Who knew that an account director/client relationship – one that grew as a result of a CEO who was chronically late for meetings – would result in an award-winning business celebrating its 25th anniversary?
When we (Sandy, the account director, and Wendy, the marketing director with the always tardy boss) met, we were at inflection points in our careers. One of us wanted more control over her agency career, the other wanted to focus more on events and less on marketing generalities. After getting to know each other while waiting each week, sometimes up to an hour for Wendy’s boss to show up to our meeting, we realized an opportunity to leverage our compatible skills, goals, ethics and more—and to fill a gap in the marketplace: a one-stop-agency with best-in-class B2B and B2C PR and event management. We went for it, somewhat naively, without having any real business contacts or business management experience.
Fast forward 25 years…to today. And that “forward” really does feel FAST. The years have flown by while everything has changed and yet so much has stayed the same.
Personally, we went from young women with few responsibilities, to, ahem, more mature women who have gotten married, had and raised children (all three of our kids are now in college…HOW???), juggled elder care responsibilities, and the many other blessings and sorrows that are part of life. Yet we are still the same people—albeit with more confidence, experience, wisdom and connections than we had in 1996. We’ve supported each other through personal challenges, traveled the world together, and laughed more than anyone has a right to. A 50-50, 25-year partnership is a huge accomplishment, and we are grateful to our yin and yang and the knowledge we have each other’s backs, no matter what.
Professionally, technology has changed PR and events in ways we didn’t imagine 25 years ago. We can work smarter, better, reach wider audiences and stay connected. Our reach has become global, through our membership in the exclusive Public Relations Global Network, giving us colleagues on six continents and access to cultural competencies, languages and nuances around the world. Starting in a shared office suite (pre-WeWork) with two desks pushed together, we now own an office condo in the Charlestown Navy Yard, are landlords to a subtenant, and have senior full-time team members leading crisis and events programs from Atlanta and Maui, respectively.
Castle has endured through two recessions, major life events and a pandemic. Despite the challenges we faced over the years and especially the past 18 months, Castle has thrived: Just this year, we were named a 2021 Forbes Best 200 public relations agency in America, out of more than 5,000 companies; the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce 2021 Small Business Champion; and Sandy and Wendy were recognized as visionary business leaders on Women’s Enterprise USA Top WBE CEOs of 2021.
Today, Castle’s 30-person workforce across three U.S. locations has a management team that’s been with the company an average of 13 years. We’ve launched thousands of successful PR campaigns and memorable events while attracting a dynamic roster of clients from the education, technology, nonprofit, life sciences, healthcare, professional and financial services sectors, and more. We’ve helped our clients and colleagues realize their goals while we realize our own.
A couple of years ago, Simon Sinek’s “power of why” was all the rage. We created our own statement, and it speaks not just to why we do this, but why we have endured, and endured with a smile and a team that truly respects and enjoys one another.
To nurture deep relationships to achieve professional and personal success for our clients, colleagues, company and community.
We have been blessed to represent local, regional, national and global brands; support M&A events, manage crises, travel the world to manage events, and so much more. But the work wouldn’t be rewarding if we didn’t build and cherish our client relationships. As an independent firm, we can be selective and we can be creative in making relationships successful. We love our clients. Many have become long-time personal friends, nearly all have referred other clients. One out-of-state client, whom we’ve never met because of the pandemic, sent each Castle team member flowers on the one-year anniversary of our engagement. Our client relationships exist because of our technical skill, authenticity, focus on results and details, and out-of-the-box thinking.
What do we say about the best team of professionals around? While some team members over the years have moved on, moved away, and changed careers, we’ve been proud to see where they go. They’ve started businesses, raised families, climbed corporate ladders and so much more. But let’s talk about today’s team—a damn fine group of people who you’d want to have a beer with, can trust implicitly, know their stuff and like to laugh. If the pandemic underscored anything, it was that it really matters who’s in your corner. Castle’s continually growing corner is amazing, and we’re continuously looking for ways to support our team who are at the heart of our success. We’re proud to have been named a Best Place to Work five times by the Boston Business Journal and we’ve accelerated our DEI focus including, among other things, a DEI committee that harnesses the best thinking of our team.
We may have started out not knowing much about business, but boy, we’ve learned. We’re smart enough to recognize what we know and what we don’t, and surround ourselves with the best legal, financial and technology experts around. While Wendy focuses more on managing the firm and its operations and Sandy is more externally focused, we meet exactly in the middle to make sure we’re managing things smartly, so that we can provide opportunities and pathways for our people and be here reliably for our clients. Our expansion into PRGN allows us to remain independent, call the shots, yet compete with global firms.
Our corporate citizenship is a responsibility we take seriously. We care about Boston, Massachusetts, our country, and our world. We want to be a part of improving things. That’s why we learned how to be active corporate citizens, advocate for our beliefs, support nonprofit clients, serve on boards and executive committees, and double down on equity. When the country began its racial reckoning, we didn’t have to “pivot,” we just doubled down on the values and causes that have always mattered to us.
On our 20th anniversary, we adopted the word “amplify” to represent all that we do. A couple of years later it was about being “Your Own Bold.” It’s impossible to demonstrate who we are in just a tagline, as we will continue to evolve, compete, expand, deliver and surprise. One thing is for sure, we will always be “scrappy,” and while one of us thinks we may be overusing that value after 25 years, the other holds fast to the idea that it is our true essence. (We can’t agree on everything!) We’ll never attempt to predict what the next 25 years may hold (after all, who saw a pandemic coming?), but we know that with our talented people, relationships, and values, we’ll keep driving client value, employee growth and many, many laughs.