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  • 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.

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    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.”

  • November 1, 2019

    29Rooms: “Expand Your Reality” in Washington, D.C.

    For the first time ever, Refinery 29 took their interactive exhibit, 29Rooms, on the road and this year’s theme, “Expand Your Reality”, promised to “connect you to your curiosity and unlock your sense of wonder through mind-bending creativity and bold collaborations.”

    The DC event took place at the DC Armory with installations that were a mishmash of art, activism, marketing and corporate sponsorship under the Refinery29 brand. The exhibit allowed visitors to meander through 29 distinct experiences created by local DC artists Kali Uchis, Yvette Mayorga, NNEKKA and many others.

    Here is a quick overview of the installations that really caught my eye:

    • Dream Doorways (Collaboration with Kali Uchis): This room put you in a surreal alternate universe to interpret your thoughts, dreams and unconscious.
    • 29 Questions: This room was a social experiment that asked visitors to disconnect from technology and engage with a stranger by asking each other questions.
    • The Art Park (Collaboration with Yvette Mayorga, Dan Lam, NNEKKAA, Hanski, and Trap Bob): A climbable staircase that created a canvas that explored unique ways of showcasing art through playful and creative composition.
    • Dance Break: This room got people dancing by offering up an awesome soundtrack.
    • A Long Line of Queendom (Collaboration with Unbothered): This room was a celebration of and dedication to Black millennial women and the truths that make up their experiences.

    In terms of corporate sponsorship, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) did the experience better than others. ACLU’s exhibit, The Values Stand, was an Andy Warhol-like “news stand” that fit in seamlessly with Refinery 29 branding. It pushed a message of community activism by getting people to pledge to better their communities through voting and signing up for ACLU’s community volunteer teams.

    Other brand sponsorships at the event felt a little out of place at the exhibit and there seemed to be a disconnect between the sponsor’s brand and the Refinery 29 brand.

    Personally, I believe the intent of the exhibit was to showcase the art and create space for conversation about the cultural landscape and political climate. But in reality, I don’t think that 29Rooms pushed enough to expand that conversation, rather it offered up an opportunity for people to take selfies with corporately branded art.

    With that being said, the event was a really fun time. It provided a great introduction to the creativity of some of DC’s best artists and I now have enough selfies to get me through the next few months of #throwbackthursdays.

  • October 30, 2019

    SRB Celebrates National Women’s Small Business Month

    At SRB Communications, we recognize the fiercely talented women entrepreneurs who are paving the path for their peers.

    I’ve been an entrepreneur for 29 years. As we approach our 30th anniversary, I often marvel at the ways SRB Communications has grown in new business, strategic partnerships and retaining the absolute best marketing talent in town. I am also humbled at how entrepreneurship has brought me closer to other strong women business owners across generations – some who I’ve mentored and some who have mentored me. I am filled with gratitude when I think of the ways these women have impacted my life as an entrepreneur.

    This month, we celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month, which means it’s time to honor women-owned businesses everywhere, as well as the progress female entrepreneurs have made over the years. As I reflect on my years as an advocate of women entrepreneurs and the significance of this month, I am reminded of the strides women have made in business and entrepreneurship. According to the latest American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the growth of women-owned businesses continues at a rapid pace.

    As I honor other women entrepreneurs for their contributions to business, I am also humbled by the advances I’ve seen in my own business, SRB Communications, which was recently recognized by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Last week, I attended the NMSDC Conference in Atlanta, Ga., where SRB Communications won the 2019 Supplier of the Year award. This was truly an honor because as much as I’ve accomplished throughout my career, the Supplier of the Year award is a testament to the hard work of the SRB team, both nationally and the local honor we received in 2018 from the CRMSDC to position us for the national win. I am proud to say that the staff of SRB Communications is 85% women. And as I continue to grow this business, it is crucial that I continue to invest in other women and diverse communities just as our Fortune 100 clients have invested in us.

    Every Monday morning at our weekly SRB staff meeting, we dedicate a portion of the time to an agenda item we call “Lessons Learned.” It’s a point of discussion for our team to share their wins, challenges and areas of opportunity learned from the campaigns we execute. In Atlanta last week, I started to think about the lessons I’ve learned growing a business in marketing and advertising, being an award-winning diverse supplier to some of the biggest utility companies in the mid-Atlantic region, government and transportation agencies, higher education institutions, and leading a team of marketing experts that is also representative of today’s diverse America.

    Here are three of my biggest lessons learned:

    Lesson 1: Build your board of advisors.

    You can learn from your own experience, but it’s better to learn from other people’s experience, especially when those same people have achieved success in the same field as you and other fields. Turn to these women and men for advice on how to run your business. A board of advisors can advise you on your finances and human resources, but also offer strategies to marketing the business and growth in areas you may not be proficient in.

    Lesson 2: Trust and invest in your people.

    As an entrepreneur it’s easy to take on all of the responsibilities required to run your business — though it’s not easy to manage them all. Your team is your biggest asset and a great representation of the work you do. Choose people who not only are good at doing the work but are also a good cultural fit. And make sure you feel empowered to delegate the work, as necessary. You hired them for a reason. Trust they will be able to do their jobs.

    Lesson 3: Embrace new technologies.

    Smart business owners should take advantage of new tools to help manage their business. For instance, digital marketing tools like social media, newsletters and blog writing is a great way to grow your customer base, network with other business owners and helps you lean into the way people are communicating these days.

    Do you have other resource suggestions for women business owners? Which resources have been the most beneficial to you? Let us know in the comment section below.

  • October 16, 2019

    SRB Communications Wins 2019 Supplier of the Year Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

    Washington, D.C. October 15, 2019 – SRB Communications received the 2019 Supplier of the Year Award in the Class II category ($1 million to $10 million in revenue) from the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). This award recognizes outstanding minority business enterprises (MBEs) for their business growth and development, operational success, support of other minority businesses, and active participation in the community.

    SRB Communications was nominated for the award by Pepco Holdings – an Exelon company, and one of the agency’s Fortune 100 corporate clients since 1996. Currently, SRB Communications serves as the multicultural agency of record for the utility, serving the Washington, D.C. region, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The agency currently has had several multi-year contracts with the utility over the years including providing communications and community outreach work for a multi-year infrastructure project that will modernize the energy grid in the District of Columbia and areas in the state of Maryland.

    The national awards event, which was held on October 14, 2019 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA, recognizes minority entrepreneurs who have excelled in providing quality services and products to major corporations that have a strong commitment to supplier diversity. NMSDC has 23 affiliate regional offices. Each of the affiliate councils selected regional winners over the past year, totaling approximately 92 MBE businesses in the final four revenue categories.

    In 2018, SRB Communications was recognized as Supplier of the Year by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC). Only 16 of these regional award recipients rose to the national level across the four revenue categories of which SRB Communications was one of them. Ultimately, SRB Communications won the national title in the Class II category.

    SRB Communications is a full-service advertising, marketing and PR agency in Washington, D.C., with satellite offices in Baltimore and Manhattan, New York. The boutique agency specializes in multicultural markets, public relations, media relations, community outreach and broadcast production. We are storytellers who deliver integrated advertising solutions through all media channels. For more information visit www.srbcommunications.com.

  • November 22, 2017

    Website Redesign Launch Party Recap Video

    On October 26, 2017, SRB Communications hosted clients, strategic partners, friends, and colleagues at our office in Washington, D.C. for an exclusive view of our newly redesigned website. There were door prizes, great food, and networking happening all while previewing the website. Thank you to all who attended. Enjoy this recap video!

  • August 31, 2017

    Sheila Brooks Receives 2017 NABJ President’s Award

    Long-time National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) member Sheila Brooks is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious NABJ President’s Award.

    Each year, the NABJ president hands out the honor annually for outstanding service and commitment to the organization.

    In announcing the selection at the Salute to Excellence Awards program during the 42nd NABJ Convention and Career Fair in New Orleans earlier this month, NABJ President Sarah Glover praised Brooks for her “never-ending support during a very challenging era.”

    “There wasn’t a time that Dr. Brooks was called that she didn’t step up providing exceptional service and leadership as we improved the way we do business,” Glover said as she shared major accomplishments during her two-year term. “We erased a huge deficit and ended our first year with an impressive surplus that allowed us to further solidify our future.”
    Citing Brooks’ leadership role in helping to develop and implement the NABJ Strategic Plan 2017-2020, Glover, who was elected to a second term as president during the convention, noted that the Emmy-award winning journalist, entrepreneur, and dedicated advocate for minority and women’s issues and small businesses went above and beyond for NABJ, guiding the board as it made oftentimes tough decisions to further position the organization for success.

    This is the third time Brooks has been recognized for her service to NABJ with the President’s Award; she’s the first NABJ member to receive the accolade three times.

    “Early in the morning or late at night, Dr. Brooks answered the call for NABJ,” continued Glover. “She is no stranger to NABJ and the decisions she makes are in the best interest of the organization and its members.

    “This isn’t a popularity contest for her. She is genuinely interested in the growth and development of NABJ.”

    A three-term former national NABJ board member, Brooks has worked 40 years on various NABJ committees. Her legacy was firmly cemented with the founding of the NABJ Student Projects in 1990, a weeklong newsroom training experience where students work with professional journalists during the NABJ convention.
    “I love NABJ and I am so proud of the leadership of President Glover,” she said during her acceptance speech. “This organization has done and continues to do so much for journalists and the industry. I will always support NABJ as I have for the past 40 years as a member. It has been an honor serving this administration.”

    Brooks is founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications, a full-service 27-year-old advertising and marketing agency in Washington, D.C., with satellite offices in Baltimore, Maryland and New York City. The boutique agency specializes in multicultural markets, helping clients develop their brand, positioning and strategies through integrated media formats in broadcast, print, digital, and social media for advertising, marketing, outreach and public education campaigns. Brooks is an expert in multicultural marketing, entrepreneurial education and minority business issues.

    Prior to starting her company in 1990, Brooks built a distinguished television career as a reporter, anchor, and news director at CBS, NBC, and PBS affiliate TV stations across the country. She worked as the documentary executive producer for WTTG Reports at the Fox owned-and operated station in the District. Her more than 39 years in the television and communications industry has garnered more than 100 awards including two 2016 Salute to Excellence Marketing and Public Relations Awards for her agency’s work on the University of the District of Columbia’s Marketing Campaign and Microsite/Website Landing Page from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), 47 national Telly Awards and induction in the Silver Circle – a Hall of Fame honor from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which recognizes more than 25 years of excellence in journalism.

    Brooks’ husband, Rodney, and her son, Andre, are also members of NABJ.

  • August 25, 2017

    Team Building: An Essential Key To A Company’s Success

    Working for an advertising and marketing agency, our team is constantly on the move. We simultaneously balance work for multiple clients, while also doing internal work for the agency, which is recipe for a busy week. How do we do it, you might ask? The answer is easy, the SRB Communications’ team is comprised of hard workers who, over time, have learned how to successfully work with each other and build on individual strengths.

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  • June 12, 2017

    SRB COMMUNICATIONS SPONSORS CAPITAL REGION MINORITY SUPPLIER DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL GOLF TOURNAMENT

    The Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC) Annual Golf Classic was held on June 12 and SRB Communications was the sponsor of hole number 14.

    The SRB Communications’ foursome was comprised of Dr. Sheila Brooks, Jay Lakhat, Sr. Vice President at Wells Fargo; TV One host Roland Martin; and longtime friend Bernard Holly.