Silicon Valley’s Daunting History with Public Relations

I grew up here.  Before “Silicon Valley,” Santa Clara was an agricultural mecca with a farmland culture and the fight for green space and other social movements.  The Valley was filled with families outfitted with strong schools and large housing complexes with swimming pools at their center.  Growing up in the 70s was at a slow pace among a strong diverse, peace-seeking culture.  We valued education and intellectualism, and Governor Pat Brown delivered.  We were a long way from the lessons of Theranos.

Our slow, intellectual agrarian culture turned into the male-dominated tech culture of “move fast and break things” within a generation.  Even when I attended graduate school at American University in 1995 my northeastern classmates were still asking, “what’s out there?” As a publicist who promotes scientists and medical technology, that seems laughable now, as we’ve grown into a series of cities and ended our innocence.  What I wish is that Bay Area business would finally grow in the sophistication of recognizing the value of communications.  Most of Silicon Valley’s businesses do not communicate effectively, fear the news media and fail miserably at communicating publicly.

I went back east to learn the communications trade:  D.C. and Chicago, and with giants such as Edelman and other international agencies I perfected my craft, showering our clients with media coverage and fame.  I kept an eye on the epic failures at home:  very young CEOs, male-dominated cultures and superficial technologies that didn’t really do anything meaningful.  But some inventions were nothing short of amazing.  They failed when they shouldn’t have, inadequately communicating their benefits publicly.  We got used to seeing apps and other technologies come and go quickly, when some of them should have succeeded.  Now look:  a whole menu of technologies within another generation and some tech execs holding their heads up high for the innovation, but others hide in shame at the dangerous communities they realize they have created.   Indeed, we are still a long way from learning the millennium lessons of Silicon Valley.  Move fast and break things is still very much operative, and the problem is twofold:  1.  investors are everywhere taking a superficial approach to business, or 2.  They create something that could really work but fail to communicate its wonders.

I know, because they call me.  I learned, once I came home, to be very particular about who I will work with.

They do not know who they are calling.  They do not know how the important mix of marketing and publicity works.  This “Fake it until you make it” world of fake marketing ignores the important planning process of identifying your market’s problems to make sure you are solving them.  The process here is to ignore the critical research and planning, to fail to put together a plan that brings a discipline to the process so you can succeed.  This is not about clicks and likes—it is about creating messages that help form the relationships you need: relationships with your customers, natural partners, and the news media (those reporters that stoke so much fear among the Valley’s execs) so that you are not only relevant—you have a strong brand to keep.  This is the relationships business.  It is who you know and how you are known that gives you the profits you are looking for.

Look, if you are harming society the press has every right to write about that.  But what if you aren’t harming society?  What if your app actually does some good?  So many products are developed by intelligent, creative, competent, and well-meaning people, who launched “their babies” only to see them fail.  Why?  Because there is not an understanding to go through an important process, we know how to use to make sure there is sustained success in reputation and popularity.  This process has been developed over centuries (and accelerated over 75+ years) and it works.  We come to you ready, wanting to know your product inside and out.  In order to build a strong foundation, we do a lot of research up front and a lot of planning.  Some investors cannot see why this takes time.  They are the ones who fail.

Big Wave: A sustainable, independent, and empathic neighbor

My Inspiration

They call me Coach, but I am really more of an invested observer of my players because, as I have learned, they perfectly train themselves. I am pretty sure that I have more fun, more smiles, more laughter, than anything else I know.  These players are a group of adults with special needs on a Special Olympics-style baseball team.  Indeed, they have taught me a lot about what’s important, and about the teamwork that is necessary in the game of life.  The amazing aspect of these players is how close and tightly knit they are as a caring community who support each other.  I truly learn the best of what is being human from them at every game.

What piqued my interest in coaching was working with the Big Wave project, a special type of self-sustainable community built from the hard work of parents of adults with special needs who are facing a future crisis if they do nothing. One in 54 Americans is on the autism spectrum. One in 54. Where will these children with special needs go as their parents age and are no longer able to care for them? There is not enough room in government housing, so Jeff Peck, a creative professional and father of Elizabeth, one of my players with special needs, founded The Big Wave Project twenty years ago.

It’s an important anniversary for Big Wave as it just broke ground on August 15th this year, after quite a few years of meeting the needs of the state.  We are about to watch an important business experiment.

The Big Wave project is brilliant!  Big Wave has a fascinating business/housing model that doesn’t depend on government funding and the support of public officials.  Instead, it draws from a smart form of capital:  Neighbors. Local business owners hang a shingle on the adjacent property and sell their products and services, utilizing an employee population that is known as cooperative, heartfelt and eager to work:  Adults with special needs. The relationship between the adults with special needs and the business owners is symbiotic.  Currently, there is an 87 percent unemployment rate among this underappreciated population. But we know now that these special people are often worth the risk of hiring (hiring itself is a risk). Certainly companies like Safeway are glad they invested in this employee demographic.  Its one of the reasons I enjoy going to Safeway and the pleasure of seeing one of the Big Wave community members there with their ever present smiles.

The local businesses that join the Big Wave project will stimulate the local economy as they pay a competitive wage and provide rental income that helps to keep Big Wave sustainable for many years to come. The project is overseen by people who care—family members who value its model, yes, but also value its residents.


In the investment world we like to get to the heart of why someone has developed their project. Most organizations that are there to help others are born out of empathy. That is not always the case for many companies, as profit is critical to success and survival. But Big Wave really was born out of the empathy a father had not just for his daughter, but for his community’s kids and his community at large. Jeff became obsessed with an idea to create an opportunity for real employment, and the housing and peer support that these young adults need.  Local businesses need both the space and good employees in order to thrive.

It is not only a business with care and concern. It is a rock-solid plan. And although I am observing Big Wave from the bleachers, I am cheering and rooting on the Big Wave project every step of the way.

Jeff, you hit a home run. Congratulations and here’s to much success to come!


Steve Bacich is the Chief Technology Officer and Founding Partner of MED1 Ventures. Steve has more than 20 years of medical device industry experience, with over 15 years focused on women’s health. Mr. Bacich completed several venture and public funding rounds raising over $250 million in total. Steve has secured more than 75 US medical device patents and has brought over 25 products to market.  He currently coaches the Big Wave baseball team.

Benefits of the Podcast: Why You Should Be ON

As a new partner to Sherwood Communications I have a lot to share! Let’s begin with the subject of podcasts, which are commonly overlooked by communications professionals.

Podcasts are most akin to TV series or Talk Radio series and have these commonalities:

  • Access: Podcasts are almost always free for anyone to access via any number of free audio platforms including iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. Podcasts may or may not be offered with or without static images or video clips. Podcast content with streaming video clips are referred to as ‘videocasts’.

  • Listening: People listen to podcasts via that podcast’s website or by downloading it onto their phone or onto their podcast player. For example, I subscribe to podcasts that appear onto iTunes, then download podcast episodes and sync them to my iPhone or iPod Touch device to play when I am ready to take in the content.

  • Frequency: Podcasts can be offered as often as single episodes daily, weekly, bi-weekly or less frequently.

  • Episode Durations may be as brief as 15-20 minutes or long as 2 hours.

  • Topics: Appeal to a wide and/or very specific variety of topics, EX: USAToday has a daily news podcast intended to appeal to a general audience, just as and USAToday newspaper does. By contrast there are zillions of podcasts that appeal to very specific audiences, such as new mothers, cryptocurrency traders, or doctors, scientists and researchers who follow new biomedical innovations or environmental changes.

  • Operating Platforms: Podcasts may be operated by a larger media conglomerate – such as print newspapers like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USAToday or broadcast conglomerates such as Fox News and CNN.  Therefore an appearance on a CNN TV show may also pave the way for a correlated but separate appearance on a CNN podcast, or may the broadcast unit may be operated entirely separate from the audio or podcast unit.

  • Guests:  Podcasts channels are hosted and guided by 1-2 people who are typically prominent in their industry, and operate much like a radio show in that they feature interesting, provocative, expert guests directly and pointedly promoting a specific position and/or launching a product (oftentimes a book or other consumer product). The slight advantage of  podcasts over a radio interview is that the host is less interested in provoking the guest and more interested in getting a good interview. So we can typically specify topics for discussion — even propose the flow of questions — resulting in positive outcomes.

  • Asks: We can make simple “asks” at the end of each interview such “Follow me on Twitter at XX” or “Check out my books X, Y and Z now available on Amazon, or hint that you are seeking an Agent.

  • Reach: Podcasts invariably maintain social media channels thru which they symbiotically promote their podcast and its guests. The producers and hosts make the listening reach known on their websites.

There is more to say, of course. This is the type of top-line advice we like to give. Enjoy.



 After her career in the publishing industry at book publisher Little, Brown & Company, Jean moved into public relations but has been influenced by her career in publishing.  She also has more than 15 years of experience in medical device promotion. 

 Jean Lombard’s success is built on her track record of experience driving integrated marketing campaigns for Silicon Valley startups, med-tech and for mature companies seeking to launch new, critically important divisions. 

 Jean is adept at identifying and assessing how to introduce and differentiate clients’ products and platforms — and how to identify and optimize target audiences — to cost-effectively gain brand awareness and coverage for competitive advantage and Influencer status.  

 Jean’s hands-on strength is creating core marketing messages based on trending phrases and important terms, then infusing these elements into compelling and resonant marketing channels including website copy, social media posts, email digital marketing campaigns, press releases and pitch letters. 

As a certified Project Manager and Digital Marketing professional, Jean is accustomed to aligning teams in disparate time zones to identify immediate priorities and then teaming up to tackle and efficiently resolve the most important and time-sensitive deliverables. 

She is truly excited to begin working with you.

Copyright 2020 Sherwood Communications | All Rights Reserved