Dan Calabrese started our company in 1999, when he was in his early 30s and a soon-to-be father. He will be the first to acknowledge the mistakes he made in the early years, and the result has been the building of a well-respected family business that knows its strengths and understands how to translate them into business value for our clients. We thought you’d like to get to know him a little better, so this interview is for you:
Q. When you started North Star Marketing Content what did the future of it look like for you?
A. At the time, which was 1999, we envisioned ourselves as a fairly conventional public relations firm, thinking our knowledge of the media would produce publicity opportunities for our clients. We envisioned picking up bigger and bigger clients and placing them in the Wall Street Journal and so forth.
Once we realized we didn’t do that any better than our competition, we re-thought the whole concept and chose to focus on the creation of content – because no one does that better than we do. It’s not the original plan but I’m happy we had the ability and the agility to make the adjustment.
Q. How do you see North Star growing in the future?
A. The mediums and platforms are evolving, but there will always be the need for content. That’s why I think we’re wonderfully positioned. The team we’ve put together understands not only how to do great writing and editing, but also how to plug the content into traditional and newly emerging platforms. I’ve believed since 2005 that the real value in content is being able to tell your story directly to the highest-value audiences. I see us growing in the future by creating more client-owned media that connects directly with those high-value audiences. They’re the publishers. We’re the editors. The audiences respond to the content in ways that help drive the clients’ business success.
Q. What is your favorite part of doing what you do here?
A. When we collaborate to create something none of us could do individually. I’ve been writing professionally for 37 years. I spent 12 of them mainly sitting around in parks and coffee shops working by myself. I can write anything. But when Michelle and I produce a video together, or Angie and I produce a script together – there’s a magic about that, and I can’t reproduce it by myself. Also, the fact that everyone who works here is family means that God blessed us all with these wonderful skills that allow us to complement each other so beautifully. It’s nice to know I can work by myself, but I could never go all-in on a solo career because I love being in this band too much!
Q. What is the biggest strength of your company?
A. The fact that we focus on what we do really well. When we started out in PR, we were a middling firm in a small market. That’s because we weren’t exceptionally gifted for it. Since we’ve been exclusively committed to creating content – articles, newsletters, videos, blog posts, you name it – we know that everything we work on allows us to lead with our strength. Every time someone tells us they absolutely love something we created for them, I’m reminded of why it was wise for us to make this our core business.
Q. On the days when you’re not a hardworking writer and editor-in-chief, what do you enjoy doing?
A. I lead a Bible study five days a week. In fact, we start the day with it here. We’ve got 10 regular participants and it’s both challenging and rewarding. On a more leisurely note, going to Tigers games, which I usually hit about 30 to 40 times a season. Going for bike rides with my wife. Playing basketball with my son. Going to lunch with my daughter. Also: Taking every occasion I can to spend time with all of them, such as the upcoming Genesis shows we’ll be attending as a family. Give me as much of this as possible and I’ll never be unhappy a moment in my life.
Q. What are some interesting things the world doesn’t know about you?
A. OK. You asked. I think I’ve seen the entire Back to the Future trilogy about 400 times. I have chicken fettucine alfredo for dinner every Friday night, and have for nearly 20 years. I love getting up super early to catch the sunrise, even on Saturdays. I taught myself to be a pretty decent left-handed hitter after starting life as a terrible right-handed one. I became a gigantic Minnesota Vikings fan because of an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I’ve written four novels. I once caused a delay in a sand volleyball game because I had sand between my teeth and I was trying to floss it out. I’m not sure how interesting any of this is, but it’s what I’ve got for you.
Q. Why do you personally care about telling the stories of companies in written word?
A. I am convinced that the written word is an unappreciated art. I once sent out a promo titled, “A word is worth 1,000 pictures.” I understand that many people are visual and they like to see striking images. But words inform. Words explain. Words express. Words answer questions and clarify. I’ve never believed what you often hear: “People don’t like to read things.”
People don’t like to read things that are poorly written and irrelevant to them. But give them something good that means something to them, and they will certainly read it.
I think companies sell themselves – and their stories – short when they don’t put the whole thing down in writing. Maybe they’ve never found a writer who knew how to capture it and present it really well. Or they hadn’t until they read this interview.
Now? Let’s tell that story.