Thinkshift is an impact PR pioneer
A longtime B Corp public relations agency, Thinkshift® Communications has worked exclusively with social enterprises, cleantech companies, mission-driven businesses and advocacy nonprofits for over 10 years. By combining our deep sector knowledge with strategies tailored for impact brands, we help our clients break through the noise.
Sandra Stewart | principalSandra is an ace brand and PR strategist who helps clients tell their stories in ways that hit a nerve—and she makes sure those stories live a long, well-traveled life. She’s also a policy wonk who brings wide-ranging sustainability knowledge to bear in developing communications that are both bold and truthful. Sandra developed her uncanny sense of storytelling as a longtime magazine writer and editor. She loves the high that comes from collaborating with field leaders to promote creative solutions to social and environmental problems. She’s a fan of cities, food (cooking and eating it) baseball, wine bars, nerdy podcasts, theater, movies in theaters and punctuation.
Sarah Grolnic-McClurg | senior associate
Sarah, principal of Pounce PR, is our media relations and social media maven. She’s a pragmatic pro with an unerring sense of what makes the news, honed by more than 15 years’ experience placing stories in a variety of outlets and developing solid relationships with reporters. She’s also an optimist and something of a cheerleader, which makes her the perfect person to energize clients and conduct media relations workshops. She’s into American politics, cooking and wine, and admits to an obsession with skincare products.
Christine O’Connor | pr associate
Christine is a highly adaptable communications specialist who has has worn many hats in her career, working with clients in fields from consumer products to healthcare to progressive politics. She is thrilled to help her Thinkshift clients make the world a better place through corporate issue advocacy and brand storytelling. A transplant from New England, Christine lives in Los Angeles and will consider herself very fortunate if she never has to commute in the snow again. In her spare time, she can usually be found in the kitchen cooking up something delicious or in a comfy chair buried in a good book.
Gail Nelson-Bonebrake | copy editor
Gail, our multitalented copy editor and proofreader, has honed her eagle eye for grammar, spelling, accuracy and style over a long freelance career of editing books, magazines and websites. She is thrilled to support Thinkshift, the storyteller par excellence of forward-thinking organizations that want to make a better world. Gail can’t stop herself from marking up typos in restaurant menus. She volunteers for historical societies and animal welfare organizations in California, plays the banjo, wears nutty vintage hats and loves craft beer. She also does an imitation of the Wicked Witch of the West that scares pretty much anyone who witnesses it.
Laura Hilgers | writer
Laura, our ace storyteller, has covered everything from the Slow Food movement to the race to become the oldest guy to summit Everest. She loves taking simple facts and anecdotes and transforming them into rich narratives, and has done so for Marin Magazine, O, Outside, Sunset, Vogue and many other publications. An avid hiker in Marin County, Laura has an appreciation for the environment that resonates with her work for Thinkshift. (She still can’t believe she gets paid to talk to such cool clients and write their stories.) Her other occupations include raising two (almost) grown children and whipping up California-style comfort food. She also has a pretty respectable downward dog.
Carolyn McMaster | co-founder & board member
Carolyn co-founded Thinkshift with Sandra the classic way: over cocktails, on a napkin. She now sits on Thinkshift’s board and serves as an adviser—but mostly she’s pursuing adventures in wild places and enjoying art in all its forms. She still loves tequila and a good peaty Scotch, but not at the same time.
How we power positive change, from our clients to our practices
Thinkshift is a California benefit corporation and a Certified B Corporation with an impact business model. We work solely with businesses and nonprofits that put solving social and environmental problems at the heart of their work—and we’re dedicated to helping them lead change in their field. See our B Impact Score.
We promote business action on climate, justice and equity policies as a member of the American Sustainable Business Network and through other organizations. And we walk the talk: see our ethics, community service, purchasing and environmental policies.
In addition, Thinkshift is a member of 1% for the Planet, a global network of companies that donate at least 1% of their revenue to environmental organizations. And we offset our unavoidable emissions through fellow B Corp Offset Alliance, which funds verified carbon reduction initiatives.
From sketching on a cocktail napkin to launching impact PR
The Thinkshift story starts the classic way: over cocktails, on a napkin.
That adventurous “why not?” spirit served us well as we built an impact-focused PR agency, and it continues to animate our work to drive adoption of creative solutions to social and environmental problems.
Joining the B Corp movement at its beginning
Officially founded in 2008 but off the ground in 2009, Thinkshift became a B Corp in 2010, certifying that we meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. At the time there were just over 300 B Corps, all in the U.S., and we were eager to help the movement grow. It has—now there are over 7,000 in 92 countries.
In January 2012, we joined a parade of about 25 B Corp founders (led by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard) who showed up in person at the California Secretary of State’s office to become California’s first benefit corporations—meaning we baked accountability for our mission into our corporate structure.
Committing to an impact-only client list
By the end of 2013 we decided to go all-in and commit not just to running a sustainable business, but also to working only with impact-driven clients. We knew we needed to fully devote our time, creativity and brainpower to helping changemakers succeed.
Some people (our lawyer, for one) thought we were nuts. A decade ago, companies in our client universe were novelties. Impact investing was a nascent field. Prioritizing anything above profit—or even on par with it—was a fringe concept.
The skeptics weren’t entirely wrong: Building any business is challenging, and narrowing our market so tightly created an extra degree of difficulty. But the movement to make business a force for good was growing, and the prospects came—many of them after working with PR firms that didn’t get their goals or their market.
Unlocking brand-boosting results
We got results for these groundbreaking clients with a combination of thought leadership, leveraging prominent partners, creating big fish in small ponds, and making complex solutions relatable. Just a few examples: A multipronged campaign for a sustainable seafood network produced a 300% increase in media coverage. A new tagline (“planet-smart banking”) and messaging for a green bank supported growth leading to acquisition by a field leader. And strategically placed trade and mainstream business coverage helped power 395% growth for a fintech platform advancing racial equity and financial inclusion. (See all case studies for more examples.)
These proven approaches continue to drive success for our clients, and we continually adapt them as media and business environments change. It’s all in service to our ultimate vision: a world where economic and social justice, accountability, and care for the environment are business as usual.