In this edition of Women Who Launch, Ina Yulo Stuve speaks with Li Boatwright, the founding director of the Luxury Travel company, Storrington PR.
“Absolutely Fabulous first aired in 1992. I was 13 and didn’t have a television in my bedroom so I had to beg my mother to let me stay up and watch it. After the first few episodes, I knew I wanted to work in PR!” exclaims Li Boatwright, Founder of UK-based luxury agency Storrington PR. Fast forward and that 13-year-old girl now has an impressive list of clients under her belt such as iconic Mayfair restaurants Wiltons and Franco’s, the Croatian Relais & Châteaux property Maslina Resort, and the five-star Cora Cora Maldives among others.
Boatwright says it was during a backpacking trip around Thailand at age 19 when her interest to work in the travel industry was ignited. Whilst staying at the Jolly Frog Inn in Kanchanaburi, she was told by the housekeeper to keep the door between the bathroom and bedroom closed at all times or else she risked rats entering her room.
“At that exact point, I knew I wanted to travel and discover the world—minus the rats! So I decided to combine my passion for a career in PR with travel and forge a path in the wonderfully diverse, exhilarating, and thrilling world of luxury travel PR,” she explains.
Boatwright busted her chops in Los Angeles and the UK at companies such as Burditch Marketing Communications, Seven Star PR, and Chelsea Football Club before deciding she wanted to launch an entirely new brand, work for herself, and provide a first-class, bespoke service to a small group of hand-selected clients. I have personally worked with her on numerous occasions and am continuously in awe of the depth of knowledge she has regarding each of her clients. You’ll often find her speaking passionately about the strong team of female rangers at one of the Desert & Delta Safari camps, the dog-friendly service guests enjoy at Old Ferry Inn in Cornwall, the superior game meat at Wiltons, the delicious olive oil at Villa Nai 3.3 in Croatia, or the sustainability-first ethos behind Blue Safari Seychelles.
Boatwright’s little black book contains a strong set of influential contacts, giving her clients visibility and access to their target audience in an authentic way. As she only works with a handful of clients at a time, I ask her what it is she looks for when adding a new brand to her portfolio. “Well, first I ask myself: Is there a story? Will this grab the attention of the media? And, just as important, does it inspire me and ignite my passion?” she explains. On this edition of Women Who Launch, I speak with Boatwright about how she’s managed to retain her clients for years on end and why she believes crisis management should always be dealt with by a specialist.
After working in other agencies, what was the gap you saw in the market that you wanted to fill with Storrington PR?
The personal approach! Names are not numbers—every client is an individual, so celebrating the individuality of each one and creating stories that are as unique as they are is what we aim do. We do not operate a “one size fits all” approach as that completely goes against the Storrington PR ethos.
Could you describe your management style and talk a bit more about how you go about ensuring each team member embodies the Storrington spirit?
Before Covid my management style was flexible, now even more so. For example, I recently noticed that at about 5:20 pm on a Wednesday, our account executive would start anxiously looking at her watch. I then found out that she has drama classes every week that start at 7 pm. So I told her she could start working from home every Wednesday so she doesn’t miss her class. At Storrington PR, it’s about supporting people, listening to them, and enabling them to grow and develop. I’m not grand or hierarchical, I don’t list my position on my business cards or email signature, I make the tea, I empty the bins, I hoover the office. It’s all about being part of a team.
You have some clients who have worked with you for many years. What do you believe is the secret to keeping clients satisfied and staying innovative?
Honesty, transparency, integrity, trust, and availability. Clients have contacted me at 10 pm, on weekends or bank holidays, and I always respond. I don’t have a separate work phone and personal phone, I have one phone and if a client is contacting me outside office hours, I know there’s a valid reason for them doing so. If they want help, advice, or copy drafting, I am always there to assist and advise them in any way I can. With regards to innovation, communication is key, as is honesty!
Is there a particular business skill you are currently trying to master?
I believe you are constantly learning on a daily basis and situations that arise force you to adapt and learn. Although if you ask my team, they will say I need to develop my social media skills! As I said, always learning…
What’s the one task you always do yourself and the task you recommend outsourcing?
At Storrington PR we are a small team and so we all help each other and truly muck in! I’m very lucky as I do have an outstanding team of people who are truly supportive and dedicated, however, I do work on all the accounts personally and am very hands-on. I realise that I’m very fortunate I haven’t had any crisis management issues for more than a decade, and while Storrington PR can firefight, I would always engage a specialist for this.
Do you have any tips for someone looking to enter the luxury hospitality industry?
Be aware that it’s not all glitz, glamour, and first-class travel! I worked from the bottom up with an internship in Los Angeles, work experience in London, before getting my first job. Be prepared to learn and listen and really show a willing attitude. Also, when applying for work experience or an entry-level position, show an understanding of the agency you are applying for and use spell check!!
Is there a “hidden gem” hotel or location that you wouldn’t mind sharing and talking about what makes it unique?
I adore Cosmoledo Atoll, part of Blue Safari Seychelles, for its remoteness and the fact that your room is facing a shipping container. I also love and respect their passion for the environment. Another is Nxanaseri River Camp on the Okovango Delta, part of Desert & Delta Safaris, which is an utterly amazing lodge. It’s so unpretentious and small and different from a traditional safari. And then there’s Villa Nai 3.3, tucked within a hillside on the island of Dugi Otok, Croatia. With just eight rooms and suites, and set among olive groves, it truly is a hidden gem!
What are your favourite cities for: shopping, history, food?
I love Los Angeles—I lived there for a year when I was 21 and had a ball! It will always be a part of me. I love shopping there, from the boutiques of Rodeo Drive to the quirky shops on Melrose and everything in between. LA, without a doubt, is my shopping city! History-wise, it has to be London—I love learning about this truly global and iconic city. There’s always a story behind everything and that’s what I love. When it comes to food, well, when I was 40 I went to New York and ate and ate and ate! There are so many great restaurants that are family-owned and operated and my favourite New York Italian has to be Piccolo Angolo—family-run and operated, it’s friendly, generous, and comforting. And the food, oh my, the food! The meatballs are to die for! Another New York favourite is Marea, where I had my 40th birthday meal, as I adore seafood, and this was a wonderful treat which will always hold special memories because it’s where I got engaged!
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