Terri Tiffany, Founder and CEO of Sandhill PR Partners, Built a Company She Wants to Work For
Within her first month working at her very first public relations job, Terri Tiffany, Founder and CEO of Sand Hill PR Partners, learned a big lesson. She had been hired by ABC’s station in San Francisco to build awareness of their news team, and she had arranged for one of the anchors to host a Halloween benefit for kids. Tiffany and the anchor shopped, fitted and created the perfect costume. On the day of the big event, she showed up without the anchor’s costume, which she had forgotten. Tiffany said, “He was not happy. It taught me to pack the car the night before no matter what the event or meeting is.”
Fast forward to the summer of 2015 when, after better than 16 years of packing the car the night before and providing marketing and public relations to San Francisco Bay area luxury clients including Tiffany & Co. and Pacific Union Real Estate, Tiffany was ready for a change. The only trouble was, the type of public relations company she wanted to work for didn’t exist yet.
Tiffany said, “I was looking for a better way to work. I decided that if what I was looking for didn’t exist, I should create it.” She founded Sand Hill PR Partners, which she called, “an umbrella for a small number of top national PR people who like to work outside traditional PR firms.” Sand Hill currently is composed of five professionals in Dallas/Houston, New York, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Chicago who share a specific approach to working with luxury clients and uphold the same standards of service. Setting them apart, Tiffany added, “At Sand Hill we seek clientele independently or together and partner to support those accounts.” According to Tiffany, the evolution of the industry means that “The number of channels that are available to reach consumers through is endless. Mastery of every one of them is impossible. We need to work together.”
Sand Hill’s highly experienced professionals work remotely, collaborating primarily via conference calls and emails. Although the West Coast team meets fairly often, Tiffany said, “No one needs to be sitting in the same building from 9-5 in today’s work world! There is so much more opportunity for women with children, for instance, to start a home office and work flexibly to support clients. No one needs to put on a suit and drive an hour to an office anymore.”
The takeaway for women is to understand how changes in an industry might not only necessitate a change in the way they approach their business, but also provide an avenue through which women can set themselves and their businesses apart from the competition. Overall, the vision Tiffany had for Sand Hill has come to fruition, but there was one area she hadn’t planned. “We are adding a new component of reaching out to start ups in the SF- Silicon Valley region, which I hadn’t initially thought we would do, but it makes sense considering where we’re headquartered. So we’re adapting to our economic environment,” said Tiffany.
Tiffany offered additional advice to women:
What lessons would you share with other women about starting your own company?
I wish I’d done this ten years ago. There was no reason that I couldn’t have done this then. I just had to have the belief and confidence to take the leap.
I was more willing to work inside of someone else’s vision of a successful work environment when my kids were in school. I didn’t have the time then that I have now to be laser focused on work.
What insights could you offer to other female business owners?
Be bold. Don’t wait. And don’t listen to people who are doubters. Not everyone is going to be on board, but you don’t need them!
Tiffany’s typical day includes, “Email, yoga, coffee before 9. Client work most of the day. Occasional lunches or coffee with media or potential clients. Client events or networking in the evening.” Although no two days are identical, she usually travels between San Francisco and Silicon Valley at least once a day. To stay on top of her industry, Tiffany takes continuing studies classes at Stanford at night that have included marketing, SEO, business start-up classes, and a targeted class on marketing the Super Bowl.
The continuing education pays off in the creative approaches she takes with her clients. Instead of introducing proprietary data on the San Francisco real estate market for client Pacific Union using a white paper, Sand Hill PR Partners produced a Ted talk style presentation for them from the stage of the SF Jazz Center. “We hired a four camera TV production company, invited an audience and streamed the presentation live to the Pacific Union website. To extend the reach, we hired Mandarin translators to simulcast the webcast live to China,” Tiffany said.
When she isn’t masterminding creative PR strategies with her colleagues or taking continuing education, Tiffany works with the Board of Advisors for Global Silicon Valley Labs’ Reboot Accelerator for Women. The group works with women who’ve been away from the workplace raising kids or taking care of parents, to rejoin the workforce. “The work world changed a lot over the last ten or so years, and there are a lot of new skills that women need to have to reestablish their careers or embark upon new ones. Reboot gets them ready to relaunch. It is amazing!” said Tiffany.17