PR maven Keith Sherman on being positive during the pandemic
Linda Armstrong | 4/23/2020, 5:23 p.m. | Updated on 5/8/2020, 5:23 p.m.
During these uncertain times, it’s always refreshing to hear that someone has something positive to celebrate. Keith Sherman, founder and president of Keith Sherman & Associates Public Relations firm has passed the milestone of operating 30 years, something that he accomplished in Dec. 2019. Sherman started the Times Square based company in 1989, with a staff consisting of himself and three other people. He has represented over 300 shows, which recently included “Be More Chill,” “We Will Rock You” and “Mike Birbiglia: The New One.” He also handled the Tony Awards for 18 amazing years. His clientele include film, TV, music, major global events, organizations, award shows including the Chita Rivera Awards and the Drama Desk Awards, individuals, fine art, brands and Olympic sports. Sherman, during this pandemic has personally experienced the coronavirus, having not only gotten it, but also had his husband fall ill with it. Despite this upsetting situation he has managed to stay positive and grateful for every day. Sherman recently took the time to speak to the AmNews about what’s going on with his business, his life and share his positive attitude towards the future, a Q&A follows.
AmNews: Dec. 2019 marked 30 years for your business, what does it feel like to have reached such a milestone?
KS: It feels like the blink of an eye. We go through life one day at a time, but when we look back time somehow becomes compressed. It doesn’t feel like three decades, especially since I’m still a millennial at heart.
AmNews: What are the challenges you have faced over the years?
KS: We all face many challenges in life on several levels. In my PR business, I face daily challenges to stay on top of constantly changing trends in the media, to deliver excellent results for our clients, to keep my staff, and myself, happy, engaged and thriving. We all face the challenge to stay healthy, to do the right thing, to be kind and to take the high road.
AmNews; I personally know that you have covered very high profile clients, such as the Tony Awards, you cover the Chita Rivera Awards and various other awards and you do it with a grace, dignity, fairness and consideration that I as a journalist have always been able to appreciate, how do you manage to handle your business in this way?
KS: We’ve known each other for lots of years Linda. You know how to make a fella blush. This question makes my heart smile. We make choices in life with our behaviors. How do we want to treat others? How do we wish to be treated? Years ago I worked for a monster of a boss. He was mean spirited and many didn’t like him. Still, I learned valuable lessons from that experience in how not to treat others. At some point we become our true authentic self and that resonates.
AmNews: Over the 30 years, who are some of the high profile clients your agency has dealt with and was dealing with just before the coronavirus outbreak?
KS: We have been blessed with a number of wonderful projects: the Tony Awards for 18 years, The New York Times for a decade, more than 15 years working with Vy Higginsen and "Mama, I Want to Sing;” Montreal Jazz Festival, more than 300 shows on Broadway, Off-Broadway and national tours; hundreds of films, television broadcasts and music projects; and decades representing Brian Boitano, who won the Olympic Gold Medal for America in figure skating. It’s a long wonderful list of clients who have trusted me to help manage their public profiles.
AmNews: Keith, it is so hard to believe that your amazing company is comprised for 4 people, yourself and two associates, one who has been with you for 19 years, another with you for 18 years and an assistant who has been with you for 11 years. What are these people names and to what do you attribute their longevity?
KS: Isn’t that a wonderful thing. Brett Oberman, Scott Klein and Logan Metzler. I feel lucky to have them as my business family. At the end of the day it’s about treating people right, with respect and dignity. Too, when that call comes in from an unhappy journalist or a client who is breathing fire, I take that call and handle it. I like to think that my colleagues appreciate that.
AmNews: With Broadway being shutdown and the city, and country being shutdown due to the coronavirus and you experiencing a portion of this pandemic with yourself and your husband contracting the illness and trying to get through it, how do you keep positive?
KS: Seeing the glass half full is my nature. I am an optimist. Maybe I’m insane. I like myself and have the strength to share that confidence with people in my life. There is light ahead. Today, it may look rather dim, but it’s there. I think 20 and 30 somethings are having an especially hard time now because this pandemic is the first truly horrible time in their lives and they don’t have the broad vision to see that it will get better, maybe not for some months, but it will get better.
AmNews: As New Yorkers we have been through a lot of tragedies, what do you recall as the most difficult moments and how did you get through them?
KS: The coronavirus is unprecedented in our lives. Some of us have lived through 9/11, the AIDS crisis, hurricanes, blackouts and other horrible atrocities. As a child I have memories of my grandparents telling me about polio. Our society will emerge from this. For me, it’s one day at a time. We create stress in our lives when we try to plan thing out into the future in the midst of uncertainty. Live in the moment. I believe it was Oprah who said, “They call the moment the present because it’s a gift."
AmNews: What has happen to your company due to the coronavirus?
KS: Oh boy. It helps knowing it’s not about me. It’s about everyone. All of our projects are closed, cancelled or postponed. I’ve had to take money from my personal savings in order to cover bills to keep my PR firm afloat until things turn around. The saddest part was having to furlough my staff. That really broke my heart. But I did it in the name of survival. We are going to emerge.
AmNews: You have spent money from your savings to try and keep your business afloat and recently furloughed your longtime staff, what can you say to other small businesspeople who are experiencing what you are right now?
KS: There is no easy or singular solution. I’m a fighter. I love my work and I want to keep at it. Others may not feel that way and it’s ok. For some, it may be prudent to stop while others can’t imagine that possibilities. Everyone is different. Follow your instinct, and your checkbook.
AmNews: There's got to be a morning after, what do you want it to hold for you, your family, staff family and our great city?
KS: That’s a great bigger picture question about life. I want to continue living with joy in my heart. Business is important, but people are vital. There is so much in life that interests me, especially about art and culture, I am endlessly curious about so much, but close relationships with people are the key to a happy life. One’s family, both blood and chosen, come first. Everything else falls in behind that.