site, and spent five years as editor of Louder Than War.
Sarah Lay – Digital Strategist and Journalist
Find out more about Sarah’s experience across digital, journalism, communications and PR, and music as well as her awards below.
User experience, content strategy and making good stuff
With hands on user experience design skills Sarah has worked as a user experience design manager and strategist in the private sector for high street brand Boots as well as leading on human-centred digital projects in the public sector. Passionate about designing great experiences for people online and off, not just in how that journey looks but in getting how things work right Sarah draws on nearly two decades experience of working in digital fields under-pinned by a solid academic foundation.
Local Government and LocalGov Digital
During a 12 year career within local government Sarah found success as a digital leader for the sector, and within the organisations for which she worked.
Her most recent in-house role in the sector was with Nottinghamshire County Council where work involved both strategy and practical delivery of digital services across a website, intranet and a number of other sites and digital channels. In a project which was groundbreaking in its scale and scope she developed the vision and led the team to deliver a new website and set of tools for digital service delivery, an improved social media strategy, a new extranet for doing business with schools, consolidated a range of micro sites and began work toward a new intranet. You can read about Digital First on this blog.
Sarah is also a founding member of the digital practitioner network, LocalGov Digital, and her role there at times involved managing the daily curation of news for the sector, communications for the group and organising LocalGovCamp and Fringe as well as shaping the vision and the spear-heading the formation and initial growth of the group.
Practical and strategic digital skills
Sarah has extensive experience of content and author management and strategy, training, accessibility, usability, search optimisation, data analysis and formation of insight, social media, innovation and digital engagement, user research, experience design, UX design, user testing, customer experience, communications, community building and management, and engagement. Her recent focus has been on systems leadership, service design, user experience strategy, design and delivery.
Awards and qualifications:
- BA (Hons) Journalism
- MA Online Communications – dissertation looking at content strategy and digital communications in local government
- Lifetime Achievement Award Comms2Point0 UnAwards – Winner – (2015)
- Shortlisted Best Digital Professional at Comms2Point0 UnAwards (2015)
- Shortlisted Digital By Default News Digital Leaders 100 Awards (2014)
- Best Public Sector at UXUK Awards 2015 – Winner – team award for Nottinghamshire County Council Digital First
- Digital Team – Winner – Digital Experience UK Awards 2015 – team award for Nottinghamshire County Council Digital Team
- Shortlisted NextGen Intelligent Communities Award 2015 (Nottinghamshire County Council Digital First)
- Umbraco Certified Practitioner (Level One)
- GovDelivery Maximiser Award 2014 – winner – team award for growth and retention of email subscribers
- Best Collaborative Partnership – Winner – Comms2Point0 UnAwards 2014 – on behalf of LocalGov Digital
- Digital Excellence – Winner – CIPR LPS 2009 – team award for work on Derbyshire’s Local Elections 2009
- Best Use of Social Media – shortlisted – CIPR Awards (Midlands Region) 2009 – team award for work on Derbyshire’s Local Elections 2009.
Reckless Yes: an ethical and independent record label
With co-founder Pete Darrington Sarah launched independent record label, Reckless Yes in 2016. Currently home to Mark Morriss (The Bluetones), Chorusgirl, Fightmilk, LIINES, Bugeye, and Grawl!x (among others) the label is supported by a membership and works ethically and collaboratively with artists.
Sarah is owner-manager of the label and acts as Head of Creative, designing and delivering everything from product, to artist online identity, and all PR and digital marketing activity for the roster.
Between 2012 and 2017 Sarah was editor for Louder Than War – one of the fastest growing (and award-winning) music and counter-culture websites in the UK. Working directly with Louder Than War Editor in Chief John Robb she managed the day-to-day running of the site as well as commissioning features, interviews in-depth editorial, and reviews.
When not helping to manage a virtual team of around 125 contributors around the world, editing content for the site or commissioning Sarah also wrote there too and looked after liaising with hosts and technical support. Louder Than War is now a magazine and Sarah has been Associate Editor since launch in 2015 and a regular feature writer for the print edition covering bands including Pixies, Ride, Dream Wife, The Spook School, The War On Drugs, Shed Seven, Mull Historical Society, and British Sea Power. The magazine is bi-monthly and produced in association with Big Cheese Publishing. You can find it in WHSmiths or you can order / subscribe online.
Since stepping down as LTW editor Sarah has founded a culture publication for Derbyshire, and more recently an online publication focused on long-form in-depth pieces about creativity (Popoptica).
Sarah also writes for Loud and Quiet, Drowned in Sound, and Get In Her Ears. She has previously contributed to Echoes and Dust, Circuit Sweet, Sounds Magazine, Gigslutz, and God Is In The TV as well as hosting in-conversations on stage with artists in record stores and at festivals including Kendal Calling and Indietracks.
We Are Noble and Wild
We Are Noble and Wild is the name Sarah uses for her creative agency supporting independent musicians to find success and earn a living on their terms. Acting as a guide to the music industry Sarah offer services to support artists in creating music and live shows, connecting with their audiences online and off, gaining coverage from the media, and collecting their rights and royalties.
She has worked with Chris Helme (The Seahorses, The Yards); Team Love (Bentcousin album release in the UK); Ghost//Signals, Useless Cities, Great Raven; Nine Tons, and The Hudson Super 6 on PR and plugging. Her focus at the agency is supporting women and non-binary artists to succeed on their terms.
Sarah also writes and is currently working on a contemporary fantasy trilogy. The first in the series, The Winter Passing, was released in eBook format and as a limited edition paperback in June 2018. The novel – the first in the House of Morrigan series – has gained 5 Star reviews from readers and rose to number 3 in the Amazon Contemporary Fantasy chart. You can find the eBook on Amazon here, paperback here, and find the House of Morrigan website here for news about this novel and the next ones in the series.
Sarah lives in Derbyshire with her husband and their two sons.
She likes black coffee, the west coast of Scotland, being busy, Take That, the works of Joss Whedon, Tim Peaks Diner, Manchester, people who were big in the ’90s, crows, tattoo roulette, gin, music and words.
She is in love with possibilities.