My Journey from Politics to PR

Editor’s note: Welcome to Dave Gifford, Sterling’s newest account associate. Dave brings a unique background in politics, and nonprofits. Here, in his own words, he recounts his previous experience and how he came to work in tech PR at Sterling.

Much like my colleague, Jennifer Kincaid, I can’t say I ever knew upfront that I would ever find my way into technology PR. In fact, in college, didn’t I always completely despise those engineer and computer science majors who were several times more competent than I was at doing anything with technology? So what happened?

By my final year of undergrad at the University of California, Irvine, I had honed a pretty sharp skill for choosing classes. My schedule was a work of art — class on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, leaving a veritable four-day weekend every weekend. It would be a miracle for my social life, I figured, but soon I realized, I had an incredible opportunity to fill this void with something truly enriching, something that I was passionate about. With the 2008 presidential election really heating up, I figured what better time to get involved with Obama for America?

I was able to work a few days a week. At that time, roles were broad and the pace was fast, and everyone had the chance to really take on as much or as little as they wanted. As school wound down and the pace of election season accelerated, the candidates started to visit the LA area – fundraisers, rallies, and everything in between. I was asked to start staffing events, then designing events, and before I knew it, I was spending the next few months leading up to November creating stagecraft and targeting it towards an audience in a different city each week across America. And I fell in love with communications.

With laptops everywhere, the connectivity needs of a mobile press corps to attend to, a BlackBerry in both hands, and the biggest social media operation we’ve ever seen in politics, suddenly technology became my friend, and the campaign’s best tool to convey its message. It was my first, and to this day, most valuable exposure to communications. For me, I realized that communications really comes down to one thing: developing the right message and delivering that message to the right people, and that’s what we were doing across the country for the most technologically savvy presidential campaign yet.

Fast forward to 2012 and with three years of doing the same work for the White House and some other non-profit clients, I’m back in San Francisco where I first grew up, and I’m eager to apply everything I’ve learned to the private sector.  My attitude towards technology has matured quite a bit since those days in school. Moving back to San Francisco, the majority of the people I know here work in technology in some capacity or another, and through my experiences and now these people, I have come around to understanding the power that technology has to change all of our lives.

I find that the most satisfying challenge is to look at a piece of complex technology and dig deep enough within that product or the company behind it to pull out a story that can touch all the varying segments of our audiences. I look forward to tackling more of these challenges, and I’m thrilled to be able to do it for such terrific clients as Sterling’s!

Dave Gifford can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @David_Gifford.