Thursday, July 19, 2012


Yep!  Graffiti on LaBrea between 2nd and 3rd.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - PR agency PR thyself… A fall from grace that’s a rare opportunity

As I followed the news of my former employer after my departure and the departures of many, many of my colleagues [though this is not uncommon in our field], a startling trend began to emerge – beginning in June with the departure of the long-time CEO.

This was followed by the departures of the CMO, CFO, CEO and more C’s and O’s as well as several VP’s of varying letters and a number of rank and file associates.

In Porter’s defense, being the smaller sister of industry giants Ketchum and Fleishman has, and continues to lead to unfair comparisons.  That said – this time of mass exodus presents both the need and perfect opportunity for re-invention.  A rejiggering of priorities and procedures, a new outlook – not unlike the cool concept and buzz-generating stunt of the pop-up agency jack+bill, named for PN’s founders – Jack Porter [which sounds like a cool menswear brand – right?] and Bill Novelli.

Any company’s success is dependent on people.  And – the people’s success is dependent on an employee-focused organization like the Container Store or Google or Wegman’s or Zappos…

When a senior level executive said in a meeting that it was “company first, clients second and employees third” – I knew that didn't bode well for my tenure or our success.  Incidentally – isn’t it counterintuitive to hire leadership that neither understands nor respects what your company does?  How can that leadership truly lead, empathize or inspire with no context?  In order to be a part of the management of my father’s company [a textile linen rental service], for example, the candidates had to first work in the laundry and on the route trucks.

And – here we are.

What to do?
So – what can/should a company like Porter Novelli do to set itself apart – other than whiz bang logos or zippy, social media laden websites?

In an industry that doesn’t “make” anything, service and talent – the people with the creative brains, the savvy strategists, the consensus builders – are what differentiate one agency from another.  Specialties do as well.  Agencies that seek to be all things to all people suffer from lack of focus.  Tightly niched agencies have a limited client pool – so there is a balance that needs to be maintained here.

How do you recruit and retain the kinds of people that can drive clients’ business and deliver the results and relationships needed to be successful? What makes an agency successful?  People and ideas.  Plain and simple.  Nurture those and success (and yes, profit) follows.

There are some things I’ve encountered in my 25 years in this business.  Some decisions that I’ve witnessed that have made me cringe… some policies that are counterproductive… some I just plain disagree with.  It’s often difficult for companies – mostly publicly-traded, driven by the almighty dollar – with a relentless focus on the bottom line and not how to get there.

10 things – some do’s, some don’ts…
  1. Put your people first.  The money will follow.
  2. Skip the internal hype.  If you’re not going to follow through with an employee enrichment program and deliver a half-assed result.  Don’t announce it.  Don’t promise what you can’t/won’t deliver.
  3. Commit and deliver employee enrichment programs.  Not just ongoing education to enlighten, empower and enhance your junior team members’ experience and contributions – but also for senior level executives who can become bureaucratic automatons incapable of inspiring.  They deserve and need to grow as well.
  4. Hire against type.
  5. Properly manage and utilize uncommon talent that you’ve hired against type.  The results will dazzle the client and nourish your company.  Don’t expect a creative communicator to be a CPA as well.
  6. Pay attention to environment even if clients don’t visit.  Your employees are an important “client” so to speak.  Depressing, run-down spaces impact work product.  A coat of paint or having the carpet cleaned and a plant or two can do wonders.  Seriously.
  7. Keep the industry and agency-specific acronyms to a minimum.  Communicate.  Be transparent.  Don’t be obtuse.
  8. Be open to “you can’t do that” ideas.  Why not?
  9. Recognize and remember that “billability” isn’t the only measure of a team member’s worth.
  10. Kill complacency – at both the junior level and the oft-stagnant upper level of an organization.                                                 

I am not a C-suite guru.  I am not an MBA.  I am, however, a pragmatic PR industry veteran and have been witness to the ups and downs and demise of agencies and relationships of varying size and import.  I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and I know how to reach consensus; to engage, enrich and retain team members.  Sometimes the simple, obvious answer is the right answer.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer lovin'...

This is my new summer love.

FUN!  A great sipper...  A great mixer...