Inner Circle Labs Joins Highwire PR

By Julie Crabill

I founded Inner Circle Labs in 2010 with one goal in mind — to change the way people think about and do PR. Eight years later, I’m pleased to say our team has done just that. We’ve created smart, strategic programs, we’ve been an honest and transparent partner, we’ve achieved amazing success and tackled incredible hurdles together. We’ve launched hundreds of startups, worked with partners through rebrands and countless acquisitions, and been an extension of their team as we’ve grown into a team of our own. We’ve built a reputation I’m so proud of, but I’m even more proud and thrilled to share that Inner Circle Labs has been acquired by Highwire Public Relations – a fast-growing tech PR firm that is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary in 2018. Highwire has offices in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and Boston – and with the new infusion of talent from Inner Circle Labs, will be a team nearly 100 people strong.

I met Kathleen Gratehouse and Emily Borders in 2009 – and they’ve been friends, supporters, and mentors to team ICLabs ever since. Like us, Highwire takes a new world stance on the old world business that is public relations. They create integrated communications programs for the most interesting and disruptive technology companies in the world – ranging across enterprise, cloud, security, consumer, digital commerce, digital health, and robotics/ML/AI. They consistently win all of the awards that matter – like being named PRWeek’s Small Agency of the year in 2016 and a top place to work by PR News in both 2014 and 2015. And all of these awards are extremely well deserved. Highwire is the agency I’ve most strived to imitate in the eight years since founding Inner Circle Labs – and I guess they took that imitation as flattery based on today’s news.

When considering a place that would not only allow the killer Inner Circle Labs team to grow but to thrive, I looked for an equally amazing team that they could become part of with an organically similar culture. I also looked for leaders in which I could see philosophical alignment – Kathleen, Emily, and Carol Carrubba were a natural fit. Our mutual fandom of each other’s organizations has made bringing the two teams together feel like stars aligning.

Over the last year, the Inner Circle Labs team and our fascinating set of clients have reached an inflection point – a place where access to greater reach, size, and scope will help everyone involved pour gasoline onto their naturally-occurring fires.

Team members who have experienced rapid career and personal growth will now benefit from a larger organization and team. They’ll be given new ways to learn – and people to learn from – as well as improved tools and training options. And, all of this will be possible without losing the tight knit, entrepreneurial workplace they’ve come to love at Inner Circle Labs.

Clients who have become global brands and seen massive growth will now benefit from new capabilities like content programs and influencer marketing along with teams in New York, Chicago, and Boston. They’ll see an even larger pool of the PR businesses’ best minds focused on critical thinking, creative ideation, and tenacious execution on their behalf. All without losing the core team of people who deeply understand their business that are delivering amazing, impactful work for them every day.

Speaking of clients and passion, as part of this news, I’ll be hanging up my day-to-day PR hat in late January when I transition into a strategic advisor role for Highwire. This will allow me to be part of this journey even as I pursue something that has become a major passion of mine – joining the talented team at Descartes Labs in Santa Fe, New Mexico as their CMO.

This could not have happened without the tenacious, hard-working, kickass team at Inner Circle Labs. What we’ve built together is powerful and the equally fantastic team at Highwire sees the value in it. Thank you for putting your heart and soul into this – the best is yet to come.

In the coming weeks, we’ll quickly become one team – team Highwire. Our shared focus on being curiosity-driven entrepreneurs has made this a natural pairing and will lead to even more success in the years ahead. While Jonathan (ICLabs’ co-founder and COO) and I will move on from the day-to-day, everyone else in the company is joining Highwire and we look forward to a smooth and easy transition for the team and clients alike. Our priority is to continue our shared focus on creating a great place to work where creative and critical thinking along with strategic advice are the cornerstones of every client program. Here’s to the next decade of domination as Team Highwire!

Oh The Places You’ll Go! Our Year in Review

One of the core values here at Highwire is balance. We give 110% at our jobs, but we know that time needs to be spent on what matters outside of the office: friends, family, and personal interests. 

In 2017, our dedicated PR professionals found their balance — focusing their free time and energy on trips to France and Canada, welcoming new furry friends, and walking down the aisle. It certainly was a year of going places, growing families, getting hitched — and getting the ring! 

We’re excited for what 2018 has in store, so we wanted to reflect on all of the exciting milestones our employees have achieved this year. And if you’re looking for opportunities in the New Year, see if the Highwire family is right for you. 

A Puppy and a Proposal: Megan said “yes” — to a new puppy and her boyfriend’s proposal.

A Proposal with a View: Tricia got engaged in beautiful St. John, Canada. 

From Bridesmaid to Bride-to-be: Natalie’s two-part vacation (where she was a bridesmaid in her BFF’s wedding) ended in a big surprise!

Happiness in the Hudson Valley: Allie’s proposal overlooked the beautiful Hudson River in New York.

Sunny Celebration: Nicole’s August wedding was sunny and sweet.

#MomBoss: Christine welcomed Josephine (right) who gets along quite nicely with her big sister Kate.

Light Up Your Life: Patrick’s redecorating skills helped him brighten up his year.

#Travika2019: Erika’s proposal was complete with a picnic and private serenade.

Mommy & Me: Jennifer and her son Xavier took a quick getaway to Nice, France.

The Adventure Begins: Andrew’s stunning California wedding left him relaxed and recharged.

Trendwatch 2017 – Engaged: Morgan joined the “just-got-engaged” club in December.

The Next Journey: Ben’s wedding in a redwood grove in Oakland was full of love and whimsy.

Giving Thanks: The Highwire Way


At Highwire, Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday – and for good reason! It offers our teams a chance to step away from work to cook and share a meal together. This year each of our offices celebrated Thanksgiving in different ways, but each meal had a few things in common: laughter, gratitude and plenty of turkey.

Check out these photos to see how our San Francisco, Chicago and New York offices celebrated Thanksgiving.


Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

SF Office North Bay fundraiser

by Tricia Nugent

At Highwire one of our core values is balance — and part of finding balance is creating opportunities to explore our personal passions in our work lives. A passion of mine has long been giving back to communities in need, so this Giving Tuesday I’m happy to share some of the initiatives we’ve undertaken at Highwire to give back to our local communities.

This past October our New York City office volunteered as a group at a Ronald McDonald House to cook lunch for families in residence there. Ronald McDonald House Charities provide, among other services, free housing and meals to patients receiving critical treatment at hospitals far from their homes. Our volunteers spent an afternoon preparing pizzas and salads and serving them to a grateful and hungry group. The experience was as fun as it was rewarding — and the pizzas weren’t bad either!

Following a string of wildfires north of the San Francisco Bay, Highwire’s San Francisco office organized and hosted an evening fundraiser event to raise money for victims who lost their homes and belongings. The event involved cheese, oysters, auction prizes, a raffle and lots of wine, and ultimately raised over $18,000 for the North Bay fire recovery effort via donations to the Redwood Credit Union.

As the weather has cooled back on the East Coast, our NYC office has once again begun collecting coats for the annual New York Cares Coat Drive. Exploring another Highwire value of collaboration, we involve our entire building in the effort to collect warm coats to be distributed to the homeless throughout the winter. We’re off to a good start and hope to fill even more bags this year to spread the warmth farther across the city.

In the past, our San Francisco office has worked with Family Dog Rescue and the Raphael House. Our Chicago office has worked with the Salvation Army and the Lincoln Park Conservancy, and our NYC office also worked with Bideawee and the good+foundation.

I’m grateful to work for a company that supports and shares my passions and gives back to our communities not just on Giving Tuesday, but every day. How are you celebrating this Giving Tuesday? Feel free to share in the comments.

Media Talk Tech Panel Recap

As PR professionals, it’s imperative to periodically check in with the media to gain a better understanding of the stories they’re looking for and how we can work together to tell those stories.

That’s why last week we, along with the Silicon Valley and San Francisco chapters of PRSA, hosted Jason Wilson of VentureBeat, David Pierce of Wired and Sean Captain of Fast Company at our office to share their thoughts on topics ranging from the state of media to how publications are handling the convergence of technology and politics.

On Audience

Panelists also touched on what they’re looking for from a source. The number one thing? They have to understand the publication’s audience, said Jason Wilson.

On Story Characters

David Pierce added that he has become good at knowing when people are giving him a speech and he’s more interested in finding the character of the story and hearing their experience firsthand.

On Politics

When asked how politics have impacted the newsroom over the past year, the panelists agreed it varies for each publication.

“You think about the role Facebook played in the election, and you realize this is just our world now, and we have to deal with it,” said Pierce. “But we have to ask ourselves where it makes sense for us to get involved and why our readers would care about it.”

On Angles

For Sean Captain, it’s all about how you approach the story. “Everyone wants to jump into the conversation, but you have to find the angle that works for your readership,” he said.

Check out the highlight video below, and take a look at the Highwire and PRSA social channels for videos, quotes and more from the panel!

Highwire Spotlight: Behind the Scenes with Our Training Program

Introducing our training program to ensure success in PR


Just as technology, politics and culture change at a rapid pace, so do the skills required to succeed in the business communications landscape.  As PR professionals, we are expected to stay at the top of our game and one of the best ways to do that is by constantly challenging ourselves to learn and try new things.

Through the Highwire Training Program, we aim to not only train the skills required for the job (pitching, messaging, writing, etc.) but also for business. To that end, we bring in improv coaches, productivity experts and management consultants to train us in those areas.

Three team members collaborating on a work projectThe Highwire Training Program consists of five complementary pillars:

  • PR Skills: Based on skill level, we offer two tracks: Fundamentals and Advanced
  • Writing/Editing/Pitching: Featuring our writing coach Lauren Edwards from WriteCulture, who conducts monthly level-specific writing, editing and pitching sessions and is available year-round for 1:1 consultations
  • Mid-Management Training: Specifically guides Senior Account Executives through the transition to the Account Manager role
  • Reporter Lunch & Learn: Reporters and editors give us the lowdown on how they work and how we can work best together  
  • Monthly Sessions: A catch-all for the larger skill areas such as productivity and time management, business development, management skills and improv

The old adage goes, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Nowhere is that more relevant than in communications, where you’re only as good as your last article or tweet. Maintaining a solid training program with regular input from all levels is one of the keys to achieve relevancy and proficiency.


Keep an eye out for upcoming posts where we share our knowledge about what we’ve learned in training. And learn on!

Meet the Furry Friends of Highwire

It’s no secret that Highwire is a pet-friendly place, and in honor of National Pet Week, we’re dedicating a blog to some of our favorite furry (and not so furry) friends.

If these cute faces have you itching for a companion of your own, you can use Shelter Pal to find the perfect shelter pet near you who is ready to be rescued. Just text ‘Shelter Me’ to 980-477-3728 — Artificial intelligence and image recognition powered by Twilio will help match your lifestyle with the perfect pet!

Meet a few of our best friends: 


Olive Besa-Kallens Wolfson

Instagram Handle: @oliveinmypocket

City: Albany, CA

Hobbies: Eating books and pretending to read them

Highwire Human: Ben Wolfson




Amaebi & Domino

City: Daly City, CA

Hobbies: Eating and maintaining my big-girl status (Amaebi); sneaking into the bed at night to cuddle with my humans (Domino)

Highwire Human: Amy Tsui



Gup & Farfalle Carrubba

Instagram Handle: @farfallethepup

City: San Francisco

Hobbies: Frog-dogging in the sun, snoring loudly, bringing joy to everyone I meet (Farf); Hanging out with my boy and figuring out how my crazy long legs and paws work (Gup)

Highwire Human: Carol Carrubba



Winston Wrinkles Hagenmedia-20170508-3

Instagram Handle: @winston_the_frenchton

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Procuring socks, enjoying fine cheeses,
going on
long walks and being carried home from them

Highwire Human: Natalie Pacini



Ella Farrellmedia-20170508-4

City: New York City

Hobbies: Playing fetch and eating tuna

Highwire Human: Margaret Farrell






Rosie Manganmedia-20170508-5

City: Danville, CA

Hobbies: Long walks in the suburbs and identifying new pillows to sleep on

Highwire Human: Natalie Mangan




Peppa GagliardiGG (1)

City: North Caldwell, NJ

Hobbies: Hide-and-seek on my own terms

Highwire Human: Gia Gagliardi







Maxx PlatiFullSizeRender

Instagram Hashtag: #maxxthehuman

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Eating acorns and chasing squirrels

Highwire Human: Nicole Plati




Hendrix Polar Torresmedia-20170508-1

City: El Sobrante, CA

Hobbies: Playing in water, helping with yard work (sticks involved), and steering clear of doorstops (scary)

Highwire Human: Andrea Torres






Baz Khya & RodeoScreen Shot 2017-05-08 at 12.34.04 PM

: New York City

Hobbies: Hoarding trash (Baz Khya); lying in the snow and wrestling (Rodeo)

Highwire Human
: Natalie Tijerina





Cotton media-20170508-11Davick-Latham

: Oakland

Hobbies: Perfecting the “Dog with the Pearl Earring” look

Highwire Human: Tanner Latham






Taco Harlanmedia-20170508-8

City: New York City

Hobbies: Sleeping on people (including my human baby sister Sloane), sleeping on books, finding new and interesting surfaces to sleep on

Highwire Human: Jennifer Harlan







Willie Gratehousemedia-20170508-12

City: San Francisco & Sonoma

Hobbies: Barking at leaf blowers, enjoying treats and going on walks

Highwire Human: Kathleen Gratehouse






Pepper Navaltamedia-20170508-13

City: San Francisco

Hobbies: Chasing shadows (not a metaphor)

Highwire Human: Chris Navalta







Theo Hillsmedia-20170508-16

City: Providence, RI

Hobbies: Chewing on walls, but my human is trying to get me to expand my horizon

Highwire Human: Chris Hills







media-20170508-15Ella Bean Fitzgerald & Mimi Giachetti

City: Oakland

Hobbies: Being active and trying to make friends with Mimi (Ella); sleeping, trying to avoid Ella (Mimi)

Highwire Human
: Gina Giachetti





Mickey Militanamedia-20170508-14

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Serving as the cutest ring-bearer you’ve ever seen

Highwire Human:  Marlena Militana







Benny Bubbico Ciullamedia-20170508-17

Instagram Handle: @thebennybubs

City: White Plains, NY

Hobbies: Chasing balls and bunnies in the backyard

Highwire Human: Lindsay Ciulla





Oliver (Ollie) Gauthiermedia-20170508-18

City: Oakland

Hobbies: Licking plastic bags, playing with my toy carrot and eating our house plants

Highwire Human: Mariah Gauthier







Maggie Sedin10411775_10205253064705191_4162205524789019084_n

City: Fremont, CA

Hobbies: Eating, sleeping and avoiding kisses from my human

Highwire Human: Marielle Sedin






Annie Smedleymedia-20170508-19

City: Santa Clara, CA

Hobbies: Throwing toys across the room and knocking things over

Highwire Human: Shane Smith







Indo ReedMendocinoSand

Facebook Page:

: Alameda, CA

Being the ultimate hunk and carrying around things like buckets and tools

Highwire Human: Jill Reed




Do you have any fur babies powering your agency? Let us know in the comments below (and share plenty of pictures please)!

Making an Impact on Earth Day

One of the truly great things about Highwire PR is the passionate group of people that work here. Highwire employees are passionate about improving their communities. We’re passionate about helping animals, working with displaced communities and families, helping people out during times when they need it most, and ensuring the places that we live and breathe are sustainable.

This past weekend marked the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, and so we wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the great work that our team has done to take care of our Mother Earth.


Building a Clean and Sustainable Community

For the past few years, the San Francisco team has joined forces with some of our Bay Area PR agency friends to “Rock the Earth.” Annually, we help clean up and protect a local lake that’s near and dear to our hearts — Mountain Lake.

Mountain Lake is one of San Francisco’s last surviving natural lakes and the only natural lake in the entire 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The lake has been through a lot in its 2,000 years, beginning in 1939 when a highway was constructed nearby, shrinking its size and causing pollution. Since then, runoff from fertilizer at the neighboring golf course has added to the pollution and countless pets and other animals (goldfish, turtles and even an alligator) have been released into the lake, forcing out the native wildlife and damaging the ecological system.

This year, Bay Area PR agencies got their hands dirty to help by removing invasive plant species, laying down mulch for native plants, and shoveling sediment from ditches that led directly to the lake.

Park Clean Up

San Francisco team members Marisa Hutton and Marielle Sedin clear out ditches during “Rock the Earth.”


Cleaning up the Trash

Earlier this year, the Chicago team (with special SF guest Shari) got their hands dirty at Lincoln Park Conservancy to assist in wild habitat restoration by pulling and weeding out non-native plant species in the park.

This Saturday, they came together again to pick up trash at the historic Lincoln Park. The team worked with other locals to mulch around park trees and trails, cleared winter debris, planted native wildflowers and grasses, and cleaned up the park. The Highwire crew specifically worked on painting and refurbishing benches in the park.

The New York team joined in the fun as well to pick up trash as part of Central Park’s “Pick Up, Pitch In,” initiative, beautifying the most visited park in the United States.

Chicago Park Cleanup

Brenna Hogan, Natalie Pacini and Erika Ackerman of the Chicago office paint benches at Lincoln Park on Earth Day.


Loving the Earth Year Round

Beyond cleaning up our local parks on earth day, the Highwire team makes an impact on the environment all year long.

The Chicago office often partners with Green City Market to support the growth of sustainable food. Green City Market seeks to support small family farms and promote good health through education and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably raised produce and products.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco team joined the global CleanSpace movement, becoming part of the first cohort of citizen scientists collecting air quality data for “MapSF.” By carrying around iPhone-sized sensors known as a “Clean Space Tag”, the team is collecting data about the air quality of where we live, breathe and work, and contributing to an air quality heat map across the Bay Area. The data will be used to keep track of the air quality across the area and improve our daily lives.

To find out how you can get involved in projects that help the environment on Earth Day and throughout the year, visit the Earth Day website or


The Art of Bad Publicity

Is there a silver lining in today’s bad publicity?

It’s been widely reported that President Trump masqueraded as his own publicist in the 1970s, 80s and 90s in order to boast about his life. The president is the self-proclaimed master of “The Art of the Deal,” but does he also own the art of bad publicity?  And does his election victory in the face of campaign implosions, leaked scandals and myriad other crises support the old adage that there is no such thing as it?  

PR missteps, even crises, happen from time to time. The online world we live in means everything is amplified and “going viral” can happen in an instant. Seventy-two percent of customers trust online opinions as much as they trust their family and friends, according to Forrester Research. This means publicity, good or bad, is highly influential in a world where we’re constantly sharing and consuming information online.  Recent cases of messaging gone wrong have included Pepsi, Uber and United. While some of these brands have suffered serious damage, the question remains: is there a silver lining in any of this bad publicity?

Let’s take Pepsi’s widely mocked ad featuring Kendall Jenner, sister to Kim (Khloe, Kourtney…you know who we’re talking about). Yes, the food and beverage corporation issued an apology after the criticism, but it’s estimated that Pepsi got somewhere between $300 million and $400 million in free media coverage out of the controversy. To put that into perspective, then-candidate Trump earned $400 million worth of free media in February 2016 while campaigning, which is close to what Sen. John McCain spent on his ENTIRE 2008 presidential campaign. Additionally, Pepsi’s mentions on social media were up more than 7,000 percent the day the ad debuted, according to Brandwatch. In one day, Pepsi garnered 1.25 million mentions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Only just over half of those mentions were negative, means that just under half of that explosion of conversation was positive or neutral.  And that negativity might not have been as painful as you would expect. Analytics experts actually say that negative mentions are given somewhat less weight than positive or neutral mentions.  Whether intended or not, Pepsi got the whole world talking about them.

Moving to the airline industry, we recently touched on United’s woes (its stock price and reputation plummeted), but that calls to mind another carrier case. US Airlines once replied to a customer complaint tweeted at them with a pornographic image. The tweet stayed on the company’s profile for a full 60 minutes before it was removed, but not before it’d received 476 retweets. Here’s the thing: After the damage had been done, US Airlines actually gained 14,000 followers as result of the Twitter attention.

Lastly, it’s been an outright battle on the roadways between Uber and Lyft, as the rideshare giants compete to dominate the streets. Uber was plagued by scandal early in 2017, including the popular #DeleteUber hashtag campaign. Lyft, whose value is approximately 10 times smaller than Uber’s, has worked to capitalize on the good feelings surrounding their platform, announcing an opt-in app feature that allows riders to automatically route rounded-up ride charges to charity. But for all of Uber’s troubles, the question of whether the company has been hurt by all the negative publicity remains to be seen. Uber announced recently that their ridership numbers in the first 10 weeks of 2017 eclipsed those of early 2016, and an eventual public offering may be looming, as has been predicted.  

In describing publicity in “The Art of the Deal,” President Trump had this to say, “Good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.” So is any publicity good publicity? From a PR perspective, the battle to stand out from the crowd is fiercer than ever before. But where’s the line between good PR and bad? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.

We want to hear from you! What’s your take on the line between good PR and bad? Tweet us @HighwirePR.

East Coast vs West Coast? The Best Tech PR Adventure Combines Both

West Coast vs East Coast Infographic

To successfully navigate the East and West Coast tech scenes, you need to wrap your mind around their differences. Each has always offered different cultures and communities to those seeking new opportunities, and this remains true for their respective tech landscapes.

The East Coast hustle and the West Coast chill seem to swap roles, however, when the topic of conversation is turned to the tech industry. The West Coast tech scene is based on a fast-moving mentality, inspired by a highly competitive industry that’s seeded with venture capital. The East Coast, by contrast, is built on a traditional foundation that stems from its academic environment, creating a more cultivating mindset.

Understanding these differing tech scenes could make or break a startup’s success when choosing which coast to call home.    

Rising in the East: On Boston aka “The Innovation Hub”

The academic focus plays a huge role in Boston’s startup industry to form a unified community. Many universities (such as Harvard’s i-lab) as well as more established companies host accelerator programs to offer space, resources and guidance. The heavy academia influence also leads to a tech scene strongly driven by research.

When discussing GE’s recent HQ relocation, chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said, “We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations. Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research and development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world.”

The Boston industry as a whole is less consumer-based than the West Coast, and more focused on products that help enterprises expand and increase efficiency. The Massachusetts tech scene is also infiltrated by the large presence of its medical community, leading to a strong focus on digital health and biotechnology. All these aspects create a cohesive environment with a nurturing mindset, honing in on growth and long-term goals.


Setting Off in the West: On San Francisco and Silicon Valley

As we turn to Silicon Valley, “Pick up the pace” echoes across the country, and the West Coast tech scene is a change of pace in every aspect.

According to NBC News, the West lacks as much of a cohesive community as the East Coast. Instead, the West fuels its fire with passion and speed, leading the Bay Area startup scene to the success it sees today. Driven by young minds and young money, the unique personalities on the West Coast create a short term, fast-paced mentality.

This high-energy environment breeds healthy competition. There is a steady fight to stand out in the crowd and attract a potential investor’s big bucks. There is a larger focus on socializing — which is key to winning big in the Valley. Relationships are the foundation of the industry here. You’ve got to know and find the right people to involve in your business and achieve the highest level of success.


Best of Both Worlds

Recognizing that each coast offers a unique perspective, it seems the most reasonable solution to picking a side in the Bay Area vs. Boston battle is to simply choose both. By merging the mindsets of each coast, one gains a deeper understanding of the tech industry as a whole.