Emily Scherberth Barnes - Founder and CEO, Symphony PR & Marketing, Inc.
Emily Scherberth Barnes is a seasoned communications veteran with more than two decades of experience as a business strategist, qualitative researcher, storyteller and award-winning public relations counselor. She has guided more than three dozen startups to launch and helped a wide range of companies craft compelling and differentiated narratives that drive their business forward, engage the media and inspire action among their target audiences.
Currently, Emily is the founder and CEO of Symphony PR & Marketing, Inc., a consultancy established in 2008 that works primarily with disruptive technology and healthcare startups, as well as established brands in these industries. In addition to serving as an outsourced interim Head of Marketing & Communications for companies in transition, Symphony specializes in go-to-market strategies, branding initiatives, product launches, and integrated marketing communications campaigns. Over the past 12 years, Symphony has launched, built awareness and generated revenues for leading startups such as ZipRecruiter, alwaysAI, Fruit Street Health, Crossover Health, vMocion, YogaGlo, Yummy.com, Canary Health and Justin.TV, among several others. The company also developed and executed a strategic media relations plan to build visibility for Mayo Clinic along the West Coast which garnered coverage in major outlets such as KABC-TV, KOMO-TV, San Diego Union-Tribune and Sacramento Bee, and increased awareness for the prestigious institution by double digits.
For Crossover Health, Symphony helped defined the marketing and communications functions for the organization, established the department's first operating budget, crafted a new overarching brand narrative and led the internal team in generating a fresh, new approach to member marketing that resulted in increased engagement across several key clients. On the communications side, Symphony also initiated a complete overhaul of the company's intranet and launched the company's first media relations and analyst relations programs.
vMocion contracted Symphony early in 2016 to develop a go-to-market strategy for its proprietary technology that enables a person to feel a sense of motion in a virtual reality environment, developed by scientists at Mayo Clinic. During the week of vMocion’s official launch, Symphony garnered high-profile coverage in Fast Company, Forbes, PC Magazine, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Next Web, MIT Technology Review and more than 20 other influential media outlets. Within a few days of the initial launch, vMocion received dozens of inquiries about licensing its technology from some of the biggest technology companies in the world.
When Canary Health engaged Symphony PR in January 2016, it had developed a leading digital health self-management program, but the company suffered from low awareness. As a first step, Symphony conducted a communications audit and market analysis to inform its recommendations for a re-positioning of the company, which included emphasizing Canary Health’s solutions for multiple chronic conditions, as well as its exclusive relationship with the Stanford University Patient Research Center. Building on Canary Health’s CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), Symphony elevated these two key differentiators and created a comprehensive new messaging platform for communicating Canary Health’s unique value proposition. Through a series of strategic press announcements, an industry analyst tour, an overhaul of the website, and other influencer marketing tactics which utilized this new messaging platform, Canary Health quickly became recognized as a leader in digital health self-management. As a result, Canary Health doubled its share of voice in the digital health category and increased its media coverage volume by 900% in 2016. The company’s executives also were frequently sought out by major news outlets for commentary on developments in the digital health industry, demonstrating a much stronger thought leadership position for Canary Health over the previous year.
In 2009, the leadership team at Justin.tv reached out to Symphony to help the company pivot toward a more sustainable business model, augment its business development efforts and better communicate its offering. In addition, Symphony helped the company replace the perception that Justin.tv was a “lifecasting” site by building awareness for its breadth of content and community diversity, which included executing integrated marketing and PR campaigns around its popular video game streaming. These efforts paved the way for Justin.tv to rebrand as Twitch.tv, which later sold to Amazon for nearly $1 billion.
Prior to creating Symphony, Emily was the vice president of the consumer technology practice at Allison & Partners. Under her leadership, the practice increased revenues by 400 percent due both to major client wins and organic growth. Emily led the company’s competitive pitch for YouTube, which became the agency’s largest client in September 2006, and subsequently led communications for one of the biggest stories of the decade: Google’s $1.65 billion acquisition of the company. In addition to providing strategic counsel to founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, Emily designed the reactive media relations response process for the online video leader, and spearheaded major stories such as the infamous “Best Inventions of 2006” and the “2006 Person of the Year” for TIME Magazine. Emily and her team also provided weekly onsite support for the internal YouTube PR team as well as crisis communications counsel and media relations support.
Prior to joining Allison & Partners, Emily was a managing supervisor in the marketing communications group at Fleishman-Hillard in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she managed several Yahoo! accounts including Yahoo! Autos, Yahoo! Search, and Yahoo! Movies. In addition to coordinating analyst tours and special events, Emily managed business, trade, and consumer campaigns aimed at building awareness and driving traffic for each Yahoo! property. In 2003, Emily also spearheaded a major branding campaign called the “Yahoo! Yodel Challenge” which featured a national search for America’s favorite yodeler, based on Yahoo!’s iconic television commercials. Through casting-call events in eight major markets across the country supported by a national media relations campaign, the program garnered more than 80 million media impressions, 1.5 million page views on the Yahoo! Yodel Challenge website in just a few months, and even inspired a Yahoo! yodel joke on NBC’s hit prime time series “Will & Grace.”
Emily also managed business, trade, and consumer campaigns for Yahoo! Autos, Yahoo!’s online automotive resource. When Emily took over the account in August of 2002, the site was trailing significantly behind the competition, both in content and share of media coverage. As a first step in raising the profile of Yahoo! Autos, Emily led the team in developing creative consumer surveys that would grab media attention, while remaining true to the brand’s “voice of the consumer” positioning. Surveys such as “Best Driving Songs of 2003” and “Do You Talk to Your Car?” generated coverage on outlets ranging from MTV’s “Total Request Live” to CNN Headline News, and the Los Angeles Times. Ultimately, through a mix of these surveys, major new content additions, and a new analyst tour program aimed at educating the analyst community about the site’s offerings, media coverage increased by more than 1000% from 2002 to 2003. In the years that followed, Yahoo! Autos emerged as one of the major players in an extremely competitive online automotive segment.
Emily also has extensive experience supporting major product launches in the automotive category, most notably for General Motor’s Pontiac division, Automobili Lamborghini and Indian Motorcycle. In addition to handling consumer lifestyle and automotive trade media relations for the debut of the Pontiac Aztek, Emily helped coordinate industry VIP events for General Motors. For Lamborghini, she was responsible for managing all media relations and auto show execution for the debut of the Murciélago, the exotic car manufacturer’s first all-new model in 10 years. Emily also drove the media relations strategy for the debut of the 2002 Indian Chief, which featured the company’s first new American-made engine in over 50 years. Highlights of her automotive media placements include feature stories in Forbes, Fortune, Automotive Design & Production, AutoWeek, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.
In the sports arena, Emily executed product launches, special events, and community outreach programs for Nike, while at MSLGroup. For the brand’s Girls Only Sports and P.L.A.Y. Corps community outreach programs, she worked with high-profile athletes such as Lisa Leslie, Carl Lewis, and Michael Jordan to help showcase the benefits of sports participation in the lives of young people. In addition to supporting several Jordan brand product debuts, she also helped execute media relations programs for the launch of the 6453 brand, and NIKE iD, which evolved the concept of mass customization in athletic footwear.
Emily has served as moderator, panelist and presenter at startup-related events and organizations all over Southern California including Silicon Beach Fest, CoLoft, General Assembly/OC and StartEngine. She is also the recipient of numerous PR industry awards including the PRism Award, IABC Gold Quill Award, and LACP Magellan Award. Emily received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Loyola Marymount University and a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies from California State University, Northridge. She has also been an adjunct professor for 13 years, and has taught a variety of marketing, research, communications and PR classes at Loyola Marymount University, California State University, Dominguez Hills, and California State University, Fullerton where she currently teaches upper division courses in the largest Communications department in the western United States.