A blog about standing up, standing out, and standing for something in tech PR and communications.


Tech PR trends in 2020: What’s next for your industry?

Sterling has deep roots in Silicon Valley. With over 30 years of industry experience, our days are spent helping amazingly cool tech companies shape their narratives and gain visibility.

We’ve witnessed explosive growth in new technologies, but we also watched the collapse of traditional media. Over the years, PR tactics evolved from standard press releases and media tours into sophisticated digital strategies that connect with target audiences on a deeper level. What lies ahead for brand storytelling, ROI measurement, and organic/earned media in the new decade?

Recently, Sterling Communications joined other leaders from top Bay Area agencies for an immersive panel held by San Jose State University and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). We answered these questions and more for an audience of sharp, eager undergrads who have their sights set on a career in public relations. 

San Jose State University PRSSA Agency Panel

Sterling Communications joined top Bay Area PR agencies at San Jose State University to discuss emerging trends in public relations. The SJSU Journalism and Mass Communications Department’s Public Relations program is nationally recognized and the only degree program of its kind in Northern California.

Responses below are drawn from the SJSU/PRSSA event and condensed for clarity.

1. How has the PR industry changed in the past five years? What do you predict will happen in the next 10 years?

Public relations and digital marketing have become even more intimately linked. PR has long been focused on press releases, pitching reporters, tradeshows, and media tours. But our craft morphed as the media landscape changed. Now, we are also expected to deliver on SEO and content strategy, and to support digital marketing metrics. Over the next decade, we’ll see increasing overlap between these previously siloed disciplines. PR will be expected to help support business and sales objectives more than ever. For example, a common modern key performance indicator (KPI) involves showing that public relations drives targeted customers to websites through supporting blog content and social media strategies.

2. What is the biggest challenge in the tech PR industry? 

Tech marketing leaders must understand that their brand is competing with a LOT of noise. Reporters receive upwards of a hundred pitches per day. According to MuckRack, there were more than six PR pros for every journalist in 2018. A successful PR program requires creativity and consistency to make your clients stand out and capture a share of the world’s shrinking attention span. 

3. What is a top misconception about PR, and how do you earn the trust of journalists? 

Journalists often think that PR practitioners don’t do their research and overhype their clients. When I left the journalism world, colleagues and mentors teased me for “going to the dark side” of the communications industry. Silicon Valley PR practitioners can combat these misconceptions by taking the time to understand their clients, specifically their technology and key differentiators. Become a trusted resource that journalists can come to with questions, and don’t pitch them anything that isn’t truly notable or newsworthy.  

4. What is the top skill you rely on as a PR professional? 

If I had to pick one marketing or PR skill with the highest value, it’s copywriting (hands down). Be the person your team can count on to craft that critical email, blog post, headline, or press release. In our meme and soundbite obsessed world, clear and concise writing is needed more than ever

5. Have you personally changed any beliefs about public relations over the past decade? 

I love my career and find it extremely interesting. But when I was a young journalist, I believed that most PR people were insincere spin doctors. Over the years, however, I’ve met many incredibly brilliant professional communicators and I’ve learned so much because of the way they champion their clients and causes. PR helps new ideas flourish and advances technologies that can make our world better in measurable ways. I’m excited to be so close to emerging technologies that impact our daily lives — and it’s gratifying to help tell those stories.

A version of this report was also published on MuckRack.


Interested in connecting with Sterling Communications about a career in Silicon Valley tech PR? Please email operations@sterlingpr.com, and follow us on Twitter

Pal Hollwood
Pal Hollwood

Better resolution results: 3 tips for PR goal-setting

The statistics are bleak: Although nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year, 25% will abandon them in just the first week of January. Accomplishing goals is hard. We won’t hold it against you if you’ve already stopped vlogging your Peloton journey for your well-meaning but absolutely evil husband. 

Even so, the practice of goal-setting is still worth the effort: A study in Harvard Business Journal noted that those who actually set goals are 10x more likely to succeed at meeting them. 

meeting PR goals
Photo Credit: Christian Gidlöf, CCSA 3.0

At Sterling, we’ve already kicked off 2020 communications planning with most of our clients, and we’re actively pursuing identified targets and KPIs. After 30 years in the business, we know a thing or two about how to set good public relations (PR) goals — and meet them

Starting a new year with a solid plan is always a great idea, but it’s the results that matter in the end. Here are a few of our tips on how to set communications goals that won’t suffer the fate of most New Year’s resolutions.

  • Do your research. This is especially important in the B2B space, where the audience is niche enough that it can be hard to predict. If your annual goal is to place ten articles in trade magazines focused on a certain industry when there are only three publications that fit the criteria, your 2020 KPIs will be difficult if not impossible to meet. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase sales leads, you should research where your target audience gets their news: You might find that landing an article in Industrial Cranes Magazine generates more leads than a front-page mention in The New York Times. Research your audience and the outlets you’re targeting before setting your goals.
  • Keep it realistic. Over-reaching can trip up any New Year’s resolution. For example, if you’ve never set foot in a gym, then setting a goal of going every day is pretty unrealistic. An honest evaluation of where you’re starting isn’t shameful or negative — it sets you up for achievable success. Coveting thy neighbor must be set aside. It’s good to research your competitors for inspiration when goal setting. But it might not be the best use of time, effort, and money to set a goal like, “Gain more Twitter followers than [competitor],” when that competitor has a 10K-follower lead to start. A more realistic goal might be, “Gain 5% more followers on Twitter by EOY.” That goal has your company at the center of it — not someone else’s. 
  • Be flexible. Sometimes, even after doing your research and being realistic, the goals you set just don’t seem to be working. Maybe there’s an unanticipated holdup or the strategy you expected to get you there isn’t really moving the needle. It’s okay to take a step back and assess what’s working, and pivot as necessary. This is where monthly reports and weekly team syncs can come in handy. They can serve as checkpoints to evaluate how you’re doing and whether it might be time for a change. Evolution is a good thing. Goals don’t have to be set in stone — in fact, they may be doing you a disservice if they are. 

It’s never a bad time to start looking ahead, mapping out a destination, and planning how you want to get there. 

Have you identified your PR goals for 2020 yet? Sterling can help! Our approach to strategic communications goal setting helps companies stay laser-focused on what matters most to them, whether that’s driving website traffic, garnering positive media coverage, gaining a social media following, or simply getting your story told to the world at large. 

What is California’s new consumer privacy law and could you be fined?

If you’re not familiar with California’s new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), you’re not alone. In August, an IT security firm ran a survey of 625 business owners in California and found that almost half the respondents had never heard of the CCPA and less than 12% knew whether the law applied to their business. Now is the time for your company to assess the potential impact and take steps to comply with regulations if required. 

What is CCPA?

Taking effect on January 1, 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is modeled on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and creates new consumer rights relating to the access, deletion, and sharing of personal information that is collected by businesses. The CCPA defines the responsibilities of businesses that collect and process personal information. The scope includes California businesses, as well as any business that conducts business with California residents. 

Among the rights ensured in CCPA are:

  • Consumers have the right to know all data collected on them, including what categories of data and why it is being acquired before it is collected, and any changes to its collection
  • Consumers have the right to refuse the sale of their information
  • Consumers have the right to request deletion of their data
  • Consumers have the right to opt-in before the sale of information on minors
  • Consumers have the right to know the categories of third parties with whom their data is shared, as well as those from whom their data was acquired
  • Consumers have the right to sue should breach occur or to ensure companies keep their information safe, and the state may also impose penalties for noncompliance or violation.

Which businesses are impacted?

The CCPA impacts both California-based businesses, as well as companies doing business with consumers in California. It applies to all businesses that meet any of the following three thresholds: 

  1. Has annual gross revenues in excess of $25,000,000.
  2. Buys, sells, or shares the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers, households, or devices. 
  3. Derives 50% or more of its annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information.

While the $25M gross annual revenue is intended to help small businesses and startups avoid CCPA requirements, many companies already have email lists or internal databases with more than 50,000 records of past, current, or prospective customers. If you’re using a marketing automation platform (for example, tools like Marketo, HubSpot, etc.), have ever bought or scraped email lists, or have simply been in business for an extended period of time, you might find the 50,000 record count threshold is easy to reach.

Note that “sharing” can include something as simple as passing information from a website form to your email provider (as with Constant Contact and similar software) or sharing information with Google Analytics (CCPA scope includes technical information that is passed by a user’s browser when they visit your website.) Even if your organization does not currently meet the three regulation thresholds, the CCPA is expected to become a model regulation that will be adopted by other states and, potentially, at the federal level. Ignore the CCPA at your own peril.

What is the potential exposure of non-compliance?

The California Attorney General’s office is scheduled to begin enforcement by July 1, 2020, with a twelve-month “look-back period” (to July 1, 2019), with fines up to $7,500 per violation. The specifics of enforcement are still being developed by the State of California. While the CCPA will generally be enforced by the California Attorney General, private citizens can also make claims directly against a company if there is certain unauthorized access and exfiltration, theft, or disclosure of non-encrypted or non-redacted personal information. (Note that this might include such things as unencrypted spreadsheets containing customer information on a stolen laptop.)

What to do now

We recommend that our clients be proactive in assessing the impact of regulation and taking steps to become compliant if needed. While the safest advice is to ask your legal counsel, there are several steps you can take on your own.

First, simply Google “CCPA compliance” or refer to the resource links below to get up to speed. 

Second, if you believe your company is either not impacted or that the business risk is minimal, we recommend that every client still update their website’s privacy policy to comply with CCPA requirements. (You do have a privacy policy on your website, right? If not, now’s a perfect time to create one!)

Third, if you believe your organization will be subject to CCPA requirements, now is the time to inventory the information you collect (or have collected in the past and stored). Determine what information you need to run your business. If you are collecting or archiving data that is no longer useful, you can reduce your exposure by cleaning up your data and deleting information that is no longer needed.

Additional CCPA Information Resources

We’re not lawyers, but Sterling has been working with clients with GDPR and CCPA compliance obligations. If you have questions or would like Sterling’s help, please contact Mark Bonham at (408)395-5500.

What are you afraid of?

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.

Fear.

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 national Survey 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.

Facing Fear
It should come as no surprise that fear is the subject of numerous TED Talks, the global clearinghouse of inspirational speakers presenting their powerful ideas. One of my favorites on dealing with insidious work-related fear is author Tim Ferris discussing why you should define your fears instead of your goals.

define your fear

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.

Stop sweating email etiquette

Email etiquette anxiety is a modern scourge. 

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:


email sign-off examples

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

  1. The right “atmosphere” always smooths the way for conversation. You can supply digital context with a concise email subject line. For example:

    “Oct. 11 meeting request – cloud security w/Sterling”

  2. 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….”


  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

email highlighting

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:

Be considerate. 

That’s what matters most when it comes to good manners.

Sterling Communications wins prestigious PR Daily media relations award

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. 

PR Daily Media Relations Awards

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’ win was announced via social media, and the winning team was recognized for its accomplishment in a special write-up on PR Daily’s internationally read news website. To read the profile on Sterling Communications, please visit: https://www.prdaily.com/awards/media-relations-awards/2019/winners/executive-visibility-campaign/.

Sterling Communications 2019 PR Daily Media Relations Award Winners
2019 PR Daily Media Relations Award Winners. Sterling’s first-place team (left to right): Brendan Hillan, Deirdre Blake, Brooke Alexander, and Ashley Nakano.

About Sterling Communications

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.  

Advice for tech entrepreneurs from top VCs

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. 

VC advice for startups
Silicon Valley tech investors and startups explored the tech of today and tomorrow together at TC Sessions: Mobility in Downtown San Jose on July 10, 2019.

Here’s some secret sauce for startups straight from Silicon Valley investors:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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 go@sterlingpr.com

Networking checklist

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. 

networking tips
Sterling Account Director Dana Schroeder preparing to expand her professional network at a Gore Innovation Center event in Silicon Valley.

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.

Portrait of a productive team

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.

True Colors Workshop Sterling PR
Jocelyn Kung leads a True Colors workshop at Sterling Communications 2019 Spring Agency Summit.

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.

True Colors at Sterling
Appreciating our differences.

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.