The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Laura Taylor of Silverline Communications
We’re excited to kick off Year Three of the Common Sense Colloquy Q&A series with our friend, colleague and agency partner leader Laura Taylor. Laura is President and CEO of Silverline Communications, a DC-based full-service integrated communications agency focused on the B2B technology sector. Under Laura’s leadership, the firm has recently expanded its footprint beyond the DC metropolitan area with offices in Chicago and Salt Lake City.
Silverline Communications is the newest member of the RENEWPR Partners group, joining a list of firms in DC and around the nation that taken as a whole provide the complete suite of communications, marketing, research, advertising and public relations functions. We’re thrilled to have Laura and her excellent team join us and excited to celebrate our partnership in a month that celebrates the accomplishments of women surrounding International Women’s Day.
Laura is an accomplished public relations industry leader, having previously been a founding leader in the global clean technology practice at Edelman and building a clean technology practice for Omnicom. She founded Silverline Communications in 2009. And in case running a growing, successful agency isn’t enough, Laura is also the visionary behind The Cleanie Awards ®, a national awards program for the cleantech industry she launched in 2018 (full disclosure: RENEWPR and client the Carbon Capture Coalition won the Inaugural Cleanie Award for Public Affairs Campaign of the Year in 2018). Laura has chaired and served on multiple boards including Potential Energy DC and CleanTech Open Southeast.
We have had the pleasure of working with Laura and her team multiple times and we have always appreciated their camaraderie, can-do spirit and collegiality. It’s an honor to work with Silverline and Laura and we consider ourselves so fortunate to be their partner.
Our big thanks to Laura for sharing her insight with us – and you.
Q: Cleantech can seem both simple and widely-understood and highly complex and challenging – often at the same time. How do you approach communications in this sector?
A: In the past decade, communications have changed drastically. We went from twee-what to Twitter becoming an industry standard for connecting and staying relevant. Clean tech has also evolved beyond solar panels and wind turbines and is no longer looked at as being on the fringe. Today it is part of daily conversations, impacting how we live, work and play.
The function of communications is critical to a rapidly evolving industry such as energy and it all starts with messaging and strategy. Whether you are a part of a start-up or a multi-national enterprise, the key is letting the communication marketers into the strategy conversation from the start of an engagement. Communications should never be an afterthought. A strong strategic narrative paired with thoughtful tactics to flood social and media channels are just as important as the CFO driving bottom line results. Car shoppers expect to buy cars with wheels so they can get to their destinations. Consider communications professionals as the wheels of industry – we are necessary to get from point A to point B!
Q: What do you wish journalists understood better about cleantech? How do you adjust your work to reflect the realities of the way reporters respond or engage with you and your clients?
A: Cleantech is so complicated that I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking time to grasp the complexities. At Silverline, we try and provide the reporters with as much background information as possible when discussing the industry and our client’s technologies to help prepare and educate them. For instance, recently I sat in on a CEO meeting with a new reporter at a global financial outlet. We intentionally created a safe and non-judgmental space for that reporter to ask all the basics about their industry without fear of reprisal or comments. This type of conversation is important for setting the pace for a healthy working relationship with the reporter and outlet.
In terms of adjusting, we all understand the realities of the shrinking newsroom due to the former news staff on our team as well as our decades of experience. In order to respond to this change (and many others!), we have transformed into an Agile agency (see Agile Marketing Manifesto) that manages workflow based on a set of principles that enables us to be more flexible and deliver better results than ever before. I write about being Agile in my Forbes blog as a theme. Everything is changing, so why not communications?
Q: You’ve built a firm that now has a national footprint and growing recognition as an influencer in public relations. What challenges have you faced either as a woman, as a small business owner and/or as someone in the communications field (which isn’t always understood from a business perspective)? How have the lessons you’ve learned shaped the way you’re building your business?
A: I wish I could say that there weren’t challenges due to gender, but they exist. It’s been proven in studies time and again that a wage gap is real and we have to work hard to close it. It’s also challenging to break through comfort zones and remove barriers. Over the decade I’ve been in business, I’ve learned how to anticipate what’s around the curve, and I may have seconds to do it. My tap shoes are always shined! This type of mentality keeps me hungry and scrappy. Minority-owned businesses often don’t have second chances, so our first “at bat” needs to be better than average. So…watch out competition - we know what we have to do to win.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve received?
A: Where there is smoke, there is fire. Plain and simple. Don’t try to say there isn’t something going on, when everyone can see it. Get issues on the table as they happen and know that failures are an opportunity to learn.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you've given to others?
A: As Kenny Rogers sings in The Gambler, “You gotta know when to fold ‘em, know when to hold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” Oh, and….pros like Ben will steer you right every time. We’re proud to be partnered with RENEWPR.