OConnor, Marianne - Featured Photos

Why Corporate Culture Matters Most

Since Sterling opened its doors more than two decades ago, we’ve had lots of laughs, persevered through some difficult and scary economic cycles, evolved our service mix, attracted wonderful employees, and created many long-standing client relationships. All of that happened because we created a strong culture, worked hard, anticipated change, and added new skills to capitalize on market transitions.


Notice that I listed culture first? That’s because NOTHING is more critical than your corporate culture. It can guide you through heady times and help you survive the difficult times. While there are certainly central truths in any corporate culture, your corporate culture is something you must continually shape and nurture — it’s not something you can “set and forget.” (As we’ve seen, even legendary corporate cultures like HP’s can get lost over time if leaders focus simply on business unit performance and let the corporate culture languish.)

Your corporate culture is something you must continually shape and nurture—it’s not something you can “set and forget.”

Smarter people than I have written many articles on this topic, but from where I sit, corporate culture really boils down to three questions: (more…)

OConnor, Marianne - Featured Photos

Be True to Your Brand

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Dr. Seuss

The same goes for your company and your competitors’ companies. While you may serve similar customer needs, there can be vast differences in brand attributes. Take Ryanair and Emirates. Ryanair is Europe’s “ultra low cost carrier”; it has embraced a “no-frills, low-cost, get-you-from-A-to-B model” that makes air travel “accessible to the masses.” The airline guarantees that it has the lowest fares on flights to all of its destinations. Emirates, on the other hand, is one of the most luxurious travel brands on the planet. From its sparkling fleet of new planes, to high-quality cuisine, the latest in cabin design, and a wide range of entertainment options, Emirates strives to make the “Emirates experience” world class in every class.

The takeaway here is that you can’t be all things to all people, but once you know what you can do better than your competitors, you can polish your brand in ways that appeal to the type of employees you want to hire, customers you want to serve, and partners/investors you want to attract. (more…)

Jammal, Ciera - Featured Photos

5 Steps to Taming the Media List Beast

media list

Public relations is a fast-paced industry where deadlines can be fluid and windows of opportunity within news cycles are incredibly easy to miss. You might have a compelling angle and an experienced spokesperson at the ready, but that won’t get you very far if your media list doesn’t have the right contact info for the right reporters at the right media outlets.

Making sure that you’re talking with the right journalists is vital. Sounds easy, but if there is anything that changes faster than PR, it’s the media landscape. Reporters change beats, outlets, and their preferred contact channels at a dizzying pace, and that’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.

So, what’s the best way to keep your media lists accurate? First, update them as often as possible. By dividing your upkeep tasks into faster, more frequent sprints, you will avoid time sinks and research escapades that could take hours, and you’ll be ready to jump on breaking news. Track industry happenings as part of each work day and, when you find a relevant article, make sure that the reporter is on your media list. If you notice that one of your media contacts has changed publications or coverage beats, immediately update your media list. And, when a new media outlet catches your attention… Update. Your. Media. List.

Everyone knows that maintaining media lists can be a beast. Well, I’m here to tell you that the beast can be tamed. Here are five steps to optimizing your media lists so you can generate great results: (more…)

Hawes, Lisa - Featured Photos

Is It Ever OK to Break a Press Embargo?

This is the second half of a two-part article on press embargoes.

Photo credit: Alex Blarth via Flickr

Photo credit: Alex Blarth via Flickr

Reporters know that if you’ve set a press embargo, you’re probably pitching the story to many journalists. If your embargo and the wire time for the press release are the same, the reporter who’s bothering to review your news in advance will be in competition with the wire service to be first with the news — and reporters like to break news, especially in the 24-hour news cycle. (Search for “CNN retracts story” to see the results of the fierce competition to be the first with breaking news.)

Ask yourself — Could I give my “friendlies” who are cooperating with me and possibly doing interviews, a leg up on the post time? Can I let them “break” the embargo that I’ve set? The answer is No if you’re working with a public company, and Yes if it’s a private company. (more…)

Hawes, Lisa - Featured Photos

The Press Embargo: Dead or Alive?

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

In 2008, TechCrunch published Michael Arrington’s manifesto calling for the death of the news embargo: “From this point on we will break every embargo we agree to.” Media relations professionals pulled hair, gnashed teeth and whined on social media. Seven years later, the press embargo —a gentleman’s agreement between a reporter and a source to hold a specific piece of news confidential until a pre-determined date and time— is alive and kicking in Silicon Valley. (more…)


What Journalists Really Want from PR Professionals

While Mel Gibson’s 2000 romantic comedy “What Women Want” was a mostly forgettable film, the ability to telepathically hear what women are thinking instantly became the envy of every man in the world, myself included. As a PR professional, however, much more valuable would be to know what’s going on inside the mind of a reporter. (more…)

OConnor, Marianne - Featured Photos

Today’s “Not-So-Social” Networks


At the heart of every technological innovation is the desire to strengthen relationships between people and the hope that we can improve quality of life. However, lately I feel we have created “not-so-social” networks. The mechanics of connecting with others has changed dramatically over time, primarily due to visionary inventors, accomplished technologists, and the growing pressure to continuously do more in less time. (more…)


Why Sterling is on Instagram


“A picture is worth a thousand words.” We all know the figure of speech. But in the world in which we now live, where precious, expensive film is replaced by digital memory and cloud storage, it is easy to wonder if pictures are still that valuable.

Well, at Sterling we believe that a picture is now worth far more than just a thousand words. After all, that’s why marketing and public relations agencies have adopted video and photography to optimize reach to target audiences. Social media marketing once disrupted our text-heavy PR world with limiting messages to 140 characters on Twitter. Now, people want to receive marketing messages from a single glance at a photo.

Instagram is one such social media channel that has forever changed the way we market businesses. In fact, the picture and video sharing service has now surpassed Twitter in number of users. (more…)

Mains, Madeline - Featured Photos

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…)