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 ‘Sandy Lish’

Monday Morning Intern: Yes, there are journalism majors in 2009

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 29, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures. Extra credit to Emily this week as she writes this post from home, suffering from a broken foot!

“What’s your major?”


“Oh, so you want to write for a newspaper?”

“Not necessarily.”

This conversation happens in my life often, along with looks of pity for picking a major the world believes is dying. I usually spend the next part of the conversation trying to convince friends and family why it is a good major for me, but it seems they’re stuck on the word “journalism” and nothing I say can persuade them to think more positively.

First, it is important to remember that journalism is not dying, it’s changing. Secondly, the skills learned in journalism can be applied to many other professions besides working in the news industry. After all, Sandy Lish, co-founder of The Castle Group, was a journalismmajor at UMass Amherst as well.

“I entered the major backwards, I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist but I knew I liked to write,” said Sandy. The skills she learned in school were useful, she said, but that having internships was what helped her decide what she really wanted to do. This is a similar path I have taken, and my education so far has been very applicable to this internship.

Since public relations deals with reporters, it helps to know what reporters are looking for. Researching publications is key to making sure you pitch stories to the right people.

This real-world experience shows the relevancy of my course load. Similar to pitching stories for a client, in Magazine Writing I learned how to write successful query letters from my professor Mel Allen.  

In Newswriting and Reporting, a requirement for journalism majors, I learned how to write and edit in AP style, the style used at The Castle Group, from my professor George Forcier. I also learned reporting skills which has made me more comfortable asking questions, speaking on the phone and doing online research.

As discussed in my last blog post, social media is an increasingly important part of all businesses. In Multimedia Journalism taught by Steve Fox, I learned how to successfully build profiles on these sites. I also learned how to make effective news packages including video, audio, photography and writing. These are all skills reporters must know now in order to succeed in the news industry. These skills are also useful when helping clients promote their products or services.

The list goes on, and it is clear to me that the journalism classes I’ve taken have helped me reach my goals. Although I have never taken a class specific to public relations, I still have an understanding of the skills needed to work here. What I learn here is also something I could not get out of a classroom, and thankfully the journalism department at UMass is very aware of the importance of internships.

Sandy, who said she often felt like “a fish out of water” for being a journalism major who did not want to be a journalist thinks that perhaps the journalism department should change its name. Since the communications department at UMass focuses more on the theory of communication than the industry of communications itself, for people like Sandy and me, this major did not fit what we wanted.

“Maybe it’s a branding issue, maybe it shouldn’t be called journalism anymore,” said Sandy. However, despite its name, she said it is more about what you take from your work experiences than the name of your major that determines your success. Her advice is to take any opportunity available and make the most of your skills, and apply them to your ultimate goals. “Don’t lose sight of what you want. Everything leads to something else.”

When I picked journalism as a major, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I liked to research, write and talk to people. The classes and internships I’ve had so far have helped me further shape my goals and ultimately made me realize the possibilities are vast. With Sandy as an inspiration, I now know that those who question the practicality of journalism are definitely mistaken.

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The customer is always right

Posted by thecastlegroup on May 28, 2009

The Castle Group’s co-founder, Sandy Lish, weighs in today with a post on customer service and social media.

The customer is always right. An old adage, but one social media is making a harsh reality for many companies. Some, like Comcast, JetBlue and Zappos, have embraced social media as an outlet to resolve complaints, share information and interact with customers.

And while some consumer-facing companies are encouraging social media participation, others are ignoring its utility. But when it comes to customer service, social media is merely another avenue. The real interaction should happen at the point-of-sale, e.g. in your stores and showrooms. Below are two anecdotes that illustrate this movement.

customer service

Thanks Hyundai

“These days when you buy a Hyundai, you tell everyone – by email, text or tweet. You call it social networking, we call it good PR.”

Yes! This was how a Hyundai commercial I saw last night started. But I could not have said it better. It caught my ear because of the reference to “good PR” – not something you hear often in ads. In some circles, PR is still equated with “stunts” and “publicists” and “spin” – and nothing else. We know better. Social networking is PR – whether comments on social networks are good, bad or indifferent, it’s critical to listen and, when relevant, respond. Thanks, Hyundai for pointing that out.

I applaud Hyundai on its willingness to encourage customer interaction. I would recommend that they load their television ads onto their own site, though. If you run an ad encouraging social networking, shouldn’t that ad embody that spirit as well?

Has anyone recently purchased a Hyundai? If so, did the showroom customer service meet the “tell everyone” status boasted in the ad?

 customer service 2

Customer Service: Act Now or Pay Later?

The other day I was in a department store, and observed an irate customer trying to resolve a problem with a return. I overheard her, on her cell phone, calling the retailer’s corporate office to complain about the service she was getting, saying she had already spent 45 minutes trying to resolve the issue with the manager – to no avail.

I shopped around for at least 25 minutes, passed by her again, and overheard her on the phone, escalating her problem, but still not resolving it.

So at least 70 minutes spent (I left without knowing if she found resolution) – precious time she can’t get back. Now if she told everyone she knew – “by email, text or tweet” to use Hyundai’s language – complained on the retailer’s blog and posted negative comments on consumer blogs, she would likely have set off a far more viral process that attracted those with similarly poor experiences. She would have had the power that was once limited to consumer advocates working for traditional media companies to spread the word and influence others.

I’m sure many people are tweeting about their new Hyundai or forgoing customer service for customer action. PR is clearly in the hands of anyone with a mobile device or a laptop, and it is important for merchants to recognize the power of the consumer.

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Mothers on Our Minds

Posted by thecastlegroup on May 5, 2009

With Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday, Castle is involved in a couple of great events that celebrate the spirit of mothers and children.


Our client, the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, is planning a free Family Play Day at the Wharf District Parks in downtown Boston this Saturday, May 9.  Families are encouraged to pack a picnic and enjoy a day of music, crafts and entertainment, a fun and frugal way to celebrate Mother’s Day. The event kicks off at 10:00 a.m. with the dedication of the Mothers’ Walk wall, featuring remarks by Mayor Thomas M. Menino. For more information, please visit


Also on Saturday, a team from Castle will be taking part in the March of Dimes March for Babies walk along Storrow Drive. The March of Dimes has made great strides in preventing premature births and addressing preemies’ medical complications, and we are proud to help them continue their important work.


Finally, Castle’s own co-founder Sandy Lish was included in a lighthearted take on what working mothers want for Mother’s Day. Her wish – for her husband to download and organize all the songs she wants on her iPod.

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