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Mike Santoro, Walker Sands Communications: DMN 2014 40 Under 40 Award winner

Mike Santoro, President
Walker Sands Communications 

Winning ways: Whether he’s running a half marathon or flexing his PR and digital marketing muscles, Santoro knows the value of grit. His commitment to testing, measuring, and learning has helped Walker Sands earn two Golden Trumpet awards in the marketing category and grow company revenue from $700,000 to $3.8 million in four years.

Defining moment: “One of the biggest opportunities that I had was when I was right out of college. I joined this company called Technology Advisors as a Web copy intern. It was a short gig where they said, ‘Here, we need you to write some Web copy.’ And I said, ‘Well, I still need a job after this internship.’ So I aggressively took the approach to learn as much marketing as I possibly could during that internship [through] reading articles and books and then proposing and suggesting things to the company…I learned the value of constantly learning, constantly updating your skill set, and experimenting with marketing.

Words to live by: “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.” –Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus

Head swivel:  “For us, it’s been the trend of measurement. We’re known as a public relations firm and public relations is difficult to measure…. So we really placed a heavy emphasis on integrating PR and digital so [clients] can get solid ROI out of [their] activities via website visits and online conversions, but [we’re] also trying to learn some more innovative measurement techniques.”

Good advice: “Be hungry for knowledge.”

First job: “I was a busboy at the Classic Corner Café at age 14. I learned that you should work hard, always have a smile, and be proactive…. That was my introduction to the services business, and I still use a lot of those lessons today as I talk to clients.”

On your nightstand: “I would recommend that everybody reads Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion [by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D]. It’s basically got six tips [for] how people are influenced. You can use it…in marketing to write better landing page copy, better direct mail copy, [or] better email copy—just to understand what turns people on. For the basics, Al Ries’ [and Laura Ries’] The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is solid. And then I recently read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. It’s interesting because it’s about how children succeed, but it’s also more, in general, [about] how people succeed. The basic thesis is around grit as a valuable personality trait. There are very intelligent people and they sometimes succeed. But…if you whole heartedly commit to doing something better and have the perseverance to do that, that’s really what’s ultimately going to let you succeed.”

Favorite mobile app: “Uber is something that I use constantly. I travel a lot so any city [where] I need to get around it’s the fastest way to grab somebody. I also do a lot of running. I just finished a half marathon…so I use Endomondo for tracking runs, especially in different locations.”

Click or tap here to read the stories behind the successes of the other Direct Marketing News 2014 40 Under 40 winners. 

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