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How I Got Started: Steve Chirello

Owner of Chirello Advertising segues from journalist to professional marketer

By Stefan Yablonski

Formed in 1996, Chirello Advertising agency is a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in media planning, market research, video production and graphic design. Owner Steve Chirello has been a professional marketer and communicator for more than 40 years.

Q: How did you get started?

A: I grew up in Fulton; the oldest of five children. In my senior year of high school, I decided that I was either going to pursue a career in teaching music or as a newspaper reporter.

Q: And you somehow segued into marketing?

A: I received a degree in journalism from SUNY Morrisville and a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Oswego. While in college, I was a summer intern at Ed Vayner & Associates in Fulton.

Q: And that is what started you on this career path?

A: Yes. Working as an intern at EV&A really opened my eyes about what I really wanted to pursue as a career. Ed Vayner gave me an entry to the world of advertising and marketing that was absolutely thrilling. It was there that I learned to write ad copy and was introduced to the creative process for developing great marketing solutions.

Q: Anything in particular stick out from that internship?

A: I remember writing my first radio commercial for Northern Ready Mix featuring an Eskimo spokesperson [Nanook of Northern]. I also have fond memories of public relations projects for Fulton Savings Bank, a client I still have today, and newspaper ads for Streeter & VanSanford Insurance [which has since become OVIA].

Q: But you still had ties to journalism?

A: While interning at the agency, I was also working as a reporter for The Post-Standard, The Fulton Patriot and The Valley News. I decided after my summers of interning at both the agency and writing for newspapers, that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing.

Q: You’ve had a pretty broad working experience. Tell us about that.

A: I have been a professional marketer communicator for more than 40 years. I have worked for two Central New York ad agencies —one in Syracuse, one in Fulton — as a chief advertising writer for Carrier Corporation, as public relations manager for The Miller Brewing Company and also director of community relations or Syracuse University. In addition, I have taught as an adjunct faculty member in communication studies at SUNY Oswego.

Q: So, when did you start your own agency?

A: Formed in 1996, our award-winning agency keeps overhead low while partnering with the best creative designers and production talent in the region. We are a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in media planning, market research, video production and graphic design. We’ve been blessed to be able to work with great clients for whom we’ve delivered outstanding results.

Q: Who helped you get going?

A: My wife, Cathy’s moral support, and the ability to be covered under her health insurance, was a huge help in starting my own business.

Q: What kind of service do you offer?

A: The agency handles complete production, from creative design and photography to final format, for direct mail, newspaper-magazine ads, brochures, point-of-sale, television commercials, streaming web video, educational video, billboards, news releases and website design. We also partner with a national market research firm, conduct media research and buying, produce custom signage, trade show displays and more.

Q: Do you have any sort of staff?

A: Until this year, I have had an administrative assistant for the past 24 years. I now outsource my invoicing and bookkeeping. I have specialized partners with whom I work for graphic design, media research, market research, video production, social media marketing, streaming TV, digital advertising, Google search campaigns, cable advertising and more.

Q: How has the agency been recognized?

A: The agency and its work have earned awards from The Syracuse Ad Club, excellence awards from the Northeast Economic Developers Association, the New York State Bar Association, Oswego County Press Club and Professional Journalists and Communicators of Oswego County. Chirello Advertising was the 2010 Small Business of the Year for the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working?

A: I have served five times as a judge for the State University of New York Council for University Advancement Award of Excellence Category for Website Design and for Effective, Efficient and Elegant Publications. I am a past board member of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, the Literacy Coalition of Oswego County and the United Way of Greater Oswego County. And, I’m president of the Fulton Music Association and serve on the boards of Catholic Charities of Oswego County and Friends of Oswego County Hospice. I have performed as a trombonist and vocalist with the Oswego County Summer Jazz Band since the mid-1980s.

Q: Do you like performing music?

A: Yes. I have also been a staple playing trombone in the pit orchestra for G. Ray Bodley High School musicals for more than 30 years. I had my own small professional jazz ensemble and always enjoy the opportunity to perform with local groups, like the Cortini Brothers.

Q: Any thoughts of slowing down or even retiring?

A: Yes. I am planning to retire someday — but there is nothing firm at this time.