Celebrating 15 years building credibility, visibility and business.

This month marks SWC’s 15th anniversary. We closed the office last Thursday to celebrate the milestone, and hatch plans for how we’ll grow and evolve to serve our clients’ needs for the next 15 years.

On occasions such as this, it is customary to look back and contemplate all that has changed in the past 15 years.

On a personal level, it’s pretty easy to see the difference.

Back in 1995, while Melissa and Linda were hard at work developing business plans and laying the foundation of our company, I was focused on passing driver’s ed, surviving Mr. Charboneau’s honors chemistry class, and cheering the South Portland Red Riots football team to their first of two consecutive state championships.

Of course, our industry has changed a bit, too.

Fifteen years ago, the internet was just starting to grow in popularity. News releases were faxed and snail mailed. A Rolodex was an actual thing on your desk, not another term for your contact list in Outlook (though I must admit that I still have a Rolodex, too).

Today, social media is a staple of any integrated strategic communication program.

A great many folks in our industry like to say that everything is different in today’s electronic environment. That the rules have changed, and we have to fundamentally shift the way we communicate with our key audiences.

I disagree. Sure, the tools have changed. So has the speed at which (and the ease with which) information can be shared.

But you know what hasn’t changed? The way you build strong, lasting relationships.

Whether it’s a face to face lunch meeting, a letter in the mail, a voice on the phone, a message on your iPhone, or a post on Facebook, good relationships have always required work at the individual level.

I suppose that the new media environment has made it harder to take shortcuts like speed pitching, one-size-fits-all news releases, marketing that focuses on companies instead of their customers, and other top-down communication strategies. But I’ve been blessed with a several great mentors in my career…and none of them believed in shortcuts.

From my days as a student at USM, to my time as an intern at HNTB, to my first day as an account executive at SWC, I’ve always been taught that great communications campaigns are hard work built upon a foundation of research, planning, individual outreach, listening, problem solving, and doing what you said you would do. Anything less than that is a shortcut…and shortcuts don’t yield long term results.

I am excited to see what our industry will look like 15 years from now. I’m sure we’ll have nifty new media that makes today’s technology look quaint.

I’m also willing to bet that we’ll be building relationships the same way. It might look different and feel different, but at its core, we’ll still be researching, listening, understanding, communicating, problem solving, and doing what we said we would do.

What do you think?