Today we’d like to introduce you to Maureen Wolff and David Calusdian.
Maureen and David began working at Sharon Merrill Associates long before buying the strategic communications firm from namesake and founder Sharon Merrill in 2016. After a stint in the investor relations and corporate communications departments at Lotus Development, Maureen was the firm’s first employee in 1985, responsible not only for writing press releases but also shuttling by taxi each day to hand-deliver her clients’ financial news to Dow Jones, Reuters and the Associated Press. David joined the firm 10 years later, after receiving undergrad and grad degrees in political communication from Emerson College and spending a few years at a political consultancy.
Earlier this year the strategic communications firm, which is known for its crisis communications and corporate communications expertise, was named Most Outstanding Strategic Communications Team by the UK-based business magazine, Acquisition International. This was just the most recent in a string of awards the firm has received, including Best Financial Communications Campaign and Best Employee Communications. Exemplifying the firm’s focus on digital communications, Sharon Merrill Associates also was recently awarded for its outstanding Twitter feed.
Maureen and David credit the firm’s success to a ‘high-touch’ approach that combines senior-level experience and immediate responsiveness. Client calls are answered immediately – no one goes to voicemail. And every client email is answered within one hour. Whether helping to steer a CEO through a crisis or giving presentation training to a podium-shy CFO, the key, they say, is making sure they have a deep understanding of the business and the issues involved.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Any entrepreneur will tell you that growing a business is never a completely smooth path. But when we’ve hit bumps in the road like the recessions in ’01 and ’08, we took the opportunity to reevaluate our services, talent and our capabilities, and came out a stronger organization.
Sharon Merrill Associates – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our core skills are strategic thinking and communications. Our team includes former journalists, political consultants and financial analysts, and we each bring something unique to the table. The combination of backgrounds at the firm has enabled us to excel in helping companies navigate through crises – those sudden, unwelcome events that threaten reputation, credibility and financial value. It could be a data breach, a nationwide product recall, a drug failure or the sudden death of the CEO. Over the years we’ve dealt with all of those.
Business leaders are inherently positive. We’re generalizing here, but for the most part, they don’t like to think about the worst-case scenario. And that’s understandable, since their job description revolves around motivating employees, encouraging strategic risk-taking, promoting their organizations and generating returns for shareholders. But when a crisis hits, what leaders need most is a calm, experienced and strategic voice that isn’t intimidated by speaking truth to power. We understand how to help companies not only say the right things but do the right things, so their credibility is restored as quickly as possible.
Another area where we excel is presentation and media training. There’s plenty of research out there to support the contention that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. Many executives are not immune from that fear. We have a three-step approach to solve that problem. First, we help our clients develop great content – a concise, powerful story that resonates because it answers the audience’s fundamental question: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Second, we spend significant time on delivery –tone, vocal variety and body language. Third, we teach clients how to respond to questions effectively, including those difficult, negative or leading questions.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of our careers was when we became the owners of the firm that had already been each of our life’s work. For 32 and 22 years respectively, we had dedicated our careers and much of our personal focus into making Sharon Merrill Associates one of the most respected strategic communications firms in the nation, so taking full ownership seemed destiny fulfilled. We’re proud of what we have built, and we’re excited by the prospect of evolving and growing the firm over the coming years.
- Address: 77 Franklin Street, Boston, MA
- Website: www.SharonMerrill.com
- Phone: 6175425300
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter: @sharonmerrillIR