Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘Castle’

Building a Better Network

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 11, 2009

Social networks are proving great tools for sharing content, connecting with colleagues and friends, and keeping hard-to-maintain relationships dynamic. 

social networking

There is also a world of opportunities, personal and financial reward, camaraderie, friendship and learning experiences that can come from building and nurturing a fantastic network in a more personal way.

Everyone needs a network—whether for business development, career development or personal reasons. In fact, everyone has a network, whether they know it or not. But not everyone knows how to build or use one.

To create a usable, expandable and vibrant network, you must nurture it. Some of that can be done via technology, but much of network building and maintenance comes from getting out, getting together and getting on the phone.

Just as our PR team builds its media contacts by getting to know reporters individually, taking the time to contact people on their terms, supplying relevant information and seeing our targets as people, so must a personal network-builder take the time to correctly develop a network.

Here are a couple of lessons learned:

  • Networking happens everywhere: Anywhere people congregate and share interests can be fertile networking ground. A neighborhood cookout, school committee meeting, black-tie gala or walkathon can be just as appropriate as a planned “Networking Luncheon.”Here at Castle, the events we managed and those we attended, even cab-sharing, became networking opportunities for our clients and ourselves.
  • This brings up an important point: The best networkers help others build their networks as well. The smoothest networkers are also the most sincere—they look for opportunities for other people that make sense. Just as media relationship-building means occasionally giving non-client-related story ideas or sources, so does personal and professional networking mean helping others that may not directly pay off for you.
  • Which leads to point three: What goes around, comes around. Networking is often little more than doing the right favor, making the right recommendation or offering the right connection for the right person. Remembering someone’s need, and helping him or her to fill it, will position you as a problem-solver as opposed to an opportunist. And people do remember—and repay—favors.
  • Have your elevator pitch down cold: If you can’t verbalize what you do, you can’t expect potential members of your network to accurately share that information with their contacts. So be able to succinctly describe your company, its products and services, and your role. And listen carefully to your counterpart’s pitch—otherwise you might miss a chance to make an important connection.
  • Be yourself: We can all smell phoniness, opportunism and disinterest a mile away. The people that we network best with—invite to events, pass contacts along to, do favors for, are, not surprisingly, the people we typically enjoy being with.


Networking is an art, and must be developed like any other business skill. The first step is being aware that you’re building something fluid, lasting and vital. And you’ll be amazed at how it can grow with a basic level of nurturing and support.

Here’s a way to test your network-building success. Attend a large annual corporate event (for example, here in Boston, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting or the Boston Business Journal Book of Lists party). Take a look around and consciously note how many people you know—either well, slightly or peripherally. Then, after setting networking goals and working on your network, attend the same event. You will experience a noticeable expansion of your network.

Only you can make the difference between meeting them and knowing them.

Posted in Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Salem Five on Chronicle tonight

Posted by thecastlegroup on April 30, 2009

“The Sun will come out… Tomorrow”

Check out Boston’s “Economic “Bright Spots” on Chronicle tonight. The program will highlight local companies — including Castle client Salem Five – that are succeeding despite the downturn.

Salem Five has opened three branches in the last year, and now has 20 branches.

Click here for a preview:

Posted in PR | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to meet Dustin Pedroia?

Posted by thecastlegroup on April 10, 2009

It was a big first quarter at Castle celebrity-wise. We had an opportunity to spend time Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Money and arrange some terrific interviews for him and CEO Asheesh Advani.


And we had a chance locally to work with Salem Five on the launch of their new kid’s literacy and savings program, Gold Star Saver. The spokesperson for the kid’s financial literacy program is Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox (and reigning American League MVP).


To kick-off the Gold Star Saver program, Salem Five hosted a press conference at their Congress Street branch featuring Dustin. The twist? We arranged to have the press conference run by kids for kids. Jimmy Young of YSA, Young Sportscasters of America, worked with The Castle Group and Salem Five by giving two of his talented students a chance to host the press conference and interview Dustin. Check out the interview here. It was a great success and a lot of fun — for the adults and the kids.


Next week, on April 18, Dustin will be at the grand opening of Salem Five’s Reading, Mass. branch. To support it, there is a Salem Five Gold Star Saver video contest. In an effort to teach kids the importance of financial literacy and responsibility, Salem Five is asking kids throughout Massachusettsto share their best or most creative money saving tip. The winner will receive a $150 deposit into a Salem Five Gold Star Saver bank account and will have a chance to meet Dustin Pedroia at the newest branch in Reading on April 18th. Here’s a link to Salem Five’s YouTube channel with all the rules and eligibility requirements. It’s a great way to get kids thinking about why being accountable for their money is so important.

Posted in PR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Castle’s Hot Stove

Posted by thecastlegroup on April 8, 2009


Castle prides itself on creating a positive work environment – we’ve won Boston Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” twice. We host regular staff happy hours, and encourage participation in many community activities and charity events that foster team spirit.

We recently took full advantage of our beautiful Castle kitchen to host our kind-of-annual staff Chili Cook-Off.


It was a heated competition, literally. Between the stove, the chili and the number of people in e room, everyone was reaching for a cold drink.


We were fortunate to have celebrity guest judges provide an “Idol”-style assessment of our contest entries. Judges for the event included Yankee magazine food editor Annie Copps, Foodservice East publisher Sue Holaday, legendary Boston restaurateur Christopher Myers, partner in Radius and Myers & Chang, and Radius marketing director Tonie Snyder, a Castle alum. 


After thoughtful deliberation, the judges named the following winners:


·        Best Overall: Linda Walsh

·        Most Original Use of Ingredient: Sandy Lish

·        Best Presentation: Keri McIntosh

·        Best Attempt: Kelly Scanlon (hey, that’s the category I usually have a lock on!)

·        Best Name: Sandy Lish

·        Best Cornbread: Danielle Doyle


Linda’s “Sweet & Sassy Chili” derived its winning edge from a unique combination of six peppers, including scotch bonnet and chipotle, with a touch of sweetness from brown sugar. “The key to a delicious bowl of chili is for it to be more sassy than sweet,” said Linda.


Posted in fun stuff and more | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Dear Mr. President

Posted by thecastlegroup on April 2, 2009

Gail Long, CEO of Castle PR client ACG Boston, writes an open letter to the president:

Posted in PR | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Content convergence and the new world of PR

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 19, 2009


 Dan Crodella and his bowling ball

Dan Cordella and his bowling ball


I asked my friend and former Castle staffer Dan Cordella of to review and weigh in on concepts regarding the role of public relations in a digital world. As a former in-house and PR agency pro, and current role as an interactive copywriter (and the words behind the new Skittles campaign), Dan has as broad a perspective on marketing channels as anyone I know. His thoughts below serve as our first-ever guest post. Enjoy.




Castle’s ideas about the convergence of four media, or content, channels for marketing (owned media, earned media, purchased media, social media) is spot on.

What people need to realize most of all is that social media is a two-way street. Don’t force a message on your consumers that they don’t want to hear. Or if it is a message that they don’t want to hear and you still need to tell it, explain why you are telling them that message. They will be appreciative of you listening and addressing their concerns.

The ones who do this best are JetBlue (customer bill of rights), Michael Dell (computer fires) and Southwest(general niceness). JetBlue specifically has done a great job with Twitter. I subscribe to that keyword on my Twitter feed. For example, they sent a ton of updates to people on their way to the SXSW interactive festival wishing them a good trip – just awesome.

As someone who works with offline agencies all the time, I can’t stress enough the importance of collaboration from the start when integrating all content channels.

Owned media: Direct can be interactive. It doesn’t have to be a straight messaging banner or an ad. Digital provides people a unique opportunity to have an experience, not just receive a message. Best of all, the consumer can have that experience in the medium (or web page) they prefer. They don’t even have to click through in order to book a flight, play a game, etc.

Earned media: Bloggers and brand advocates should be mandatory in PR outreach. Giving an established advocate a chance to sample/test your product early will go a long way in terms of free media exposure.

Purchased media: This is a great opportunity for behavioral and contextual targeting to deliver a more relevant message than ever.

Social media: Not a flavor of the week, social media is here to stay in some form or another. Consolidation will happen, but brands must be flexible and ready to move to the medium that it needs most. Too many people get stuck in the mindset of “we NEED to be a part of XXX.” The brands that are most successful are the ones that aren’t afraid to play in a new playground. Companies just need to be willing to try.

While a brand could be hit with bad comments, the ones who get stuck with a negative perception are the ones that don’t have a conversation. Social media provides a unique place where negatives can be addressed and turned into positives. Why pay tens of thousands of dollars for a small room of people when social media gives you a virtually infinite free, easy and responsive focus group?

Search engine optimization needs to be in the mix as well, especially for smaller businesses. It’s a low-cost with high-result medium. 

Measurement is a needed tool for all channels, but the variables are very different on all of them. I never bought into the ad equivalency measurement so many PR companies do. I did a lot of measurement for my prior agency, and really thought the true benefit was breaking coverage down by type, audience, publication, message, etc. The clients loved it and that method helped us actually sell in strategy for the next year. Social media gives companies all sorts of new measurement, though interpretation is still subjective. Measurement tools like Nielsen BuzzMetrics and others are starting to do a good job of measuring social media.

It makes all the sense in the world to combine these content channels, or at least make sure they are delivering the same message. Of course, all efforts are null and void if you don’t create good content.


Posted in PR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Welcome to Peter Miller

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 12, 2009

It’s always nice to have a new team member at Castle. Usually, that happens when I hire someone new for our PR or events teams. This time it comes in the form of a new principal. We are all very excited here and look forward to a great relationship and lots of success with Peter Miller.

As a principal, Peter will work on business development and corporate strategy. Peter has a long history in the communications field. His most notable success was the founding of Massachusetts Communications College, which he developed and then successfully sold to a public company. Since then, Peter has run an investment firm. Peter is a long-time friend and shares Castle’s passion for great communications.

Posted in Castle News | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Twitter FAQs

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 12, 2009

Read this short, helpful guide to Twitter by Jeremiah Owyang. He addresses how to get started, but even better, talks about Twitter “codes,” e.g. how/why to use hashtags, what is a DM, and when to RT (Retweet or, more simply, to forward someone else’s post).

Follow the Castle team on Twitter. Here’s a sample of some of our resident Tweet crowd:

And here are the TravMedia and Food4Media feeds:

I’ll update the list with more names and more recommendations. Keep watching, keep reading!

Posted in Social Media (or the Digital Divide) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The “Thing”

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2009

Creative ideas and innovative thinking are critical to our success. Every year, Castle rings in the New Year with a contest we like to call “The Thing.”  Everyone gets an art project to work with and can take it any direction they wish. This year, the material of choice was Wikki Stix: a fancy name for wax-covered string. While some creations fell short of greatness — such as Mark’s model of the DNA chain or Sarah’s plate of spaghetti — others, such as Linda’s multimedia movie trailer, took the contest to another level. Linda cast herself as director of a dark   thriller starring the very characters she created. Catch the preview here.   

Posted in fun stuff and more | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Incentive travel’s white knight?

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2009

As the government comes down on TARP-funded companies for their incentive programs, U.S. Travel (the former TIA) has issued a set of responses on behalf of the meeting industry. The organization has done a really terrific job inserting commentary into the media and changing the focus from TARP companies gone wild to the real value of incentive programs. 

I know Castle has a vested interest in the success of the industry, but is it really so hard to understand that a well-executed incentive or meeting actually drives business, leading to revenue which then stimulates the economy? 


Read below for a sample of recent media coverage on the issues and the impact on the meetings industry:




Hawaii hotelier asks Obama for an important favor

Pacific Business News

By Jim George

March 2, 2009


Gibson understands that the incentive-travel pot is an easy target for corporate executives struggling to balance budgets. What he doesn’t understand is why the national media and government at large continue to give travel to Hawaii a negative connotation.


“There’s a perception problem,” he says.


It’s Time To Fight AIG Effect

Hotels Magazine

By Jeff Weinstein

March 1, 2009 


It all started when insurance industry giant American International Group (AIG) was blasted by Congress last fall for spending US$440,000 on an executive retreat at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, in California after being bailed out with taxpayer money. Now this event has become a symbol of excess and greed, in many ways forcing meeting planners and corporate executives to find other solutions, and other venues, to conduct business.


MPI Launches New Web Resource To Emphasise The Value of Meetings in Crisis Time       

Focus on Travel News

By Ozgur Tore    

March 2, 2009 


MPI is also part of a coalition of organizations including American Hotel and Lodging Association, Destination Marketing Association International, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, National Business Travel Association, Maritz Travel, Professional Convention Management Association, SITE (Society of Incentive & Travel Executives) and U.S. Travel Association that also emerged to unify the industry behind a common message to regulators and media.,english/


Travel Leaders Shows How to Travel in a Tough Economy

Travel Agent

March 2, 2009 


“As one of America’s largest industries, travel and tourism is the vital lifeblood that courses through our nation’s veins. Continued corporate and leisure travel strongly contributes to a healthier economy,” stated Block. “While we can appreciate and understand why many individuals may be reconsidering their travel plans, our Travel Leaders nationally are advising their clients on the most effective ways to stretch their dollars for maximum value.”

Posted in Events & Incentives | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »