• October 23, 2020

    How to Build a Buyer Persona

    Hello, thanks for dropping by! You’re just in time to help me create a buyer persona for my new company. A buyer persona is an essential part of any marketing strategy. Personas help create categories in which a company can to tailor its messages to. For this business, we’ll have to construct a persona to better understand our target audience and its relationship with the company. Ready?

    What is a Buyer Persona?

    The obvious first step to creating a buyer persona is understanding what it is. A buyer persona is a fictional character you create based on a target market you’d like to message to. The more detailed the persona, the better. Give them a name, demographic details, interests, and behavioral traits. You should understand their goals for using the product or service you offer, what makes them hesitant to buy or use your product or service, and what they have relied on in the past. This should be a fun task. It’s not often you get to create an entire person from thin air.

    Find a Target Audience

    A buyer persona utilizes the data you collect on target audiences. You must find out who you audiences are before you can even begin to construct a persona. This requires data on your existing customers as well as predictions of who your future customers may be. Social media can be a great starting point by analyzing your followers and discovering which users are engaging most with the content. A company’s website is the treasure trove of data.

    Through Google Analytics, you can assess the users that interact with a website and where they’re coming from. Consider things like age, gender, geographical location, languages, income, interests, etc. No detail is too small to include; the information you collect will start to reveal patterns you can capitalize on. For this company, let’s say we’ve found that our largest audience is women 30-45 years old, middle class, and moms among other detail.

    Build a Character

    This is where the fun comes in. You can take all the data you learned about the target audience and compile it into a person’s identity. Given our data we can determine a few things. Since our largest target markets is female, let’s name our character Sally. From our data, we can also determine that Sally is 35, married, and has two kids. She doesn’t work and is in the middle class. As we start to add the bulk of our data, our persona becomes more and more real.

    Once we’ve added the basic information that make up a human being, we can begin to incorporate personality into the persona. For instance, we should start to ask ourselves, “What are Sally’s hobbies?” and, “Is Sally a social person?” Developing Sally’s personality allows you to create a marketing strategy that is finely revised and specific to the details of who she is. Rather than building a buckshot strategy that hopes to encompass every person, personas target the exact person who is likely to buy your product or service.

    Use Character to Craft a Message

    Now that we have created our lovely Sally, it’s time to put her to work. What message should we try and convey to her to make her more interested in our business? Having built her, we understand what motivates her, what her hopes and dreams are, and her everyday life. Now we can develop a message that fits this. Again, the more detail you can put into the persona, the better. Knowing Sally’s likes and dislikes can help create a highly detailed message that addresses the complexity that humans have. Generally, this is how it should go: you ask yourself what Sally is looking for out of your product or why she would need it, and then you make the messaging reflect that.

    This is an easy and fun process. Personas are a great exercise to advance your marketing on any campaign. As always, details are an important thing to remember. The more precise you are in the persona, the easier it becomes to make that perfect marketing strategy.

  • October 7, 2020

    SEO “How-To” Guide

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of those things that may seem too technical and complex for a small business to implement themselves. However, it’s easier than most people think.

    According to Moz, a leading expert on SEO, “It is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” Since we’re talking about search engines and Google has 90% of all searches on the internet, most of the best practices are with Google’s algorithms in mind.

    For the sake of learning, let’s pretend we’re a shoe company. Let’s begin, step by step. Welcome aboard SEO Shoe Company! Congratulations on your first day. Let’s get started!

    Google search bar


    Keywords are the foundation of how all searches are conducted and how your site is found. They are the words and phrases that people use when trying to find online content on a search engine.

    Your goal is to figure which keywords are most popular and most relevant to your business. That way, you can use them to optimize your online content. This will help you rank in the top results for those keyword searches. Finding the keywords can be easy. There are dozens of websites dedicated to identifying keywords that pertain to your business, which also have a high volume of searches. Remember to keep updating your information because the phrases people use and their popularity change over time.

    Here are some of ways you can implement keywords:

    • Use the keyword in the title of the page on your website
    • Use the keyword in the URL (ex. SEOShoeCompany.com/sneakers/blue)
    • Use the keyword, and variations of the keyword, on your site pages and in blog content
    • Link the keyword on one page of your site to another

    Keyword Questions

    Keywords that come in the form of a question are extremely valuable to businesses and their efforts to drive web traffic. Consumers often ask questions and the search engine will search websites to answer that question. If SEO Shoe Company can answer the question, that can bring amazing traffic to our website. Let’s say a consumer searches, “How to clean dirty sneakers?” It may not seem like a big deal for most. However, here at SEO Shoe Company, we know the power of that question. If they’re finding the answer on our site, that increases our brand’s recognition.

    Longtail Keywords

    Next are long tail keywords. These are long, specific phrases that consumers use when they are closer to making a purchase. For instance, someone who searches, “Men’s shoes,” is less likely to buy than someone who searches, “Men’s running shoes, blue, size 10, best prices.”

    Determining what kind of long tail keywords line up with the services and products your business offers can help boost traffic and hopefully sales. After finding these keywords, make sure you implement them naturally into your content. This could be within a heading of a blog, a blog itself, or a description of a product or service. Don’t just add in the longtail keyword, hoping for results. Also, ensure that you use different variations of the keyword to fill the gaps between different searches, so no potential consumers pass through the cracks.

    Keyword Density

    It’s critical to point out keyword density, the number of times the keyword appears. It may seem smart to overload your page and content with keywords, but this would be a critical mistake.

    In the early days of search engines, the content that would rank higher in search would be the pages that had the highest density of the relevant keywords. This became an obvious problem because we could just write, “Shoe, Shoe, Shoe,” over and over again and be the top page in the search results. Safe to say, Google and other search engines have updated their algorithms to prevent that and even penalize pages for breaking the rules.

    Hand holding the golden key

    Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

    Another way to optimize the site for search engines is by understanding how the backend of the website is structured. HTML is the code that makes up the website. Search engines, like Google, send out bots called “crawlers” to collect and catalog information from websites.

    Most think they have no control over the actions of the bot, but Google allows you to direct their crawlers in many ways. Likely, you’ll have pages that you don’t want bots to crawl such as admin pages or “Thank You” pages (displayed after a purchase).You can block the crawlers from looking at irrelevant pages using “robots.txt.” (i.e., SEOShoes.com/robots.txt).

    Here, you’re able to suggest which pages should and shouldn’t be searched, as well as the speed at which to crawl. You might want a crawler to spend more time crawling a page with lots of information as opposed to one with very little. Directing the crawlers helps optimize your “crawl budget,” which is the average number of pages a crawler will visit before leaving.

    HTML code


    Navigation is how easily each page is found and how clear that path is. Crawlers search the site’s pages by going from link to link. Navigation needs to be clear and ordered as to be as efficient as possible, so creating a sitemap is beneficial for you and the crawlers.

    The map helps you organize the site which in turn helps you manage it. You can’t let any important pages get lost through a convoluted strand of links. On the crawler’s side, it gives them a clear illustration of what is important to crawl. Google allows you to build and submit a sitemap here. This is a great tool to use but should not be a substitute for good, organized navigation.


    Lastly, you need to focus on where the pages end up. This is the index. It is where the pages are sorted based of the relevance of the user’s search.  This index is controlled by the search engines. This means when I search, “shoe,” on a search engine, the search engine will pull all the relevant pages from their index. Luckily, you also have influence on how the search engines index your site. Again, a good understanding of HTML helps here.

    Google’s site has lots of valuable SEO information. It has guides that will help you through multiple aspects of SEO, a reference page, updates on what is new to SEO guidelines, case studies, tools that help test your SEO efforts, and a help tab. It is a one-stop-shop for all your SEO needs.

    Hand mapping out navigation on white board

    SEO Shoe Company

    Let’s review what we just learned and see how it can be implemented for SEO Shoe Company. First, we learned that keywords are the foundation of SEO and there’s different types like questions and longtail. We, as a company, must find those keywords, and for us they would be things like, “Women’s heel size 6.5 gold,” or simply, “running shoes.” We can take those keywords and imbed them in our website. Whether it’s on the page title or in content that we’ve created, placing these words into our pages will boost our SEO for those types of searches.

    Next, we must get better about HTML. We should sit down and figure out which of our pages we want indexed and how we want them to be search. At the same time, we should also be thinking about how our website is laid out. It wouldn’t make sense for us to hide the sneaker section within the boots section nor would it make sense to not link the boots section to the home page. We need clear organized pages to ensure the crawlers can access all the material we want them to. We, at SEO Shoe Company, have a lot of work to do, but everything we learned today makes it that much easier to do.

    SEO is a dense subject. Entire books have been written on the best practices and many more will come. No matter how much information there is, it is not as complicated as it looks. It takes times and studying, but every business can and should implement good SEO practices. Where should you start? Try a search engine, we’re sure that can help you find some relevant content based on your keywords.

  • September 29, 2020

    Lessons Learned Series: Recruit and Retain the Best Talent

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of SRB Communications. In honor of this accomplishment, our blog series, Lessons Learned, will highlight five key lessons that founder and CEO, Dr. Sheila Brooks learned during 30 years as an entrepreneur. This week we offer the final piece of advice in this series – Lesson #5, Recruit and Retain the Best Talent. If you missed Lesson #1- Pivot the Business, #2 – Obtaining a Bank Loan, #3 –Writing a Growth Plan, or #4 – Customer First Mindset, click the links.

    You are only as good as the team that supports you. That’s why finding the best talent is imperative to the success of your business. The challenge doesn’t just stop there. Once you’ve found the talent, you need to get them to stay with your company.

    Obviously, the first step is filling a need. Business owners often make the mistake of hiring someone that they don’t really need in a misguided attempt at expansion. Growth in a company doesn’t come from hiring new people. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.

    When a company begins to expand, the opportunity to hire new people reveals itself. That requires you to pay close attention to your business and its needs. If you begin to turn down work because you don’t have enough people or lack people with the right skills, it might be time to hire. It never looks good for your business to appear incapable of handling the work of a client.

    Hiring a new employee can solve many problems in the company, as long as it’s the right fit. No matter the reason you feel you need someone, always ask yourself, “Will this person add value to my company?”

    Now that you have a position to fill, what does the best talent look like? It’s not necessarily the leading experts in the industry. Rather, it’s someone who fits the position but also fits your work culture. In order for a person to fit the position, they need the skills that are required to competently function in the job. This works both ways; just as you wouldn’t want someone under-qualified, you don’t want someone overqualified. It may seem counter-intuitive, but your goal is to retain the talent you find. Someone overqualified for the position may easily become bored and move on quickly in search of something that challenges them. That’s why finding the perfect fit is so important. A person who is equal to the position they take will stay engaged with the work they do and last longer.

    That said, no matter how well they match the position, they must match the work culture. Culture at a company is vital to its survival. Every owner should want an environment for their employees that make them feel good. You might find the best person for the job but if they don’t jell with the rest of the team and ruins the environment for other employees, it’s a bad fit.

    For example, if your current team is very serious and professional, adding a goofy and talkative new employee might not mix well into the culture. The best talent is often very different for each business and each position. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for in an employee allows you to narrow your focus and find the best for you and your business.

    There’s a number of ways you can find talent.

    There’s an app for that. We are fortunate enough to live in a world filled with technology and the phrase, “there’s an app for that,” is not untrue. There are dozens of apps and websites like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, and LinkedIn. Most notably, LinkedIn has more than 706 million users. These sites allow you to post jobs, and based on the qualifications you require, it will search there userbase for people matching the description. This ensures that you’re not wasting your time and receive the best talent for your position to review.

    Networking. However, one of the best ways to recruit talent is through your personal connections. When SRB was still in production, I knew where the talent was. I had been a television journalist, but I also had experience in radio and newspapers. So, I was able to rely on those networks I developed to find talent. As a business owner, I make it a point to be active in professional organizations. Throughout the years, I’ve cultivated relationships with all of the national minority media organizations, like the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; industry groups like the American Advertising Federation, ColorComm, the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC), Leadership Greater Washington and various Chambers of Commerce. Networking like this allows me to have insight in the industry as a whole and build connections that may one day may turn into an opportunity for recruitment.

    No matter how good we are at finding talent, getting them to join and stay is a whole other challenge. In a competitive job market, you have to give people work-life balance and allow them the opportunity to grow. You need to provide them with professional development and show them that you believe that there are creative ways that they can advance themselves. Develop unique incentives that help you recruit and retain your talent; an extra week of vacation when you hire them, extra time off, cash bonuses, rewards, birthday parties, etc. You have to show employees that you really care about them because that’s what people are looking for.

    There is a remote culture and a travel culture growing in the professional world, and you have to adapt to those changes. If you understand what drives the talent you seek to recruit, you can craft your business to provide it. Whereas the older generations lived to work; the younger ones work so that they can live. Build a culture for them.

  • September 9, 2020

    Lessons Learned Series: Customer First Mindset

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of SRB Communications. In honor of this accomplishment, our blog series, Lessons Learned, will highlight five key lessons that founder and CEO, Dr. Sheila Brooks learned during 30 years as an entrepreneur. This week we offer Lesson #4, Customer First Mindset.  If you missed Lesson #1, Pivot the Business, #2 – Obtaining a Bank Loan,  or #3 – Writing a Growth Business Plan, click the links.

    We’ve all heard it before, “the customer comes first,” “the customer is always right,” and several other cliché sayings that circulate in the business world. So, what are these quotes trying to tell us? From my 30 years in business, I’ve learned that these sayings are correct; it’s about achieving a “customer-first mindset”. Simply put, it’s part of your company’s cultural strategy.

    Let’s level set this thinking. First, as a business owner, it’s important to show your employees the value that they bring to your company. They are the ones who are working with customers day to day. So, they must be empowered to make decisions and service customers in meaningful ways. Ask yourself, “Are my customer’s needs being met and do we not only meet, but exceed their expectations?” Here are some thoughts:

    • When the marketplace changes, be ready to share innovative and creative ideas with customers. For instance, what did you do to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic?  Customers want to hear your thinking on how to improve the work you’re doing for them to better reflect the current environment. Adopting the customer-first mindset is also about sharing new insights, listening and paying attention to their immediate needs.

    • Keep the communication lines open. Always make it easy for customers to interact with your team. Your employees should also be prepared to report back to the rest of the team on their progress, opportunities and challenges. Sharing knowledge is key to boost transparency and engage your employees more.

    • Stay attuned to your customer’s strategy, their attitudes, industry standards, and business environments. Every customer interaction that you have is an opportunity for you or your employees to get feedback on your services.

    As the CEO of a 30-year-old business, it’s important that I lead the charge and closely listen to our customer feedback. But I also instill in my team so that we are always putting our customers first. By doing so, we get to know them better and understand their needs and expectations. It helps us to understand not only what is happening with them now, but what is going to be required of us in the future.

    If you grow with your customers your business will grow. The moment you get complacent is the moment you’ve failed your customers. Remember, your work is never done. Serve your clients or die tryin’.

  • August 25, 2020

    Lessons Learned Series: Writing A Business Growth Plan

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of SRB Communications. In honor of this accomplishment, our blog series, Lessons Learned, will highlight five key lessons that founder and CEO, Dr. Sheila Brooks learned during 30 years as an entrepreneur. This week we offer Lesson #3 – Writing Your Business Growth Plan.  If you missed Lesson #1, Pivot the Business, or #2 – Obtaining a Bank Loan, click the links.

    I encourage you to invest in yourself. The clearer your vision is about your business, the sooner it becomes a reality. It’s more important now than ever to write and update your business growth plan regularly since there is no playbook for surviving through a pandemic, which can create opportunities.

    What are you working towards? What are your goals? Where are you headed? These are good questions to ask yourself in life and, just as importantly, in business. Running a business requires long-term thinking and foresight. Every action you take should be pushing you towards the goal you set beforehand. Whether it’s growing your business’s sales by 10% or selling it in 10 years, knowing where you’re headed creates a path to success that is easier to see.

    What is a Business Growth Plan?

    A business growth plan is a strategic plan that allows you to plan, track, and execute actions that push your business forward. The growth is simply the expansion of any aspect of the business. Having a set plan helps in three critical ways:

    • It helps you realize your business goals
    • It offers a set path to push your business forward, and
    • It allows you to keep tabs on your progress

    Why is a Growth Plan Important in Business?

    Many people go into business not realizing what they really want out of it. I learned early in my career as an entrepreneur that you must have a business plan to ensure that your company is focused on growth. Approximately 80% of businesses in this country fail within the first year, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). By the fifth year in business, more than half of the small businesses, 45% – 51%, have closed their doors. The primary reason for small businesses to fail is a lack of adequate capital, primarily because they had no business growth plan. It is essential that an entrepreneur has a written blueprint on how they will access capital, recruit and retain the best talent, manage their operations, know their market and competitors, and so much more.

    According to CB Insights, 17% of small businesses fail because they lack a business model. Ask yourself, do you want to be in business or just a consultant? If you want to be in business, you should know how to answer these questions. How big do you want the business to be? How will you know if you have reached your goals? How do you want to grow once you’ve achieved those goals? If you don’t have these types of questions answered, you’re essentially driving with no destination which is almost a guarantee to failure.

    Having a business growth plan keeps you focused on what needs to be done. With a clear path to success laid out, it’s much easier to stay focused on the day-to-day and long-term picture. Maintaining your drive is imperative in keeping your business afloat, and a growth plan keeps you motivated along the way.

    Early in my career, I knew that I was very clear that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start a business with full-time employees, office space, and full-service production facility. Those aspirations seemed aggressive at the time, but they served as the inspiration behind the plan that turned those aspirations into goals. The key to my success was I waited for the right time – when I could afford to pay for them. They were part of my plan, and it’s a plan that I continue to follow, revisit, and revise whenever necessary, and it helps me see how to achieve success down the road. I’m proud of where SRB Communications is 30 years later. We’ve always had a written business growth plan and always will.

    The business growth plan also allows for continued reassurance that you are on the right track. The plan gives you check points and the ability to review the progress you have made. This gives you increased confidence on the actions you take. Knowing you’re headed in the right direction for your business makes each new step easier to take. Checking on your progress also lends the opportunity to see what hasn’t work in progressing you towards your ultimate goal. If you’re not seeing the growth you’d like to see, a growth plan will give you the opportunity to stop and pivot before it’s too late.

    Business is a long-term game that must be played with well-defined plan in mind. You should be constantly thinking of how you can better your company and achieve the goal that you set. Nothing is too small or too big to take on if it means bringing new growth to the company. Remaining focused on your growth day in and day out drives success. It’s the “sink or swim, swim or die” mentality that allows a business to survive. In business, we must be sharks. If we stop moving forward, we die.

  • August 4, 2020

    Lessons Learned Series: Getting a Bank Loan

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of SRB Communications. In honor of this accomplishment our blog series, Lessons Learned, will highlight five key lessons that founder and CEO Dr. Sheila Brooks learned during 30 years in business. Each week the blog will offer a new lesson and new advice. This week we offer Lesson #2 – Getting A Bank Loan.  If you missed Lesson #1 – Pivot the Business, here’s the link.

    Access to capital is critical for starting and growing a small business, but many people don’t realize that the need extends beyond the first few years. If your goal is to expand your business, obtaining a bank loan or line of credit could help you invest further invest in your company and push you towards your growth goals. Here’s what you need to know:

    • It’s important that business owners have access to capital, especially for unforeseen circumstances.
    • It’s also important that your business credit and personal credit are in good shape.
    • The main difference between a loan and a line of credit is how you get the money and how and what you repay. A loan is a lump sum of money that is repaid over a fixed term with interest.  A line of credit is a revolving account that allows borrowers to draw, repay and redraw from available funds.
    person holding black card

    Obtaining a line of credit or bank loan is an investment in your business. Know exactly what purchases you plan to make with that loan and how it will help increase profitability. Do not get a bank loan unless you have a clear plan of how that money will be used to further your business and how you’ll pay it off.

    black white and red round arrow

    The best advice I can give you is to get a loan or line of credit when you don’t need the money. I’ve learned this from my own experience as a business owner. After my fifth year in business, I decided it was time for me to invest in editing equipment and an audio recording studio.

    Although I got a loan to do that, I didn’t need the money. But I knew that by investing in the editing equipment and audio recording studio I would keep a large percentage of business in-house that I had been outsourcing. And I also knew I wanted to grow my business.

    At that time in 1995, I had contracts with the federal government for about five years, had received our 8(a) certification and was positioned to win some other bigger government contracts. Acquiring this equipment would bring much of my editing production in-house and allow for more profits on those contracts. So, I got the loan a 5-year loan and paid it off in 2½ half years. The 8(a) program is a federal government 9-year business development program for small, disadvantaged businesses. We successfully completed that program in 2003.

    In business it is imperative that you go after capital tirelessly. You must be able to build banking relationships. And, most importantly, you’ll need good credit. As a small business owner, you have to pull those credit reports, see where you stand and work to bring your credit scores up – both business and personal. If you fund your business on credit, you’ll have to make sure that you are paying those bills on time every month.

    Our current economy provides a grave example of why it is important to have access to capital. Once the global health pandemic hit, corporations, governments and small businesses were forced to downsize with layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts. Many rushed to banks to request more money – without success. It isn’t just small businesses; big businesses are struggling with access to capital, too. This pandemic is teaching us a great deal about the U.S. economy.

     So, it’s important to remember that bank loans and lines of credit require a great deal of responsibility. They can be great tools to help your business grow, but do not to misuse them. The result could be disastrous to both you and your business.

  • July 24, 2020

    Lessons Learned Series: Pivot the Business

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of SRB Communications. In honor of this accomplishment, our blog series, Lessons Learned, will highlight the five most important lessons that Dr. Brooks learned in 30 years of business as the founder, president and CEO. Check in next week for Lesson #2.

    Starting a business is a risky venture for anyone to take. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. The world is a constantly changing place. Many hopeful entrepreneurs don’t prepare themselves or their businesses for the strain that can be placed on them. And no matter how long your company has been in business, you’ll need to know when it’s time to pivot.

    Sorry we're closed signage hanged on glass door

    Pivoting a business is not just adding new service offerings, it’s a systematic change in your business model. That being said, you shouldn’t wait until your business is under severe economic strain to think about how you can pivot your business. Always have your business prepared to shift business models, you never know when you’ll need to make a change.

    Look at what’s happening in the world today. No one could have predicted a global health pandemic would hit and totally devastate the economy. Though the causes are different, we find the world heading towards an identical economic situation as the recession from 2007-2009. That recession hit small businesses very hard. SRB Communications lost 90% of our business, pretty much overnight. The media landscape changed dramatically. We went from producing 90-100 videos a year in our million- dollar production facility to competing with one-man teams with a small camera, iPhones, laptop and at-home editing software. Producing original television programming on a regular basis for network and cable TV was replaced by reality shows.

    As the CEO, I looked at my business, our services, personnel and the media landscape. Though we were a production company, we still had one large advertising contract with Pepco Holdings. I had to make some tough decisions. I could shut down the company after 18 years of business and call it a victory or I could pivot the business from TV production to marketing and advertising, where production of radio and TV commercials are still dominant.

    When I looked at the media landscape and did the market research, what I found was that there was more business to pursue in the energy and utilities industry. And that business was expanding to advertising and marketing work and executing campaigns, e.g. educating customers about utility programs and initiatives. And so that is when I decided that if we could win one (1) utility contract, we should go after every gas, water, and electric company in DC. And we did. And we won. And then we went to Maryland. We won again. Then we started winning utility contracts up the East Coast. After a few years of pursuing and winning contracts in the utilities vertical, we continued to expand our business verticals in advertising and marketing to higher education institutions, government and transportation agencies, political campaigns, convention centers and sports arenas.

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    So, for me and for SRB Communications, pivoting the business was about learning that we had to sell what our clients want and need. Too often a business fails because they provide services that their customers are no longer looking for. SRB Communications was a TV production company but the market shifted, so we had to do the same. In sports, there’s a saying, “Be where the ball is going, not where it is.” Look at your market, figure out what your customers need, and if you can have the capabilities, be that. Sell what clients need, not just what you have.

    Business is unforgiving and to survive you have to stay on your toes. Pivoting leads to a business that is flexible enough to surpass those vulnerable years where many fail. Your business is in fact not yours; it belongs to the customers you serve. The customers decide if you succeed or fail, so it’s best that you listen intently to their needs.

  • June 26, 2020

    SRB 30th Anniversary

    This year, SRB Communications is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Since starting in the third bedroom of the home she shared with her husband in 1990, the company has evolved into a full-service boutique advertising and marketing agency with offices in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New York City.

    The company and its CEO, Sheila Dean Brooks, have won hundreds of local, regional and national awards. And former employees have gone on to jobs at major corporations, media companies and the U.S. government. During the process, Brooks has gone on to receive her master’s degree and Ph.D. From Howard University.

    Those are all incredible feats, especially considering that one-third of small businesses in the U.S. fail in their first two years of operation, and half are gone in five years.

    “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being a lifelong learner and staying ahead of the curve,” Brooks says. “The digital landscape has truly transformed our world. We can see now, more than ever, how important it is to the way we do business and live our lives.”

    Sheila Dean Brooks started SRB Communications in 1990 with a business partner in the third bedroom of her home in suburban Maryland after spending nearly 13 years as a television reporter, producer and news anchor in markets in Texas, Washington state and Washington, D.C.

    The company started as a partnership focused on television and video production, but quickly within a few months evolved into a sole proprietorship.

    The following year was critical in the growth of the company. Brooks hired her first employee and received its first government contract. By 1992, SRB moved into its first “real” office space, at 15th and K Streets, NW, in Washington, D.C. one block from where the company is today. 

    By 1995, the company had purchased production equipment and became a full-fledged TV and video production company, with a slogan From Script to Screen. Clients included TV One, America’s Most Wanted, BET, and WBAL-TV in Baltimore.

    By 2008, with the housing recession in full swing, and the TV and video production business changing quickly and dramatically, SRB pivoted into advertising and marketing with a focus on multicultural audiences.

    Today, the company has won more than 200 national and international awards for production and advertising and marketing campaigns. Clients include Exelon Corp., Pepco, Washington Gas, DC Water, Baltimore Gas and Electric, University of the District of Columbia, Bowie State University and Events DC, which operates the DC convention center and sports arena network.

    “My passion in serving multicultural audiences has led me to a purpose that is both profitable and valuable,” Brooks says. “I can’t give up on that. The work I do is not solely for me. I’ve invested in so many lives and so many people have invested in me.”

  • June 5, 2020

    WWPR Spotlight

    Our fearless leader, President and CEO of SRB Communications, Dr. Sheila Brooks, has quite a bit going on for the next few months. June marks 30 years in business for SRB Communications; her book, Lucile H. Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice is getting its paperback release and she was recently spotlighted by Washington Women in PR. The article written by Florence Sumaray was published on WWPR’s website, but check it out below:

    Meet Sheila Brooks, Ph.D., Founder, President and CEO of SRB Communications

    Sheila is the founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications, an advertising, marketing and PR agency based in Washington, DC. SRB Communications will be celebrating 30 years in business in June 2020.

    Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Sheila spent nearly 13 years in television newsrooms across the country, first as an anchor, reporter and producer, and eventually as a news director and executive producer. Throughout her career, she has taught courses in journalism as a college professor, and she currently teaches multicultural marketing in the Strategic Public Relations program at the George Washington University.

    In 2015, she returned to the classroom and completed a Ph.D. in Media, Culture and Communications at Howard University. Over the years she’s won numerous awards including two Emmys, the inaugural Pat Tobin Media Relations Award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the 2019 NABJ Ida B. Wells Award. She was also nominated for the 2019 NAACP Image Award for literary work on publishing her first book, Lucile H. Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice.

    Leading SRB Communications

    Over the past decade, Sheila’s job as CEO of a minority- and woman- owned business, has evolved from working “in” the business to working “on” the business. Her talented team of eight to 10 employees handle the day-to-day accounts under the leadership of No. 2, Adiya Mobley, SRB Communications’ Vice President of Marketing and Communications. Sheila enjoys closing deals and developing and executing a growth strategy for the agency.

    Joining WWPR

    Sheila joined WWPR to connect with some of the most talented PR professionals in the country. It also provides opportunities for her and the staff at SRB Communications to network and share new ideas.

    Outside of the office

    Sheila serves on the Federal City Council as a member of the Board of Trustees and as chair of the Board of Visitors for the Global School of Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University. She also serves on the advisory board of the Jim Vance Media Center at Archbishop Carroll High School. Sheila finds her many decades of serving on boards for journalism, educational and entrepreneurial organizations proves to be rewarding. She also enjoys giving back to the community and is specifically committed to sharing her experiences with young people.

    Staying busy during COVID-19

    Sheila generally loves to cook and entertain. Since COVID-19, she has spent more weekend time with her husband at their beach house, only an hour away in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. They social distance walk with friends, barbecue, and just enjoy the serenity of the Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, during the week when she’s home in Silver Spring, Maryland, she is loving her Peloton.

    Defining the “new normal” for SRB Communications

    SRB Communications has been working remotely nearly three months while continuing to provide clients superior services and value add. The company has been fortunate to work from home daily during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the team at SRB Communications realizes is a privilege many people aren’t afforded.

    Besides working from home, it has been business as usual for the most part. They have daily team and client meetings, and new business efforts keep them busy regularly. They are also excited to be celebrating their 30th year anniversary this year with a year-long roll out of campaigns to introduce to the public and their stakeholders.

    Keeping up with trends in communications

    Sheila can’t emphasize enough the importance of being a lifelong learner and staying ahead of the curve. Keeping up with digital trends is essential for SRB Communications to stay ahead of their competition. To do so, Sheila personally reads two books per month, and as an agency, they subscribe to several information resources. Some of those resources include following the right marketing thought-leaders and influencers, taking advantage of the many resources their partners have access to, networking with other marketers in the field through Meetups and networking sites. Lastly but most importantly, remaining agile and embracing new technology as it is introduced to the public. They also prioritize attending webinars and annual conferences like the National Association of Black Journalists, AAF-DC and ColorComm.

    How the industry has changed in the past five years

    In the past five years, the digital landscape has truly transformed the world, and the SRB Communications’ team now understands more than ever how important it is for their business and their lives. There have been so many advancements in the way people communicate through technology. The digital space is ever-evolving, and as marketing and communications professionals, it is our responsibility to stay abreast on the latest technologies driving the day-to-day work.

    Celebrating SRB Communications’ 30th anniversary

    If you asked Sheila his time last year what they would be doing to celebrate SRB Communications’ 30 year anniversary, she never would have guessed celebrating during a global pandemic. However, here they are, celebrating … in the midst of a global pandemic.

    Even though they are all quarantined and safely social distancing, they have decided to transition their celebratory efforts to the digital atmosphere. They’re excited to reintroduce the SRB brand and newly designed logo to the public. They also have a few content and storytelling campaigns rolling out across their social media channels throughout the entirety of the anniversary year. To kick off 2021, they’ll be releasing their 2021 Multicultural Marketing Trends Report outlining the latest and greatest happenings in inclusive marketing and campaigns. Make sure you follow them on social media to get the latest 30th anniversary update: TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

    Lessons learned during this pandemic and how to stay positive

    If you don’t walk away from this pandemic having learned something new, whether about yourself or about the broader community that we live in, then you’ve missed a huge growth opportunity. Sheila has learned that as a community they are stronger together. She has seen that play out even within the SRB team. She has watched the team stay resilient in the face of this pandemic and stay committed to their client’s work and the agency business. She stays positive because of her advisors and her fellow business owners that are supportive with regular phone calls, emails and texts.

    Like many fellow business owners, Sheila has also learned how to work from home. That’s not something she thought she would be able to do, but the team has done it and hasn’t skipped a beat. Sheila has faced other crises over the past 30 years in business, and through them all,  she’s learned to embrace the challenges, create opportunities, stay innovative, and most importantly, trust in her unshakeable faith. She is truly fortunate to be able to do this work with honor and a sense of responsibility at this moment in time.

    Five lessons learned from 30 years of running a successful marketing and communications firm

    Sheila’s passion in serving multicultural audiences has led her to a purpose that is both profitable and valuable. She can’t give up on that. The work she does is not solely for her. She’s invested in so many lives and so many have invested in her. You can’t stay in business and keep people working if you don’t make a profit. You have to keep that in mind.

    Five lessons Sheila has learned in running a successful marketing and communications firm:

    1. Know when to pivot the business. Stop selling what you have. Sell what the client needs.
    2. Keep a customer-first mindset.
    3. Obtain a bank loan or line of credit before you need it.
    4. Recruit and retain the best talent.
    5. Stay laser focused on your business growth plan.
  • May 22, 2020

    A Marketer’s Role During COVID-19

    As marketers, we hold a great deal of responsibility during this global pandemic. While healthcare staff, first responders, and other essential workers focus on the physical health and security of citizens, it is the responsibility of marketers to help people cope with our “new normal”. This not only benefits society as a whole, but it will help position your company as a community partner and a brand that your customers can rely on during times of crisis. So, here are 4 things you can do to manage your marketing strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.


    1. Determine Your Company’s Position in a Pandemic

    If you are a marketer, odds are you are in the middle of managing a number of different campaigns and editorial calendars. A crisis of this magnitude can easily overshadow your promotion and marketing efforts, so you’ll have to determine if it’s fiscally and socially responsible to continue your campaigns. In some cases, you can pivot the campaign to address the crisis and provide content that is beneficial and relevant to your customers. Obviously, every business is unique and will be impacted differently, so there is no exact answer to what should and shouldn’t be suspended. As a rule of thumb, you should determine if your business is uniquely positioned to speak to the pandemic and how you can show up for your customers in the time of crisis. From that point, you can make a better judgement call and decide if you should stay silent or shift your messaging and content offering.


    2. Revise Your Content Calendar

    If you do decide to continue your marketing campaigns, it’s imperative you review all scheduled content to determine if it aligns with community health measures and messaging, and then adjust accordingly. The words and images you use, no matter how small, delivers a message to the people who consume it. When designing creative, avoid using pictures with people interacting closely with one another or using language like “get in touch,” or, “come meet the…” as this could be taken as tone-deaf or out of touch messaging during this time. As a marketer, you can help endorse the new normal by incorporating our new social guidelines into your creative and messaging.

    Ultimately, follow the strategy that fits to your company and consumer’s needs best. Reevaluate your content and creative and know that the best strategy may not be selling your products at this time, but rather showing how your company can help people overall.


    3. Market Your Beliefs and Values

    In recent years, we have seen consumers become increasingly more aware of societal issues and have expected the businesses they frequent to share their social and environmental values. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses will try to use this as an opportunity to sell their business or product, but cause marketing is not about capitalizing on a global crisis. Cause marketing is about developing and strengthening your relationship with consumers by connecting with them on societal issues that matters to them the most and aligns with your company’s values.

    There are many ways your company can contribute to the effort to curtail this pandemic. Some companies have started to manufacture and donate essential items like ventilators and masks to those who need them the most. Other companies have donated hotel rooms to healthcare workers on the frontline or donated money to hospitals and other organizations fighting COVID-19 cases. These are all great ways to showcase your support and company values and can provide a great opportunity for marketing that helps companies build credibility and trust among its consumers and helps keep them abreast of the efforts you are doing to help end the crisis.

    This brings us to our next point.


    4. Build Deeper Connections Through Human Stories

    People are looking for something to be hopeful about. Everyone loves a story that they can get behind, especially stories that are relatable. Let the story be yours. It’s the perfect time to deliver human-driven stories that provide a way for people to connect while stuck at home. Employees are a great resource for developing personable content. Your employees are affected by this crisis just like everybody else. Highlight what they have been doing to stay busy and active during this time. Sharing their story makes your audience view your company as more just a faceless entity, it’s a collection of real people. As their leader, keeping them positive should be a priority too. Show your audience the ways you and your team have stayed connected and upbeat. Also, try to utilize your audience to produce user-generated content and engage in a campaign that is optimistic and engaging. That being said, you have to be aware of your positivity. Blind optimism is a poor mindset to have in a time of crisis. Don’t pretend everything is fine and ignore the issue. No one likes the band playing music on a sinking ship.