Jan 3

Blast faxes, PDFs and WFH: Sabo PR turns 19

Many things have changed since I launched Sabo PR 19 years ago today.

That first morning, I slipped on a pair of pink bunny slippers – thank you, Theresa and Phil – and climbed the stairs to my attic home office, opened my laptop and took a deep breath.

My brother Joe was kind enough to lend free IT support, helping me select a PC, secure a web domain and set up email. We have since shifted to Macs, added a VPN and set up our own cloud server. We now have on-call IT support for the tough stuff, although we handle a lot of things on our own.

Back in 2003, I added a second phone line so I could have a dedicated fax line – remember those? – to accept client edits and distribute press releases. PDFs weren’t a thing yet, and the blast fax was considered state-of-the-art when it came to communicating with the media.

Social media also wasn’t a thing – a time I now look back on with fondness. While the news cycle had shifted to 24-7 when CNN debuted in 1980, it didn’t hit warp speed until the ascendancy of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

Back in the early days of SPR, if media outlets didn’t bite on a story when you sent out a release, that was that. They’d skip a story they didn’t have resources to report rather than look as if they had been beaten on coverage. Today, media might nibble the day a release goes out – or they might wait a week or more to reach out. Media now regularly source stories from Facebook rants – and don’t always bother to call the organization at the pointed end of a post for its side of the story.

Nearly two decades ago, my home office itself was an anomaly. People who “worked from home” were seen as dabblers, less serious than those who trekked to an office each day. Today, WFH is an acronym that doesn’t require explanation – or apology.

When I first opened the doors to SPR, all new business meetings were face to face and often required a flight. Putting together a proposal meant assembling a portfolio of samples in an actual portfolio and having the fine folks at Kinko’s copy and then bind the finished product.

These days, a phone call and a PDF often suffice. We have out-of-state clients who found us thanks to good SEO. We have in-state clients we’ve never met in person – and yet we never miss a beat when it comes to providing exceptional client service.

I was so green in those early days I didn’t realize you had to number invoices when you sent them out. I tracked time on an Excel spreadsheet, painfully translating those entries into narratives for monthly invoices. Today, time tracking and generating invoices are a breeze thanks to FunctionFox – although one of my colleagues who lived through those Excel days still pushes to have new team members endure that early pain.

After launching SPR on 01/02/03, I remained a solo practitioner for years. When I began to grow, it was with caution – I first added a contractor to test the proverbial waters. Today, we are a team of 10, seven of us full time and three contractors who each bring specialized skills to the table.

The pandemic did its best to upend so much of our professional lives. The past two years have been both brutal and beautiful. I’ve managed my way through many challenging situations over the course of the past 19 years, but none so unscripted as COVID-19.

Yes, many things have changed since Sabo PR first opened its doors, but the truly important things have all stayed the same. Good writing and editing are still worth their weight in gold. Knowledge of AP Style still commands respect from the media. Answering the phone when a troubled client calls remains deeply appreciated.

Building solid relationships remains the cornerstone of all we do. Trust is still priceless. As one of my first clients is fond of saying, “You can’t go back on a handshake.”

I’m deeply grateful to my fabulous team, our wonderful clients, our incredible business partners and our amazing alumni for the past 19 years – and I so look forward to a stellar year ahead.

11 thoughts on “Blast faxes, PDFs and WFH: Sabo PR turns 19”

  1. Robin Keith says:

    Congratulations on your amazing run!

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Robin, thank you for the kind words and your tremendous support over the years. Without your encouragement, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to take the leap and wear the bunny slippers. Eternally grateful.

  2. Jim Harger says:

    Congratulations Mary Ann! I’m proud to say I worked with you back in the day!

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Thanks, Jim! I am beyond grateful to have had you as a mentor and friend. I learned so much from you in my early days as a business reporter and continue to quote your wisdom regularly.

  3. Cheryl Coutchie says:

    Congratulations Mary Ann! You have assembled and supported a great team of professionals. I admire your ability to continuously flex and bend, on all things except ethics, to meet the demands of the day. Wishing Sabo PR many more!!

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Cheryl, thanks for the kind words and the decades of support and encouragement. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to learn from you and to lean on your skills and expertise!

  4. Theresa Middleton says:

    You are true to your word as a friend, so no doubt it is your modus as a woman in business. So very proud of your success and faithful attention to your clients and those of us who count you as friend.

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Thank you for the lovely words, dear friend — and for the bunny slippers that started this journey in combination with your unwavering support and your always spot-on counsel and insights. Grateful you have been part of my village these many decades.

  5. Ellen Bristol says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary! And, kudos to you and your team for the great work you do.

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Thanks so much, Ellen. It’s been such a joy to go from colleague to friend with you throughout this journey. I remain so grateful our paths crossed — and continue to do so.

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