The days get shorter. The nights get chillier. Pumpkins appear on porches. All across America, spider webs are strung and ghoulish figures flutter in the breeze. It can mean only one thing.
Halloween is upon us.
’Tis the season to revel in all that is spooky and dreadful — culminating in one great national night of fright. Estimates suggest 172 million people will collectively celebrate the holiday on October 31st with candy, creepy costumes, haunted houses, and jump scares. Halloween is an American institution.
And it’s not just for kids. Halloween has become an increasingly popular holiday among adults. As sociologist Linus Owens has noted, “Halloween, with its emphasis on identity, horror, and transgression, can tell us about who we want to be and what we fear becoming.”
Festival of Fear While the scary spirit of Halloween is generally good fun, the observance is based on something most people are pretty uncomfortable confronting.
Psychology Today explains that “fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger” with strong roots in human evolution. Our innate fight-or-flight responses aided us in mastering dangerous environments, avoiding harm, and ensuring the survival of our species.
A healthy amount of fear still helps us stay safe and motivates us to manage life’s difficulties.
But there are many manifestations of fear — and not all of them are beneficial.
Since 2013, Chapman University in Southern California has annually conducted a nationalSurvey of American Fears, reporting last year that the extent to which Americans are afraid, in general, “appears to be on the rise.”
Clinical fear disorders can cause serious health damage in numerous ways, but even less-lethal fears can take a pernicious toll on personal development and quality of life.
Fear Factors According to sociologist Margee Kerr, “The biggest source of fear is often related to the workplace.” This type of fear can manifest in excessive focus on avoiding failure or making mistakes; aversion to public speaking, networking, or contributing during meetings; reluctance to ask for help; or even relinquishing vacation or sick time.
What we fear is being vulnerable to judgment, ridicule, rejection. The result is unnecessarily self-limiting behavior that can prevent you from acquiring new skills, experiencing greater fulfillment, and reaching your full potential.
Ferris advocates for Fear Setting exercises aimed at recalibrating your perception.
The exercise is pretty simple: For whatever it is that you’re putting off or are afraid of doing, he proposes creating a “What if I….” list. Define what you fear will happen, determine how you might prevent the likelihood of each negative outcome, and imagine how you could repair damage if it did occur.
Next, make a list of the benefits of even partial success at doing what you fear. For example, could it build your confidence or help you develop a new skill?
Finally, sketch out an answer to the question: “If I avoid this action or decision, what might my life look like in 6 months, 12 months, or 3 years?”
Fear Setting is designed to strip inhibiting fears of their power. And perhaps most importantly, it encourages shifting focus to the cost of inaction.
As Ferris says, “Humans are very good at considering what might go wrong if we try something new…what we don’t often consider is the atrocious cost of the status quo — of not changing anything.”
With Halloween approaching, it’s the perfect time to question what scares you and whether it is holding you back. It just may give you the courage to speak up about your ideas, ask for that promotion, or finally try something you’ve always wanted to do.
Angst is only natural in a world where people hate you if you choose the wrong email sign-off — a subject so knotty it inspired a D&D-style moral alignment grid meme:
All joking aside, we really are inundated with dictums on email decorum these days. Raise your hand if any of these look familiar:
Don’t use emojis. Don’t use “Reply All.” Do respond to every message you receive. Don’t use acronyms. Don’t use humor….
As a result, a lot of unproductive anxiety now accompanies every effort to send anyone a message. But are our inboxes really such hotbeds of perceived professional turpitude and ruinous faux pas?
Prepare to clutch your pearls, but I think most email etiquette directives can safely be ignored.
That’s right. You can nix all those email etiquette rules — except the golden one.
Good Email Etiquette Explained
It is doubtful that any of your email messages will be forever etched in history.Despite the melodramatic headlines, it’s probably a waste of time to labor on creative salutations, tangential explanations, or dazzling sign-offs.
In both personal and professional settings, proper email etiquette requires only that you extend courtesy to your intended recipient(s). In this way, good email form is no different than polite conversation.
Email Etiquette Exemplified
The right “atmosphere” always smooths the way for conversation. You can supply digital context with a concise email subject line. For example:
Then simply introduce yourself if you aren’t already acquainted:
“Hello David, As the content director for your company’s PR firm, I’m writing to request a meeting next Thursday to discuss cloud security strategy and collect your engineering insight on the upcoming release….”
Or extend a friendly greeting if you are:
“Hi David, Thanks for filling me in on your company’s cloud security strategy at the launch preview last week. I’d like to book a meeting with you on October 11 to….”
For your correspondent’s convenience, be brief and to the point.
Email really is akin to polite conversation, but that conversation is often taking place at a very loud and crowded gathering. Be mindful that we’re all living in an attention economy, with untold distractions constantly competing for notice and overwhelming the senses. Quick and clear is best for all digital communication.
It isn’t polite to make your reader guess at what you want or wade through extraneous details to glean your meaning. Ensure any request is unambiguous and located at the top of the email body copy so the reader can spot it immediately.
If you are responding to a question or supplying supporting detail, use bullet points, numbered lists, and visually accessible formatting to make information easily digestible.
And if you are referencing information contained in a series of email exchanges, resist the urge to type anything like “See thread below.” Respect your reader’s time by pasting, quoting, and/or highlighting any relevant text at the top of the message thread. You should do the work so they don’t have to. For example:
What Matters Most
I was just about to advocate for double-checking your spelling and attachments when I noticed my etiquette examples are starting to resemble a list of rules — Quelle horreur!
But I do hope you spot a discernable pattern and a simple guiding principle that works for all forms of communications, email and otherwise:
That’s what matters most when it comes to good manners.
Silicon Valley tech PR agency takes first place for executive visibility campaign
LOS GATOS, Calif. — Sterling Communications, Silicon Valley’s most creative PR agency, was awarded first place in the 2019 PR Daily Media Relations Awards. The Sterling Communications PR team was honored for its executive visibility campaign for client Airfox, a startup providing inclusive financial services to emerging markets.
The prestigious annual awards from PR Daily celebrate the most successful campaigns, initiatives, and teams in the communications, public relations, and marketing industries. Ragan Communications’ PR Daily is recognized as the leading voice in the industry, and its awards recognize those who create and cultivate best practices.
As a winner in the program, Sterling Communications joins an elite group of past winners including World Wildlife Fund, Whirlpool, IBM, Cigna, American Academy of Pediatrics, Best Friends Animal Society, and Oceana.
Sterling Communications was chosen from a wide pool of entries to receive first place in executive visibility for ingenuity and impact on behalf of its client Airfox. “Sterling Communications set themselves apart from an outstanding field of applicants. Their work was exceptional and displayed their innovative strategies for achieving success,” said Brendan Gannon, marketing manager for awards programs at Ragan Communications. “Congratulations, Sterling Communications. We look forward to your continued success. ”
The Sterling program was recognized for its comprehensive PR strategy involving media outreach, speaking opportunities, and awards — as well as contributed content. Securing coverage in top-tier outlets such as Fortune, Forbes, and Bloomberg was a top priority and led to a +300% year-on-year increase in media coverage for the Boston-based startup. It also landed Airfox honors such as MIT Innovators Under 35 and TechCrunch Disrupt Top Picks 2018.
“People need to hear stories of immigrant success and diversity — especially in the tech sector,” said Ashley Nakano, account director at Sterling Communications. “We translated the passion of Airfox CEO Victor Santos into position pitches and original content examining how institutional exclusion hampers innovation, the complexity of evolving blockchain regulatory environments, the need for technological solutions to intransigent inequalities, and the hardships faced by unbanked and undocumented entrepreneurs.”
Sterling Communications is Silicon Valley’s most creative tech PR agency. Sterling works exclusively with technology-oriented clients — helping them stand up, stand out, and stand for something in HealthTech, FinTech, enterprise infrastructure, IoT, cybersecurity, innovation acceleration, and more. Founded in 1989, the woman-owned business is headquartered in Silicon Valley. For more information, visit http://www.sterlingpr.com.
About Ragan Communications
Ragan Communications operates two of the top news and information sites for the PR and corporate communications industries: PRDaily.com and Ragan.com. Together, these daily news sites attract more than 700,000 global visitors monthly. Ragan and PR Daily run 11 awards programs each year, including the Digital Marketing & Social Media Awards, PR Daily Awards, Employee Communications Awards, and Video & Visual Awards. Judged by globally regarded experts and featuring multiple categories, these programs honor the top work in communications, PR, marketing, and media.
In the frequently misunderstood world of Silicon Valley tech PR, startup marketing programs often begin and end with getting a nod from TechCrunch. While worthy of notice, don’t be fooled into thinking that one shiny headline is enough to land your next customer or your next round of funding.
Truly making a mark for your company — and gaining traction — takes much more than just one earned media placement.
Widely respected TechCrunch journalists recently held a startup conference in the heart of Silicon Valley. Dirsruptors driving the future of smart cities and autonomous vehicles gathered to explore the technology of today and tomorrow.
The TechCrunch panels also featured high-profile venture capitalists, including early Lime investor Sarah Smith from Bain Capital. (She left Facebook to become Bain’s FIRST female partner in 2018 — Sarah knew scooters would be cool way before they were unleashed on our streets!) VCs from Techstars and a Maniv Mobility also shared solid advice, with the goal of helping startups forge a successful path in today’s brutally competitive tech ecosystem.
Here’s some secret sauce for startups straight from Silicon Valley investors:
Start with solving a real problem. Want to ensure fast growth and rapid scale as a startup? Investors are looking for startups that solve real, massively experienced problems in new and unique ways. Founders should critically analyze socioeconomics and be able to communicate how their innovative solutions will transform markets and/or life.
Distinguish where the money is, then get as close as you can in the supply chain. Promising high-profile companies have failed because they were unable to navigate the complexities of supply-chain management. Logistics are often overlooked by budding startups, so address supply management early on — duties and tariffs, regulatory requirements, and delivery details can be costly.
Consider partnerships that deliver operational and strategic advantages. From Boston FinTech disruptor Airfox partnering with a retail giant to bring financial services to the unbanked to local health tech startup Kenzen working with Gore to develop a precision health monitoring system, partnerships can provide incredible advantages — such as capital, traffic, marketing support, and mentoring — that help propel startups into the next stages of growth.
Spend time with teens. According to Bain Capital Partner Sarah Smith, investors pay close attention to emerging trends and adoption activity among teenagers. Ideas are the currency of the future, and young digital natives accustomed to Instagram and Lyft bring different expectations and perspectives on how to connect with the world. Today’s teens will inspire and drive the next decade in Silicon Valley solutions.
From seeking seed funding to gearing up for public launches: Startups are well-advised to continuously build relationships and reputation. Clearly communicating your vision and values helps establish credibility. Before building buzz, make sure your startup has a concrete mission and messaging that you can articulate.
Do you need help fine tuning your VC pitch or prepping for a launch? Reach out to our Silicon Valley tech PR experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The textbook definition of networking is simply interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. It’s a valuable exercise that can produce opportunities for productive collaboration and spark interesting new relationships. That’s the upside.
The downside is that networking can also produce a lot of anxiety. After all, the prospect of interacting with relative strangers and feeling pressed to make a good impression can be daunting.
But whether scouting for new business or simply widening your professional circle, networking is worth the effort. A recent Forbes article cites some motivational statistics: networking is vital to the success of 78% of startups, and 85% of professionals say they develop a more meaning relationship after meeting someone in-person.
So get out there and mingle! For encouragement, here’s a checklist of tried-and-true tips to help you become a more successful (and less stressed) networker.
✔ Arrive early. Being among the first at a gathering allows you to start up conversations before the crush of a crowd.
✔ Accentuate the positive. Remember to smile before entering a room — it makes you appear approachable and feel more confident.
✔ Open your ears. Listen as much as (if not more than) you talk. Ask people why they’re attending the event and how you might be helpful. If you take a genuine interest in people, they tend to reciprocate.
✔ Be a willing student. Focus on learning from those you meet. Aim to discover something new instead of merely collecting or distributing business cards.
✔ Dress for success. Wear something interesting (an antique pin, a thematic tie, colorful suspenders or shoes, etc.). You don’t need to don a costume, but an intriguing accessory can serve as both a memorable identifier and a casual conversation starter.
✔ Observe. Watch and learn from expert networkers at events. You can always spot them and you may pick up some great techniques.
✔ Follow-up. If you exchange business cards or have a memorable chat, reach out to your new contact afterward. Customize an invitation to connect on LinkedIn within a week, and reference something about your conversation at the event.
✔ Think long-term. Focus on gathering information and building relationships instead of launching immediate transactions — networking shouldn’t feel like conducting (or receiving) a sales pitch.
If the idea of networking still feels foreboding, consider volunteering. Serving a purpose while being at an event makes interactions more comfortable and extends an open invitation for attendees to approach you.
Like many organizations, Sterling holds internal events focused on mission alignment and professional development. We try to set aside at least one full workday twice a year devoted to celebrating milestones and exploring company goals, communications industry best practices, and new ways to implement creative services for our clients.
An unseasonably blustery day in May marked the occasion for one such gathering — our 2019 Spring Agency Summit.
Fueled on a certain account director’s famous focaccia and local grub from EAT Club, our busy day included a briefing on the tech news business with venerable VentureBeat journalist Dean Takahashi, a photography and digital media workshop, mindfulness exercises, a writing and search engine optimization (SEO) challenge, and a local community service presentation from Friends for Youth.
And amidst all that action, we revealed our true colors to one another.
Who do you work with?
True Colors is a refined Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) designed to assess individual temperament. In very broad strokes, Green personality types are independent thinkers drawn to analysis, Gold personalities are pragmatic planners who relish structure, Orange personality types are adventurous and action oriented, and Blue personalities are intuitive and relationship driven.
Obviously, every individual’s personality type is a blend of all four colors, but the profiles are designed to help people identify natural preferences and explore how those tendencies impact team dynamics.
Due to our aggressive schedule, organizational consultant Jocelyn Kung of The Kung Group was enlisted to guide a True Colors workshop for the Sterling team. Having completed necessary surveys prior to the Summit, we spent the morning under her expert direction reviewing our resultant color profile scores with each other.
Individual “primary” color identification generally came as no surprise to anyone — and revealing scores generated plenty of laughter and playful ribbing. Gold’s were roasted for rigidity, Blues for hypersensitivity, Greens for detachment, and Oranges for shiny object syndrome.
More importantly, we spent a good deal of time discussing why common behaviors tend to incite divergent responses from different color profile personalities. Something that consistently infuriates a Gold goes completely unnoticed by an Orange, for example. They may be living in the same reality, but their experience of it will be vastly different — and that impacts team function.
Reflected in our color scores are the things we tend to value, our organizational styles, notions of respect, methods of interpreting criticism, modes of communicating, perspectives on collaborative dynamics, and so much more.
Awareness of such differences mitigates friction and encourages gratitude. One telling exercise drawn from this knowledge involves envisioning a world devoid of personality traits expressed in the four colors.
Jocelyn was careful to warn us not to stereotype based on True Colors, but even superficial understanding about how work and worldview are shaded by temperament is instructive.
Examining both your strengths and weaknesses through the prism of someone else’s eyes can be uncomfortable. But ultimately, it’s an enriching experience. When that perspective is supplied by people you work with every day, it creates pathways for more productive teamwork.
And undertaking the effort to better know who you work with and how you can best accomplish your goals together is always time well spent.
That’s the perfunctory advice we always give to friends preparing for an interview or giving a big presentation.
But when you’re charged with speaking to journalists, investors, conferencegoers, and/or analysts on behalf of your company, “being yourself” isn’t so simple.
As a spokesperson, you must anticipate the needs of an audience and embody the spirit of your organization at the same time — and serve them both.
Being a spokesperson
When you act as a spokesperson, you become your company personified. It doesn’t matter if you’re being interviewed on national television, conducting a local press conference, or posting to Twitter, the spokesperson is the public reflection of the entire staff and everything a company aims to accomplish.
But no pressure. Just be yourself, right?
Managing such an enormous responsibility and performing its duties successfully is the purpose of media training, wherein spokespeople undergo a kind of exposure therapy to master various aspects of professional representation.
At Sterling, we provide extensive and personalized media training “therapy” as part of our public relations services. But there are general tactical tips on how to speak professionally that you can practice on your own:
The medium is you. Your delivery can either enhance or hamper the effectiveness of your messages. Make sure that the attitude you present (cheerful, serious, etc.) suits the personality of your organization.
Pump up the volume. In spokesperson mode, most speakers talk about 10–15% louder than normal — and the practice is actually helpful for those listening. You can use diaphragmatic breathing to make your voice fuller and more resonant.
Limit verbal fillers. Try recording yourself conducting a normal phone call or conversation with a friend. Review to check whether you deploy excessive verbal fillers (e.g., well, umm, uhhh, like, y’know).
Modulate your tone. If your speech is monotone or clipped, your audience is less likely to listen — play with your pitch.
Cadence can be powerful. On average, people speak 150 words per minute. Purposely vary your pace, it helps spark interest and encourages engagement.
Every so often, use silence to punctuate a big point. Practice speaking in front of a mirror and pausing strategically to make yourself more comfortable with using silence for emphasis.
The aim of all this practice is simply to communicate more comfortably and effectively. No one wants to listen to what an automaton has to say, so natural enthusiasm, hand gestures, and sincerity are all great and it really is fine to be yourself.
What you say and how you say it already serves as a reflection of any group with which you are associated. This is a natural part of “being yourself” in life, so polishing your communication techniques as a spokesperson for your company is just a healthy exercise in self-improvement.
At Sterling, where we revel in an uncommon devotion to tackling tough challenges and breaking down barriers, a flourishing company culture is vital to our work. In the search for a Chief People Officer, we needed a leader who not only understood our purpose, but could elevate our true passion for communication, storytelling, and translating ideas into world-changing brands.
We are thrilled to announce that we have expanded our incredible team to include not one, not two, but THREE new Chief People Officers. Buster, Kaya, and Pachi bring a combined 18 years of experience in nurturing, enabling, and empowering individuals to achieve their highest potential. Most importantly, each new hire aligns closely with the core values that are the heartbeat of our company’s identity: teamwork, helpfulness, curiosity, accountability, flexibility, passion, and fun.
With these exciting additions, our executive team is nearly 50% canine! The results have been unfathomable — our company culture is thriving and our team is more engaged than ever before. Without ever uttering a word, Buster, Kaya, and Pachi consistently deliver three simple, yet indispensable lessons:
1. Your energy is contagious
You may understand we are all social creatures, but are you putting it into action? As Buster, half Chihuahua, half Pekingese, sprints from desk to desk, our stern, focused faces melt away. He translates his positive energy into festive fun. Ask yourself: What influence are you having on those around you? Whether you work at a boutique PR agency or a huge corporation, every single team member makes an impact on the collective workplace culture.
Simply put — your presence influences the people around you, of that you have no choice. But each day we decide how we are showing up. And how you contribute to your community is just as important as what you contribute. What Buster does effortlessly, we humans must do intentionally.
Own your presence and shape your impact.
2. Remember to paws pause
How can you fuel creative energy in others if your own well is running dry? It’s easy to recognize the value of taking a break, but it only becomes a precious life skill when you put it into practice regularly. German Shepard Kaya practices the art of rejuvenation with expertise. She leads by example — her leisurely socializing, afternoon naps, and delight in frolicking among the wildflowers remind the rest of us to revitalize ourselves with strolls outside, mid-day stretches, and lunchtime potlucks.
Much of your intellectual capacity remains untapped if you are always working on auto-pilot. A five-minute break in your routine can refocus a chaotic day, enhance an idea, and improve your state of mind. Make time to rejuvenate and the work will get done with less resistance.
Replenish yourself and thrive.
3: Communicate with radical transparency
Pachi, like most pugs, excels at making himself heard. He sets an unparalleled standard for honest communication in the office, revealing his mood and feelings openly and clearly.
It’s a bit more difficult for humans to practice the art of communication with such purity.
Pachi reminds us that verbal clarity, skilled listening, and acute awareness of nonverbal messages are essential in connecting with others.
As demonstrated in the nuances of his canine vocabulary — whines, growls, barks, and yips — we can improve our communication with others by listening to their tone of voice, tuning into their body language, and offering our undivided attention to their transmission of words and emotions.
Communication is an art worthy of mastery.
Three superlative lessons for humans imparted by three canine authorities, who could ask for better work advice! If you know of any canines interested in board positions, please send them our way. Oh, and Happy April Fools’ Day from all of us at Sterling Communications!
On-camera interviews can be nerve-racking for even the most seasoned spokesperson. In addition to speaking clearly and staying on message, interviewees must also be mindful of nonverbal communication, appearance, and posture.
A long time ago, in a country far, far away, I worked as a TV presenter. I made a lot of mistakes. Here are a few tips I have picked up since then for polished presentation on-screen. Follow this advice to appear confident, relaxed, and comfortable in front of the camera.
A Sterling client is interviewed on camera for a local affiliate.
1. Practice — Practice in your bathroom mirror with a stopwatch. This sort of preparation will enable you to exude confidence and eloquence during the actual interview and prevents the dreaded “ums.” Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance in the movie Michael Clayton demonstrates what this looks like in action.
2. Dress for Success — Wear solid colors, with an emphasis on blue (avoid green unless you want to become meme fodder). And although nautical stripes may be on trend, they don’t always play well on TV. Patterns and high-contrast combinations produce strange visual effects for viewers.
3. Hydrate — Drinking water increases brain activity and enhances mood. Drink plenty of water throughout the day leading up to your interview so you’re not parched on camera. During the interview, have water at the ready to combat dry mouth, but don’t reach for it while talking…it looks weird. Sip only when the focus is on the interviewer (or avoid drinking altogether while cameras are rolling so that it doesn’t distract from your words).
4. Groom — Being on camera can be uncomfortable both figuratively and literally (studio lights are very hot). To ward off flop sweat, wear comfortable clothing and remember to breathe. Minimize unwanted shine and blemishes with a little translucent powder on the forehead and nose. While major studios will supply makeup stock, most executives with high media visibility carry their own. It also helps you avoid looking like Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential debate. But go easy on the lips: Learn from Congressman Joe Kennedy’s appearance for a State of the Union rebuttal and avoid shiny lip moisturizer.
5. Get a Healthy Glow — If possible, taking a brisk walk shortly before going on camera will bring a healthy flush of blood flow to your face.
6. Remove Distractions — Be completely “present” by banishing anything that might divert your attention. Set your phone to airplane mode, remove coins from your pockets, and ditch the pen and paper.
7. Check Your Posture — When sitting during an interview, lean forward around 20 degrees when you talk to open up your diaphragm, increase your air supply, and signal interest in the discussion. If you’re wearing a jacket, take a tip from Broadcast News and sit on it so that the shoulders don’t hunch up. Don’t lean back in your chair, and if possible, avoid chairs that swivel and rock.
8. Plan to Smile — Nervousness leads to looking stiff. To keep your look natural, keep your lips in a slight smile. It will show in your eyes, too, giving you an attentive expression.
During the interview:
9. Communicate with Your Eyes — When face-to-face with an interviewer, focus on the person asking the questions, not on the camera. Anxiety induces excessive blinking, so be mindful to slow things down. Lastly, if pausing to think, look down — not up. You don’t want viewers to think you’re rolling your eyes.
10. Embrace Your Message — Key messages are your best friend. Acknowledge any questions you’re asked, but always bridge back to your key messages during the interview. Rephrase long questions before answering. Also, reiterate your messages if you’re asked to provide a sound check or give a closing thought/summary.
11. Think in Soundbites — Journalists tell stories for a living. You can help them do their job by offering short examples and anecdotes. Clever soundbites can frame important ideas you want to communicate. If you have a good soundbite to offer, try to include the company name in a dependent clause.
12. Remain Calm — There’s no way to anticipate everything that may happen — an interview is a conversation, so try to relax and roll with it.