Mules & Peacocks

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I have been here a long time and I am constantly challenged and given new opportunities. I know how hard the senior management team works to provide those opportunities for everyone here. It’s great working with people who really care about what they are doing.

Edelman, Hotwire, Shine, Hering Earn EMEA Best Workplace Honours

Congrats to my colleagues in Europe! This is great recognition of Hotwire’s culture. We try really hard to live up to their standard here in the US.

Another quote from me on the topic of FleishmanHillard’s rebranding. I gave it a “meh.” Here’s why. 

Back in 1999, when I was on the marketing team at 24/7 Media, we dropped our tech PR agency (Connors Communications — blast from the past) in favor of FleishmanHillard. There was a palpable difference between working with a small, go-get-em firm like Connors, to Fleishman, who were stodgy, conservative, and, in my eyes, supremely out of place when it came to advising startups. Then again, this was the moment where the middle ranks of 24/7 were suddenly padded with “managers” of all sorts, from places like IBM and Philip Morris (a story over a drink), so it should not have been a surprise. But Fleishman never matched the service or results we got from Connors. And they were just so…corporate. 

Fast-forward 14 years, and not much has changed in terms of the agency’s brand perception. What happened with the rebrand is the culmination of the proverbial battleship taking all that time to change course. It’s not a harbinger of some big new change in the industry, but it is a smart move for Fleishman. So good on ‘em. They need to tap new revenue streams (beyond media relations/counsel) to make money, and they probably do/did need to tell the world that they can handle the increasingly business-casual way of conducting business. 

Beyond that, not much applause is warranted. Am I missing something?

On Teams

I had the opportunity to contribute a quote to this Paradigm Staffing blog post about building great agency PR teams.

Here’s the directors cut version:

What advice do you have for other managers looking to build efficient teams that work well together? 

  • Smart people who are a good cultural fit can be taught anything. It’s never about the school, the major, or finding someone with the perfect set of experience on paper. Don’t be afraid of hiring someone who has tried a few careers or appears “nontraditional”, as long as they can articulate what they’ve learned and what brought them to this place. Having teams with a diversity of professional backgrounds creates an openness to new points of view which in turn allows them to solve problems quickly and creatively.
  • The importance of internal communications cannot be overstated! People like to know what’s going on. Even the Account Coordinator should understand how their contributions flow into the overall account strategy. Most one-on-one conversations with clients — barring very private ones — should be immediately shared with the entire account team. This goes for agency communications as well. It’s easy to avoid rumors when you’re communicating quickly, openly and honestly with your team about things that affect them. 

  • Create a vision that is greater than any single person or client. So many PR agencies are cults of personality, where a single executive’s reputation looms way too large, inhibiting team (and agency) growth. Think of the PR agency setting as a greenhouse — as its leader, you are the caretaker of all of the seedlings, not the giant plant that sucks up all of the oxygen! Give people the basic nurturing they need to do their jobs and then step away. I’m not suggesting course correction isn’t needed, but the number one mistake I see managers making is never maturing from a “directive” style into something more like coaching.

What cautionary tale do you have in your own experience putting together a team that we can share?
Oh, I’ve made so many mistakes! The biggest would be the PR version of “no one gets fired for buying IBM.” I’ve met lots of unconventional candidates who I knew could do the job, but I failed to convince the powers that be why we should hire them versus someone who’d spent their entire career carefully moving from one giant, well-known agency to another. But I’ve also committed every other manager sin, including insisting I track the tiniest of changes onto a press release just to give it my stamp (akin to a director giving an actor a line reading). A lot of these habits die hard, but if you can have a sense of humor about it — and encourage your colleagues to catch you in the act and call you on it — that helps. It takes a village even to manage an MD :)