Sharon Golubchik

As seen in Authority Magazine

The more you prepare in advance of an event, the more successful your efforts will be. When attending a conference or a networking event, you can either just attend and see what happens, or you can take control of your presence before you even arrive. The more time you spend on scheduling meetings or identifying speaking opportunities and event sponsorships in advance, the more you will be able to maximize your time spent at the event.

As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Golubchik. Sharon is Vice President of Healthcare at Antenna Group. She has more than a decade of experience working with healthcare companies, from conglomerates to startups. Whether launching a new treatment or bringing life to a hundred-year-old brand, she builds targeted strategic marketing and communications programs that drive business objectives. Managing a wide variety of campaigns, including media relations, thought leadership, social media, digital marketing and beyond, Sharon develops integrated plans that target priority audiences with compelling messaging across all relevant platforms. From FDA approvals to product launches to corporate communications, her clients span the healthcare sector including oncology, immunotherapy, neurology, infectious disease, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, endocrinology, dentistry, pain management, and mental health, among others. Her campaigns have helped drive sales and build awareness, landing on hundreds of national, regional and trade media outlets, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, TIME, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, Reuters, Dow Jones, Good Day New York, Associated Press, and others including TV affiliates of all major networks in more than 100 markets.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was a freshman in college, I approached my university’s dean of students and said, “I love public speaking, and I like writing. What’s a good career path for me?” Without hesitation, she said, “Public relations will be perfect for you.” She was spot on.

Public relations (PR), as I’d later learn, is an incredibly vast industry and can take you in so many different directions. For my first job out of college, I worked in the corporate communications division of a big PR firm. I had one healthcare client, and immediately, I knew that healthcare marketing and communications were my calling. I was fortunate that I was able to discover my passion early on in my career. Over a decade later, I’m still knee-deep in healthcare marketing and haven’t looked back since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

When I first joined Antenna Group, there was no healthcare practice — only two clients in the space. Antenna Group’s two largest practice areas were clean energy and real estate. I was hesitant to accept the position, as 70% to 80% of my time would be spent working in the clean energy industry, and while I developed an appreciation for space, my passion was in healthcare. Nonetheless, I accepted the role, largely because of the intelligent people I’d have the pleasure of working with, as well as the collaborative and strong company culture.

But my passion for healthcare would not subside. So, I approached our CEO, Keith Zakheim, and I told him that I really want to build a healthcare practice. Without hesitation, he said, “Let’s do it.” We worked together to build a team and a client base. He gave me the guidance, freedom, and wings to do what it takes to build a successful practice. I’m grateful to him for giving me an opportunity that has helped shape my career into what it is today and for instilling in me the lesson that nothing is out of reach if we will it enough.

So, now, I still work with a dedicated, brilliant and wonderful group of people and at a company with one of the strongest cultures I’ve seen, only I get to do it while working on my greatest passion — medicine.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It must have been my first two months on the job — my first out of college. This job was exactly what I wanted at a big, midtown-Manhattan public relations firm. I loved every second of it — no matter how many of those seconds were spent after hours.

A ProfNet email came through, and there was a CNN Money reporter looking to interview a company about the growth of their business. I immediately reached out to the reporter — the importance of speedy responses is something I learned almost immediately in my career. I wasn’t too hopeful — it was CNN Money after all, and what were the chances that the reporter would respond? But he did! He said he’d love to interview my client, and he sent me the topics that he’d like to cover, one of which was the company’s business story around revenue growth.

I quickly wrote the e-mail, and for about 2.5 seconds I thought, “Should I send the email to get reviewed by the account lead?” but decided against it because who would turn down an interview with CNN Money? Within two minutes of hitting the send button, I heard people speed walking past my cubicle (this was before open-plan offices!). And then I started to hear just tidbits of whispers, “Did you approve that email?” and “Why did she send that email?” Needless to say, my heart dropped.

It turns out that when this client engaged with the firm, they had one rule when pitching media — all business angles were off-limits. A piece of information — an important one — I could not have known without asking. But this taught me a few critical lessons.

1) Don’t be such a hotshot. In my desperation to impress and to “wow”, I took the little knowledge I had, made assumptions and ran, instead of slowing down and tapping into the many people around me who were much more knowledgeable and well-informed. Hitting the gas and being proactive is a very good thing, but it’s important to make sure to do it thoughtfully and strategically, which brings me to my next lesson.

2) Always ask questions. Early on in my career, I remember how nervous I was to ask questions. “Would this question make me look stupid?” or “Is this a question I should know the answer to?” are thoughts I’d have. Yes, do your homework and your own research, but once that’s done, ask. There is no shame in not knowing something you could not have known, and if we don’t ask, we will never learn. I learned that smart people ask questions.

3) Be kind and forgive yourself. Mistakes will happen, and then, they will happen again. If you’re careful, you won’t make the same mistake twice. But as you grow and explore new challenges, you will make new mistakes. Unfortunately, you can’t grow without them (if anyone has figured out how to climb without falling, please let me know!). Do some self-reflection and introspection, figure out what you need to fix or implement to prevent the mistake from happening again, and then forgive yourself. Don’t harp on the mistake or let it paralyze you. Instead, let it empower you to do better next time.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have the great fortune of working on campaigns that are shaping the medicine of the future. From drugs that are transforming how we treat cancer to drugs that give hope to people with Alzheimer’s; from medical devices and therapies that can treat neurological and mental disorders to devices that offer virtually pain-free experiences for dental patients; from tests that can significantly improve women’s health and quality of life to products that are paving the way in regenerative medicine.

Together with my team, I have the opportunity of spending all day, every day working with some of the most brilliant minds who are developing and commercializing these innovative products. Every day, we get to bring our marketing and public relations expertise to help them elevate their brands and drive their business objectives, whether that means launching a new product, recruiting more patients to a clinical trial, raising awareness among the medical community, educating patients, or getting the attention of potential strategic partners and investors.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

● Don’t be shy to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation. What’s the worst that can happen?

● Be genuine, be yourself. People like you; there’s no reason that they won’t like talking to you over cocktails.

● People like to share, so make sure that you’re doing as much listening as you are talking, if not more.

● Don’t take up too much of their time. Remember, they (and you) are there to network. The goal at a networking event is to spark a connection that you can follow-up on after the event.

● Don’t enter a conversation with the intention of selling. Create a connection that will allow for additional engagement in the future.

● Collect business cards whenever possible so that you can keep track of who you spoke to and can stay in touch. If they are out of cards, take down their name and email address.

● Follow up with a thank-you note within one day of the event. This ensures that a) you reach out while your conversations are still fresh and b) you remain top of mind while they still remember you.

● Connect on LinkedIn with every person you met at the event.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Identify companies that are aligned with your areas of expertise and passion. An important first step in generating leads is to identify companies that a) are in areas in which you have a great deal of experience and b) you are passionate about. When your previous experience is relevant to your prospects, you are more likely to win the business and do a good job once you do. Passion is also a critical piece because that will enable you to build a long-term relationship with your client, one in which you become a valued extension of their team. Ultimately, the only companies you should target are ones for which you strongly feel you can bring success.

The more you prepare in advance of an event, the more successful your efforts will be. When attending a conference or a networking event, you can either just attend and see what happens, or you can take control of your presence before you even arrive. The more time you spend on scheduling meetings or identifying speaking opportunities and event sponsorships in advance, the more you will be able to maximize your time spent at the event.

Be transparent even in the courting stage. Salespeople often fall into the trap of conveying only the most optimistic scenarios and metrics in order to win over a prospect. For the health of your long-term relationship with the prospect and for the sake of your credibility, it is imperative that you share your real experiences while managing expectations. If a prospect’s expectations are unrealistic or need to be tempered, make sure to tell them that before they sign on the dotted line. More often than not, prospects will appreciate your honesty and expertise even more, which will allow you to start your relationship with them on the right foot.

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

Our CEO, Keith Zakheim, recently recommended that our executive team read “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks, which really resonated with me on so many levels. In a nutshell, Brooks addresses two phases in a person’s life. The first phase, or first mountain, is when a person actively chases more money, more success and more independence, all of which lead to fleeting happiness. But later in a person’s life, they climb the second mountain, one where dependence on and commitment to other people lead to true joy.

I took two key takeaways from this approach, as I believe that we have the opportunity to climb both mountains.

First, success in our careers is important, but we need to view our careers as more than just a paycheck and tools to grow that paycheck. When using our careers and success to bring more good into the world and to build meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues, we can both elevate ourselves as better human beings and bring more meaning to our day-to-day.

Second, while we’re climbing the first mountain, we can never lose sight of the second. We need to be simultaneously climbing the second mountain, giving of ourselves to our loved ones and those around us.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to “move” people out of their comfort zones. I think that there are too many critical causes in the world to choose a specific one. But one common denominator among all ideas that came to fruition in history is that they all required someone to step out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges and risks that no one was successful at before, and try something new.

No matter what our passion is, it’s important to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones because who knows what change we can make happen when we do?

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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