Caliber Q&A with Stephen Sumner, Senior Director

Our CEO, Harvey Hudes virtually sat down with Senior Director, Stephen Sumner to dig more into his background, what he’s excited about at Caliber and more.

Harvey: Is this the career path you envisioned for yourself when you “grew up?”

Stephen: When I was six years old, my parents took me on a trip to Washington, D.C to view the sites, such as the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. I was carrying a book about the U.S. presidents that summarized the key points of their presidencies with an official portrait of each. From an early age, I was enthralled with politics and national leadership. I found myself in D.C. after college where I did an internship at a public affairs firm and later worked on Congressional campaigns during the 2002 election cycle. The experience paved the way for me to enter marketing and public relations and it remains an important influence on my career development. I still draw on those early experiences today when advising clients, working with teams or coming up with new ideas.  

Harvey: What has it been like working in a fully remote environment?

Stephen: Before joining Caliber in 2018, I was self-employed and worked from home for several years, so my experience is different from many who have only worked in offices during their careers. The benefit of virtual work is that you have more personal space, which is liberating, especially when working through stressful client challenges. However, I do miss the personal interaction with colleagues. For me, whether it’s sharing a story about your weekend or discussing a media idea in a brainstorm, meeting in-person makes the work experience better, especially when you’re sharing a success or win with the team. This is something that can’t be replaced by a video call. At Caliber, we’ve introduced a mentor program and regularly schedule team happy hours, so as to maintain a level of interaction between colleagues beyond day-to-day account management. It helps build our culture virtually, but it’s something we’re constantly working on.

Harvey: What attracted you to Caliber?

Stephen: Caliber is a place for collaboration and idea-sharing beyond its day-to-day marketing communications mission of helping companies tell their stories. I enjoy coming up with an idea with a team from scratch and then seeing it become reality, whether that be a media placement or something that impacts our clients’ marketing strategies. Caliber is different from other boutique agencies because the firm brings more to clients than just strong communications expertise. We offer 360 degree thinking about a company’s entire marketing mix–no matter the stage of growth. This can open up new opportunities and challenges and we help clients think critically about solving problems as a partner– not transactionally as just another vendor. Caliber has the vision and tech-savvy to keep pace and set itself apart in the financial services and fintech markets.

Harvey: Any inside scoop on what you’re recommending to clients?

Stephen: Making inroads with virtual forums is important. We’re advising on the best options to make an impact as we move past the pandemic. For instance, we see value in alternative media to tell a company’s story – including podcasts or webinars. One key area is staying attune to industry events, of which many are virtual, and eventually being scheduled in-person (likely not until late 2021). The pandemic will have a long-term impact on event management as more companies start to shift to more intimate events as opposed to investing time and resources in large-scale in-person conferences. The big tent parties won’t go away, but you’ll probably see more virtual options in the future given how more people will be working from home. So we’re monitoring the changes through Event Analyzer – our proprietary event platform which helps keep our team apprised of the latest developments taking place in the fintech event scene.

Harvey: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out in this field?

Stephen: Sweat the small stuff. It’s great to have big ideas and grand hopes for your career. Though, after starting out in PR, I eventually realized that being more detail oriented leads to better, more realistic ideas that drive results. It’s incumbent on us as service providers to continue delivering value, whether it’s a breakthrough idea or excellent reporting. It’s essential to not lose sight of all the pieces that make up a successful client engagement because the details are important and noticed.