Bob Tebeleff joined SunStar in 2001 as an account executive. Today he is a partner and Vice President. We took a few minutes to talk with Bob about the industry and changes he's seen during the last 20 years.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in PR over the past 20 years?
The media landscape has changed tremendously over the past 20 years. New forms of media have been created and advisors may now appear on podcasts, YouTube, websites, apps, and more. But at the same time, many media outlets have gone out of business, shifted to online only, or seen their circulation drastically decline. We’ve also seen a significant contraction to the business sections of local papers.
Changes have also impacted media tours. In my early years at SunStar, we would take our clients on full-day media tours to New York, Chicago, Boston, Florida, Los Angeles, D.C., and other cities across the U.S. Now, in non-pandemic times, media tours take place exclusively in New York. The pool of markets and opportunities has changed.
How are you helping your clients these days?
Many of our clients are looking for local exposure. They want to reach advisors in their communities. In non-pandemic times they are looking for opportunities for in-person connections.
With the business sections of the local newspapers getting smaller or ceasing publication, opportunities for interviews with a beat reporter for that paper may seem lost. But, if the Omaha World-Herald doesn’t have a financial reporter and are looking for a story on the markets, they are likely to turn to the newswire.
We have always told our clients, as strange as it may seem, that the best way to get local exposure is to go national. Today that is more important than ever. Initially, a client might think an interview with Reuters or the AP won’t help them achieve their desired result, but as national news sources, they have the potential to get picked up by the wire service and appear in additional publications across the country.
Of all the changes you’ve seen, which do you think has had the most positive impact?
The ability to participate in an interview remotely has had a huge impact over the past year. Prior to the pandemic some of our clients did interviews remotely, but during the pandemic they all did. While we all look forward to the day that interviews go back to being in person, there are some perqs to doing them remotely.
In the past, a client on the West Coast wouldn’t be able to fill a last-minute slot in-person in a New York studio – now it’s a simple solution as they’re not hampered by travel. Not only are our clients able to participate in interviews on short notice, but they are also able to handle day-to-day work around them. Typically, a client would need to travel to and from the studio. If they’re participating in an interview remotely, it’s far less of a time commitment.
Has there been any evolution that has made your job harder?
The contraction of the media has made our jobs more challenging. As publications have shut down or restructured, many reporters lost their jobs.
While it has resulted in a smaller base for us to pitch our clients’ stories to, it ensures our targeting is that much more precise and places greater emphasis on the existing relationships we have.
Reporters have come to rely on us to deliver good quality sources. We want to make the best use of everyone’s time – the reporters or the clients – so our pitches are more focused and intentional than ever before.
What was your most memorable moment?
I was in New York City on 9/11 with my colleagues for a media conference SunStar was hosting. We were holding the event in two different locations – one in Midtown and one downtown. Naturally, the events were canceled, and we were caught like everyone else trying to leave the City. I saw both towers fall. We knew they were falling because we could feel the vibration in our feet.
We used to spend a fair bit of time in New York City for media tours and conferences. I never could have imagined Times Square being completely empty, but it was that day with only police officers on horseback.
We were able to find a hotel to shelter for a bit and eventually made it to Queens where we were able to connect with our transportation to get us back to the DC area.
Did you always want to be a PR professional?
My professional career evolved into PR. When I first started working, I was in the family shoe business! After that closed, I moved on to other things. I earned a Series 6 and worked as a financial advisor for a time, and also did some freelance PR consulting.
After a few years at a financial services firm, it made sense to join SunStar where I could employ my skills and knowledge of the financial services industry, along with my knowledge of the public relations industry.
What has it been like working at SunStar Strategic for 20 years?
It’s been 20 years of relationship building.
I have built strong relationships with clients, reporters, and my colleagues. I have always been what I’d call a “relationship guy.” I like people and I enjoy the connections I’ve built.
What I’ve appreciated the most during my time at SunStar working with Kathryn and my colleagues is being able to “make things happen.”
I get to know my clients very well. I know their strategies and products and what they’re prepared to talk about. Over the years I’ve developed strong relationships with journalists. When I can “marry” those relationships to result in an interview, it’s the culmination of years of relationship building.
As an account executive, I want to help my clients grow. I want to help them achieve their goals.