5 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a PR Professional: With Sterling Snow
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“It’s okay to be rejected. Just don’t get discouraged. You can’t win them all. Keep working hard and making connections, and the ‘wins’ will come.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sterling Snow, Director of Marketing Communications at Jive Communications. Sterling leads a team responsible for public relations, analyst relations, competitive intelligence, social media, events, billboard, radio, TV, and print advertising, as well as strategic marketing partnerships.
Since moving into the role of Marketing Communications Director, Sterling has increased tier 1 media placements by over 400%, local media efforts have yielded a 79% increase in location based revenue, analyst reports have increased by 200%, and 350% more awards have been won. In addition, his efforts have resulted in a social media reach that exceeds 15,000,0000 quarterly.
Thank you so much for your time. Can you share your backstory with us, and how you got involved in the PR industry?
My passion for PR actually stemmed from my experience with social media and marketing. I started a marketing business (that I still manage), around the same time that I began managing Jive Communications’ social media. In my business, my main goal was (and is) to boost my client’s sales through tapping into their brand equity and giving them more visibility. Naturally, that included social media efforts similar to what I was doing at Jive. However, it also led to many public relations efforts. I began to form more relationships, and encountered many opportunities for clients and their brands to be recognized. I quickly realized that these public relations efforts needed to be implemented at Jive as well, and from there my position and responsibilities have only grown. I’ve built the PR and marketing communications team at Jive from the ground up, and I oversee all public relations, analyst relations, competitive intelligence, social media, events, billboard, radio, TV, print advertising, and strategic marketing partnerships.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
When I first moved into my current roll I was managing a Boston PR agency that handled a lot of our public and analyst relations. After about two months, we began to see that our in-house efforts had significantly outpaced the PR firm’s efforts. They called and said that they couldn’t keep up with what we were doing, so they kindly let us out of our contract. It was a great learning experience, and wonderful validation for what we were accomplishing.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Getting on the “Forbes Next Billion Dollar Startups” list was huge. I’m also working on a cool story surrounding our new product Jive.me. It will be the next big thing in collaboration and workplace communication.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the contributions our team has made to Jive’s growth. At Jive, no one cares about individual accolades. We just like seeing huge growth year after year. All our positive press continues to help move the needle for our organization, and I don’t think it gets better than that.
Do you think the PR profession has changed over the past 30 years? How?
Without a doubt! If my social media experience has taught me anything, it’s that it’s changed the way businesses communicate with their customers. Social platforms have made PR a lot more affordable and accessible. We can now have a 24/7, instantaneous news presence.
And in a world where our customers love (and need) instant gratification, this also means we will be hearing from them if something goes wrong, and they’ll expect an instant response or resolution. It’s a blessing and a curse in public relations. A 24/7 outlet for good news also means a 24/7 outlet for the bad. Brands just need to stay on top of it and it’ll be a valuable tool — one that not only lets you interact with customers like you couldn’t do 30 years ago, but lets you measure the effectiveness of your content quickly and easily.
What drives you?
Growth. Working for a startup like Jive, that just made Forbes “Next Billion Dollar Startups” list means that we have been seeing exponential growth over the past several years. And in PR, we play a huge part in that growth. Increasing visibility and brand awareness through PR efforts directly impacts a company’s bottom-line, and it’s more than a little rewarding to play such an important role in a company, and to be able to directly see the impact you’re making.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Great PR doesn’t happen coincidentally. You have to put in the work to form great relationships through great content. Don’t be too busy to do the brunt of the work when it comes to pitching to a journal or news outlet. Submit work that is “ready for press”. And utilize social media! It will be your best friend and will find you many opportunities.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Sincere flattery has always been, and will always be, a great networking tool. I add the word “sincere”, because people know when they’re being complimented, and when they’re getting their butt kissed. Do your research and connect with people whose work speaks to you and is relevant to your brand. Understand their audience and what they’re looking for, even if this means ditching your sales pitch and just talking passion.
Which skills do you think are most important to becoming a successful PR professional?
Public relations is exactly what it sounds like — creating relationships in the public eye. You can’t do this without good communications skills and confidence in yourself and your brand. And if you’re not a proficient writer, I’d definitely start studying up and practicing.
You are in a position of influence. How have you used your position and skill to bring goodness to the world?
For a long time, some of my coworkers and I have wanted Jive to create an organization to give back to the community. After working closely with HR and Jive’s executive team, I am proud to play a role in running the Jive Foundation. It was created to give back to the community through financial contributions to 501(c)(3) charities every month. Jive employees have already made countless nominations, and it’s awesome to see them get so involved in this mission.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
The Founding Fathers. Maybe that’s because I recently saw Hamilton, but the way those young men shaped the future of the United States, and really the world, is incredible to me. They were risk takers and ambitious people who stood for and fought for ideals much bigger than themselves.
Which company do you admire most, and why?
I am a huge fan of Qualtrics, a local software company that is valued at over two billion dollars. They are a smart and scrappy company that knows how to grow, and has some of the best employees I’ve ever met.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started,” and why?
- It’s okay to be rejected. Just don’t get discouraged. You can’t win them all. Keep working hard and making connections, and the “wins” will come.
- Think big picture. “How do my efforts play into the master plan?” This may mean getting to know your company a little better. Understand the in’s and out’s so you can better align your goals. This leads me to number three.
- Ask questions. Lots of them. There’s no need to feel embarrassed. Most people are happy to help. Starting from day one, I asked as many questions as I could think of. I wanted to make sure I understood everything I possibly could, and only good things came of it.
- Be confident. If it’s been done before, it can be done by you. People are more willing to collaborate with, share with, and work with someone who is well-spoken and confident. When it comes to management, I am relatively young, but I’ve never let my age get in the way of my job. Act and speak with confidence — regardless of your age or background — and you will excel in your career and in your personal life.
- Never settle. If you have a goal or a vision, don’t settle for less or for the short cut. Be patient. The greatest milestones are generally the result of a lot of invested time and energy. I still remind myself of this on a daily basis.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Note to our readers: If you appreciated this interview, please click on one of the buttons on the top left to post to your Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. If 2,000 people like you do this, there is a good chance this article may be featured on the homepage.
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series in Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.