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What I Learned from the Hendo Hoverboard: Sometimes, it’s OK to say “No, Thanks”

People working in PR agencies will tell you that one of the greatest things about this line of work is that you get to learn something new pretty much every day. When Sterling took on Arx Pax as a new client in early October, I did a lot of learning. Specifically, I learned how to master the delicate balancing act of sifting through dozens of media inquiries to find the right outlets for our clients’ limited media time. Media interest in a client is always exciting and PR people are programmed to act as conduits between their clients and the media. That said, I have learned that as there is a time for media engagement, there is also a time for keeping quiet and passing on opportunities (cue The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”). Knowing when to tell the difference – aye, there’s the rub.

Managing the tsunami of media interest we generated when we launched Arx Pax’s Hendo hoverboard taught me that this decision-making process demands risk-taking, knowing my client’s big picture goals and putting their objectives first. (more…)

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What People Can Learn from Thanksgiving

thankfulforfamily

For marketing professionals, it’s easy to take the “superficial” route for every holiday-themed blog post and make a listicle of social media blunders or share heartwarming stories of brands who give back to their customers. But, as I look out the window feeling gratitude for the rain that has finally come to drought-ridden California, I choose the road less taken. The end-of-the-year holiday season is my absolute favorite time of year (yes, even more than summertime!). And it’s not the holiday sales that have me excited; I’m talking about having a bit of time to reflect, give thanks, and create better relationships and stronger communities.

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Demystifying Preproduction, Part One: Harnessing Creativity to Conjure Arresting Visual Stories

Any working professional knows that each job has its highs and its lows. Well, video productions are my highs. Every time we start a new video project, our team powers through the preproduction phase, brainstorming creative ideas and nailing down logistics, all eagerly awaiting the proverbial game day: that is, production.

But, in my opinion, what makes production days so exciting is the level of hard work and forethought put into preparing during preproduction. “Preproduction” as a term is often pushed aside and excused as being a vague way of saying that you’re planning a shoot. However, here’s the not-so-secret key to a successful, high-quality video, film, or sketch: the highest production value videos are the ones with an intense amount of time and effort spent in preproduction.

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Sarah K

It’s our 25th Birthday!

Hard to believe, but Sterling is officially 25 years old. Since 1989, we’ve transformed from a boutique three-person PR firm into a full-service integrated marketing agency with offices in both the Northwest and Silicon Valley. Once a year, we take some time to get together as a company, sharing best practices, brainstorming new ideas and taking stock of where we are on our journey. There’s no way to fit 25 years into one day, but this year we sure did our best to fit it into three!

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Sarah K

Brevity is the Key to Successful Communication

Dug from Up says "squirrel"

In this day and age, capturing and holding someone’s attention is a tough business.

We have hundreds of things demanding our attention at any given moment: emails, texts, snapchats, a coworker’s birthday, a significant other wondering what’s for dinner – you get the picture. (If you spaced out during that long list, you’re not alone. I actually checked Reddit about four times while writing it).

A funny thing happens when you exercise brevity: people don’t mind listening to you. Well thought-out, brief communication shows that you respect and value others’ time.

CEOs and journalists have particularly harried schedules, so capturing and holding their interest is no small feat. Here are six tips to help you do just that:

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Admin

From Chinese Babies to Risk Management Software – My Journey into the World of Tech PR

Editor’s note: Welcome to Jenn Kincaid, Sterling’s newest account executive. Jenn’s brings to Sterling a background in journalism, writing about child welfare institutions in China. Here, Jenn recounts her previous experience and how she found herself at Sterling. Welcome, Jenn!

If you had asked me, say, 10 years ago if I would end up in tech PR, I would have a.) asked you if you were talking about the same Jenn Kincaid, then b.) asked what the French toast is “tech PR?”

I double-majored in journalism and communication studies here in the Bay Area. My first job out of college was with an alternative weekly newspaper in Sacramento, Calif., where – among many other things – I wrote about sustainability and coordinated community arts projects. When I moved back to San Francisco, I started work at a strategic communications and environmental planning firm, where I was thrust into the world of government consulting. I left that job to be the writer and Web content editor at a nonprofit that implements nurturing-care programs in child welfare institutions in China.

But as varied as my experience and education has been, there was one common thread – I was required to learn different applications, technology, and social media tools. So, I began thinking… what would happen if I combined everything: interest in technology, the passion for writing and the communications background? Enter Sterling Communications.

At first, I had my concerns. Although I had experience with public relations, it was on the editorial side – and even though PR is kind of like what would happen if journalism and communications had a baby, I was coming from working as a writer at a nonprofit whose work was implemented in a country halfway across the world. And then there’s the small issue of not being the most technologically adept in my personal life. I think I am the only one I know who has managed to crash a hard drive on a 6-month-old Macbook (losing edits to a semester-long project and breaking my heart). Three phones have fallen into various bodies of water, from toilets to an East Bay lake. A brand-new Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot just stopped working one day. So did its replacement.

But despite – or maybe because of – technology’s aversion to me, I am fascinated by it. As my friend says, it inspires in me the “dog-like instinct to chase what flees” from me. Learning new applications and then successfully understanding and implementing them leaves me with a triumphant feeling, as if I’ve just run a mental marathon or scaled a cranial Kathmandu mountain. It’s not just the behind-the-scenes workings, the “wizard behind the curtain,” that draws me in; it’s the end-results of implementing technology. It’s the endless realm of possibilities that technology enables and the amazing accomplishments technology allows us to achieve.

So it’s been a really interesting step from writing about disadvantaged children in China to writing about BYOD mobile risk management software. There’s been quite the difference between learning CEQA/NEPA regulations and learning what exactly DevOps and agile software development is. I’ll be the first to admit – it’s been quite the learning curve. Luckily, I’ve found absolutely amazing teachers in my new colleagues and superiors, whose patience, vast wealth of knowledge, and senses of humor have been professional and personal gifts to me every day. And as the tech world is changing and advancing every single minute of every single day, here in the heart of all this growth, I am excited to be along for the ride.

Jennifer Kincaid can be reached at jkincaid@sterlingpr.com. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JennLKincaid


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Admin

Occupy: the Media

Over the past few weeks, I have been watching the Occupy Movement stories with interest, and maybe a little annoyance, after having been harassed in Reno by a mob of Occupiers this past weekend. But whatever my personal view on this, I am grateful for the First Amendment, which grants us the rights to exercise freedom of speech, and keeps the government from infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

Like many ‘non-Occupiers’ however, I found myself more willing to believe what I heard from the mainstream media in terms of the types of people who were protesting. That is, many are homeless or unemployed extremists who have assembled into nonsensical, unruly mobs with no clear point for protest. I found myself increasingly adhering to this view, especially after hearing numerous interviews with protesters who really had no clear idea of what specific results they were interested in achieving, or how to obtain them.

Of course, if you want to discredit a group, wouldn’t you always put a spotlight on the lowest common denominator?

After giving that a bit of thought, I decided to do a little research of my own, which is when I noticed the huge amount of dialogue on various social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. After reading through a number of articles and posts, I started to see a bigger picture forming within the scores of people ‘Occupying’ social media sites, where they were expressing an increasing discontent over a wide range of topics from ‘domination by the 1% of economic elite’ to ending the war in the Middle East.

Regardless of the specific topic, I am coming to realize that at the core, THE PEOPLE ARE PISSED, and while not an organized or disciplined group at this point, there is still the fact that the movement, and its various factions, are embracing an entirely new model for communications—one which allows them to control the message.

So, with all of the flaws I personally see with the Occupy movement, I am also intrigued by its use of non-traditional media to disseminate the messages and reach people directly. At the same time, I see many others like myself tiring of the same played out stories about the negative side of Occupy and other politically-charged topics. How long will it be until people completely forsake the mainstream media in lieu of getting the story directly from the grassroots?

Scott Smith can be reached at ssmith@sterlingpr.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealAskScott.

Marianne

Sterling San Francisco: Up and Running!

Last week, we reached an exciting milestone here at Sterling Communications: we opened a new San Francisco office in a fabulous location right around the corner from Union Square.  Now, in addition to our Seattle office and Los Gatos, Calif., headquarters, we have a gleaming new office space in San Francisco at 575 Sutter Street. (There’s just something about the smell of freshly painted walls that I simply adore!)

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This is not the first time we’ve had space in San Francisco; we’d had a formal office in the city (that’s San Francisco, not New York) from 1999-2009. We decided to go the “virtual office” route up there in 2009 for several reasons: 1) our lease was up and our Taiwan-based landlord was out of tune with the local market; 2) given our adoption of IP technology, laptops and virtual networks, the transition would be relatively seamless; 3) our employees up there were game to work remotely for a 1-2 year period. (Some folks find the thought of working in pajamas is simply irresistible – and there were frequent trips to our Los Gatos office when they needed a fix of “face time” or needed to hold a big group meeting!) Frankly, as an integrated communications agency that specializes in the high-tech industry, it seemed fitting that we give the virtual office a try.

Here’s what we found:

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