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PR PROfiles: Sandy Lish, The Castle Group

Sandy LishSandy Lish

Principal & Co-Founder, The Castle Group

Length of PR career (so far): More than 25 years!

Your most memorable campaign: Stacy’s Pita Chips ongoing PR program, building their national product and corporate visibility which supported their eventual sale to PepsiCo. That was followed by promotions including the “To Stacy From Stacy” national campaign, which surprised hundreds of Stacys around the country with gift boxes of snacks. That promotion tied in with social, digital and traditional PR visibility created substantial buzz.

Most poignant professional moment: When I won the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award, honoring women who have demonstrated excellence in entrepreneurship, management and commitment to community. The hundreds of people in the audience included my immediate family, colleagues and clients, which was a deeply moving experience. My mom was terminally ill at the time, and it meant more than I can say to have her there for the honor, and to share the honor with her, my inspiration.

Favorite journalist to work with: I enjoy developing relationships with journalists who are strategic and think outside the box. At this point in my career, I’m not usually the front-line person pitching traditional stories, but I’ll use the term “journalist” very loosely to also include publishers and general managers, who I often work with to create new visibility opportunities that transcend traditional coverage. Bill Fine, GM of ABC affiliate WCVB, and Carolyn Jones, Boston Business Journal publisher, are two examples of strategic thinkers who understand the value of relationships.

Sandy LishWhen I first started in PR, I pitched Chuck Jaffe, who was at the time a syndicated personal finance columnist at The Boston Globe. He recognized my lack of experience and pretty much hung up on me. I was inexperienced, and had called him with a routine, canned follow-phone call WHEN HE WAS ON DEADLINE! He was absolutely right to hang up on me, but I was mortified. I waited a few days and sent him an apologetic but humorous note. The next time I pitched him, he took my call and, over time, we developed a terrific working relationship.

Best thing about working at your agency: Our people. We’re scrappy, dedicated and have a sense of humor. We were recently named number four on the 2016 Boston Business Journal Best Places to Work list in the 20-49 employees category. I think we’re number one. I respect every person on our team and it’s clear they respect each other.

Last time you didn’t do any work all weekend: I’m an entrepreneur who’s been in business for 20 years, and I’ve been a mom for 17 years. So…either 20 or 17 years ago, depending on what you define as work.

Most outrageous client request: Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster.com and our client Eons wanted our team to jump into the Boston Harbor with him and his staff to celebrate the launch of his company. Luckily, we needed to stay on dry land to manage the media covering the momentous leap.

What got you interested in a PR career? My passion for writing, interest in people and curiosity about the world drew me to PR. I was a journalism major in college, but it was really more about the writing than about being a reporter. I ended up with a PR internship in college and I liked that I could blend my writing, communication and persuasion skills.

Most interesting thing about your job: Each day is different and I never know what’s going to happen. The pace, surprise factor and real-time adjustments don’t just apply to our crisis work—you can be surprised by your own ideas at a moment’s notice. In addition, being a business owner, and not only a communicator, provides constant new opportunities and challenges.

Number of meetings you were in last week: More than 10.

Your nightmare client in 3 words: Can I use four words? HELP US HELP YOU.

Rate your math skills from 1-10: I’m glad there are calculators on phones.

Sandy LishBest advice to a PR student: Develop strong grammar and writing skills. It’s also critical to clearly demonstrate your work ethic.

Favorite way to de-stress: Singing along to show tunes in my car. (When I’m alone.)

Brand most in need of better PR: Regardless of your political leanings, it’s easy to see that the incoming Presidential cabinet needs some good PR.

Cocktail of choice: Right now its Portuguese wine and white port (not together!).

Your first “real” job: Scooping ice cream at Brigham’s—a local sandwich and ice cream chain. I wore a hairnet, clunky white nurse’s shoes and a too-big red, white and blue dress with an apron. I was 14 years old, but said I was 16. In reality, I probably looked like I was 11.

Three people you’d love to invite to dinner: Three entrepreneurial people I didn’t have enough of an opportunity to learn from:

  • My grandfather, who passed away when I was 12. He was an entrepreneur in the fashion industry.
  • My mother, who was the most resourceful person I’ve ever known.
  • My great grandmother, who was a dentist in Russia and came to the US as a young, single mother.

Your next big adventure: I’ll be traveling to Kyoto next year for our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) meeting. Our network—of more than 50 affiliated independently owned firms—comes together twice a year to share best practices, develop business and support our clients.

Your ideal Saturday: At some point in the day, I want to laugh, have a short nap, have some wine, and be with both of my kids and husband, and possibly a friend or two. If those things can all happen at an exotic location, even better.

Want to be a PR PROfile source, or know someone who would be a perfect fit? Email the editor at richardc@bulldogreporter.com.

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