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A	quarter	century	of		
	lessons	learned							
	working	in	the	
	public	relations	
	world	
@BobPickard	
1990	>
Consultant,	Hill	&	Knowlton	@	Toronto	
I began my PR career when my girlfriend got me a job
§  PRs should possess and main...
Senior	Consultant,	Hill	&	Knowlton	@	Toronto	
Attach to a signature account to shine right from the start
§  Client money ...
Account	Manager,	Hill	&	Knowlton	@	Toronto	
I went for client assignments in Brazil and Korea
§  Many people in the PR wor...
Vice	President,	Hill	&	Knowlton	@	Toronto	
I ran the new tech practice – and the Microsoft account
§  The application of n...
SVP	and	Founder,	Environics	@	Toronto	
I left H&K to co-found Environics Communications Inc.
§  It’s nice to make a big sa...
SVP	and	Founder,	Environics	@	Toronto	
Environics quickly became one of Canada’s top PR firms
§  ‘Birds of a feather flock...
EVP	&	GM,	Environics	@	Stamford,	CT,	USA	
I co-founded & led the first Canadian PR firm in America
§  Challenging your cli...
EVP	&	GM,	Environics	@	Stamford,	CT,	USA	
I needed to drop our biggest client because we learned
they wanted to issue deli...
Domain	expertise	matters
	EVP	&	GM,	Environics	@	Stamford,	CT,	USA	
I focused the US business on emerging technologies
dur...
EVP	&	GM,	Environics	@	Stamford,	CT,	USA	
I discovered that clients will always finance top quality
§  Our American operat...
EVP	&	GM,	Environics	@	Stamford,	CT,	USA	
I sold my shares in the firm to the other partners
§  It was probably fortunate ...
Managing	Director,	H&K	China	@	Beijing	*	
I was offered the China leadership at my first firm
§  Having traveled across th...
Managing	Director,	Edelman	Korea	@	Seoul	
Before telling staff what to think, I asked for their views
§  After what happen...
Managing	Director,	Edelman	Korea	@	Seoul	
In addition to content skills, oratory is essential in PR
§  I was feeling bless...
Managing	Director,	Edelman	Korea	@	Seoul	
Replacing yourself is a true test of professional character
§  All too often, PR...
President,	Edelman	North	Asia	@	Tokyo	
Taking on the most difficult missions is the most satisfying
§  Edelman had tried a...
President,	Edelman	North	Asia	@	Tokyo	
To be a good ‘global citizen,’ study up on the world
§  I’ve always felt that there...
President,	Edelman	North	Asia	@	Tokyo	
Use social networks to spotlight success internationally
§  I found that many peopl...
President,	Edelman	North	Asia	@	Tokyo	
Senior people can rise/stay high through ruthless behavior
§  With a year of advanc...
Family	baby	break	@	Toronto	
Continuous learning and relentless improvement is key
§  I returned to Canada for what I thou...
CEO,	Burson-Marsteller	Asia-Pacific	@	Singapore	
Make sure the job is a good fit with compatible outlook
§  I was offered t...
CEO,	Burson-Marsteller	Asia-Pacific	@	Singapore	
Teaching old dogs new tricks can be very challenging
§  At Edelman I had b...
CEO,	Burson-Marsteller	Asia-Pacific	@	Singapore	
Leave while the getting is good after things go south
§  It was clear to m...
On	12	month	garden	leave	@	Singapore	
Embrace opportunities to get healthy and stay that way
§  After I left B-M in Januar...
Chairman,	Huntsworth	Asia-Pacific	@	Singapore	
In the PR trade we’re supposed to be good at publicity
§  I was recruited to...
Chairman,	Huntsworth	Asia-Pacific	@	Singapore	
Working with diverse colleagues & working with friends
§  I’m not great at l...
Principal	of	(newco),	launching	soon	@	Toronto	
Applying everything I have learned so far to a new firm
§  I have returned...
Principal	of	(newco),	launching	soon	@	Toronto	
§  If you find yourself in a situation where you have great
clients, an am...
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A quarter century of lessons learned working in the public relations world

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Summarizing my professional journey, this presentation explains a signature lesson for every single one of the 25+ years of my PR career working in five countries (USA, Japan, Canada, Korea and Singapore) helping clients communicate around the world. It was primarily written for younger people who are now starting out in the public relations profession. I'm still learning all the time and feel fortunate to be building my career in PR — at such a great time to be alive in our industry — alongside so many wonderful people.

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A quarter century of lessons learned working in the public relations world

  1. 1. A quarter century of lessons learned working in the public relations world @BobPickard 1990 >
  2. 2. Consultant, Hill & Knowlton @ Toronto I began my PR career when my girlfriend got me a job §  PRs should possess and maintain a personal database §  ‘Connecting the dots’ between people and being a proactive networking catalyst for offline-offline relationships is a precious public relations aptitude §  Those contacts will determine the speed and extent of your career rise through the industry ranks §  The ideal time to communicate with connections is when you don’t actually want something from them §  I agree with those who say: PR = ‘public relationships’
  3. 3. Senior Consultant, Hill & Knowlton @ Toronto Attach to a signature account to shine right from the start §  Client money fills your timesheet by purchasing your hours (and make no mistake, your PR ‘product’ is your time spent doing communications activities for clients) §  Often you don’t choose which account to start with (my first one was a scary sounding chemical company) §  A small client can showcase your big skills to many §  Every firm is a micro-economy, so inside awareness of your capability is key to drive demand for your time (the quality and scarcity of which creates your value)
  4. 4. Account Manager, Hill & Knowlton @ Toronto I went for client assignments in Brazil and Korea §  Many people in the PR world say that they are ‘global’ practitioners; alas, the vast majority have exclusively worked in one market, and only very few have actually lived overseas (which is a profoundly deeper educational experience than just visiting as a business traveler) §  Putting your hand up early and often for international client assignments helps people see you through a global lens – and aids you getting picked for overseas junkets §  International work stimulates rare transfer opportunities
  5. 5. Vice President, Hill & Knowlton @ Toronto I ran the new tech practice – and the Microsoft account §  The application of new technology to PR helps you communicate most effectively – and impressively §  Theoretical understanding is not enough (look at how many senior PR executives still give speeches about social media who are totally lame online for example) §  Rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty gives you a valuable digital grasp which eludes many §  Be an early adopter and be seen as avant-garde (you are in the image business, which starts with your own)
  6. 6. SVP and Founder, Environics @ Toronto I left H&K to co-found Environics Communications Inc. §  It’s nice to make a big salary (which is reliable and stable), but if you think clients would agree you are one of the best at the craft, then ownership is the way to go §  If you are right, then money ‘tangibles’ can be superior but the ‘intangible’ psych benefits are even better §  No more taking orders from often mediocre bosses who might use you as a tool for their own career gain §  Having something to prove is supremely motivating §  Morale soars when the former firm makes legal threats
  7. 7. SVP and Founder, Environics @ Toronto Environics quickly became one of Canada’s top PR firms §  ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ and so we created a magnetic rallying point to attract the best talent §  Within the PR industry, even with career ‘ups’ and ‘downs,’ most people know who the ‘top guns’ are… §  The best team does the highest quality work, is able to charge the most money, creates the most profits §  The most successful firms don’t lower hiring standards §  Churn is a constant in professional services but it’s much easier to hack when everyone on the team is an all-star
  8. 8. EVP & GM, Environics @ Stamford, CT, USA I co-founded & led the first Canadian PR firm in America §  Challenging your clients with unlikely and incongruous ideas can create transformative chances, as my partner (and early mentor) Bruce MacLellan and I did here §  After the new North American Free Trade Agreement, a new class of visas was created for cross-border business- builder executives, so we took the continental chance §  The best part about choosing career risks when you are young is that it’s exhilarating and seemingly risk-free §  Just fitting in and doing ‘same, same, same’ is so boring!
  9. 9. EVP & GM, Environics @ Stamford, CT, USA I needed to drop our biggest client because we learned they wanted to issue deliberately false news releases… §  Even though all our jobs depended on that money, we needed to walk away from the account for ethical reasons §  I greatly respected the American employees who courageously joined the company and stuck with it §  We replaced all the lost money within months through a uniting experience that brought the team together §  There aren’t many outright liars in PR, but prevarication abounds, so it’s important to stand apart – and above
  10. 10. Domain expertise matters EVP & GM, Environics @ Stamford, CT, USA I focused the US business on emerging technologies during the go-go days of the ‘Internet 1.0’ revolution §  There has always been a trend towards creeping generalization within PR firms where professionals become ‘jacks of all trades and masters of none’ §  While clients do want versatile people who can adapt to change, they place a premium on people with deep domain experience in different sectors and services §  Domain expertise is usually one client project away and can be amassed and leveraged astonishingly fast
  11. 11. EVP & GM, Environics @ Stamford, CT, USA I discovered that clients will always finance top quality §  Our American operation grew at an explosive pace; our new clients told us that because we were the ‘new kid in town,’ they took a chance on us as so many of the incumbent firms did crap work at high prices §  What I have since learned – in a lucky career serving clients across 20 markets – is that there is no country where clients are not prepared to pay for the highest quality professional public relations consulting §  A reputation for ‘certainty of positive outcome’ = growth
  12. 12. EVP & GM, Environics @ Stamford, CT, USA I sold my shares in the firm to the other partners §  It was probably fortunate and favorable timing to sell my stock just before the tech bubble burst that year §  I was too fanatical about my work and got ‘burned out’ §  This experience taught me that I’m not invincible and that if you aren’t happy or healthy with what you are doing, taking time for yourself makes a lot of sense §  Thus I set out to travel, and drove to all 48 continental American states (I flew to Hawaii and took a cruise to Alaska in order to achieve my 50-state objective in a year)
  13. 13. Managing Director, H&K China @ Beijing * I was offered the China leadership at my first firm §  Having traveled across the USA and internationally for a year, I reckoned I was ready to get back into the game §  But this time, it would be across an ocean – in Asia §  I accepted an offer which was premised, among other things, on my having full command of the operation §  When I arrived in China, it was obvious that the job which I signed-up for didn’t exist as advertised, so I did not take office (*) and returned to North America §  Too bad this didn’t work out, but it was best for all
  14. 14. Managing Director, Edelman Korea @ Seoul Before telling staff what to think, I asked for their views §  After what happened at H&K, I called Richard Edelman, (who I met in 1996 through his headhunter when Edelman was seeking a CEO of its Canadian operation) §  I asked Richard if Edelman had the China top job open, but he said that Korea was available in the alternative §  Having been to Seoul on business in the early 90s, I was aware of what Koreans can do and jumped at the chance §  The first thing I did was sit down and listen to every employee, seeking their counsel to co-create success
  15. 15. Managing Director, Edelman Korea @ Seoul In addition to content skills, oratory is essential in PR §  I was feeling blessed to have been able to attract/ assemble a ‘dream team’ of talent at Edelman Korea §  The colleagues who pulled in the most client custom – and rose quickly in direct consequence – were typically the best writers and the best public speakers §  If you think about it, a huge amount of PR money is won or lost during new business presentations in front of prospects, where the team who can command the room with convincing oratory tends to carry the day
  16. 16. Managing Director, Edelman Korea @ Seoul Replacing yourself is a true test of professional character §  All too often, PR leaders will leave their jobs with no successor in place – perhaps wanting to be the sole ‘star’ with no proximate rivals – and think the resulting ‘smoking crater’ will somehow build their reputation §  The opposite is true: a proper succession shows leadership confidence and competence that peers respect §  The most important thing I did in Seoul was identify and champion – and well orient – my Asian successor Hoh Kim, who I was happy to see surpass my accomplishments
  17. 17. President, Edelman North Asia @ Tokyo Taking on the most difficult missions is the most satisfying §  Edelman had tried and failed to successfully address the Japan market during earlier attempts (one of the few economies where they had to pull out previously) §  I jumped at the chance to take on what sure felt like the hardest job in global PR (starting an office in Tokyo as a unilingual expatriate inside a daunting cultural context) §  Through a 51-49 JV with the Daniel J. Edelman group, within two years we were able to build a Japanese team of 30 generating millions in profitable revenue
  18. 18. President, Edelman North Asia @ Tokyo To be a good ‘global citizen,’ study up on the world §  I’ve always felt that there are aren’t enough smart people in PR – and too many PRs are ignorant of world issues §  Multinational clients want practitioners who can ‘travel well’, not just in terms of geography, but in terms of what is going on globally outside their place and profession §  A working knowledge of trends in politics, economics, the arts and culture plus science and technology sells well §  A subscription to The Economist is a good starting point §  Learning another language and ‘going there’ is vital
  19. 19. President, Edelman North Asia @ Tokyo Use social networks to spotlight success internationally §  I found that many people in the firm paid much more attention to information about the Tokyo office on the ‘new’ Facebook then compared to the company’s intranet §  Inside global agencies, offices need to build a reputation for quality so that colleagues in other locations can confidently refer their clients to your local operation §  Therefore, we used social networks to build image and develop a reputation for Japan & Korea inside the firm §  ‘Inside-out’ content for digital storytelling is so important
  20. 20. President, Edelman North Asia @ Tokyo Senior people can rise/stay high through ruthless behavior §  With a year of advance notice (as agreed in writing with the worldwide CEO), I was to have been the leader of the global corporate practice and Chairman of Latin America & Canada starting in July 2008 based at Chicago §  The person to whom I reported saw me as a rival, and misled me and his boss about finding my Japan successor §  At his behest, just weeks prior to what was supposed to be my Chicago start date, I was abruptly told to stay in Tokyo §  Given the $10 million in new fees from my turf (up from less than a million on my watch), this dishonorable betrayal precipitated my resignation on principle
  21. 21. Family baby break @ Toronto Continuous learning and relentless improvement is key §  I returned to Canada for what I thought would be just a pit-stop, but then the global financial crisis struck §  It occurred to me that I had spent so many years ‘doing’ I had not invested ample time in ‘thinking’ about my trade §  So I bought a big stack of books, from “Influence” by Robert Cialdini to “Buyology” by Martin Lindstrom §  Suddenly I found myself knowledgeable about the psychology of persuasion, neuro-marketing, and digital storytelling – and shared insights on social media §  I tested out new themes speaking on campus to PR classes, and sourced many ideas from the students
  22. 22. CEO, Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific @ Singapore Make sure the job is a good fit with compatible outlook §  I was offered two jobs based in Singapore: one by F-H and the other with B-M (the latter being a much bigger role) §  I had heard a lot about Mark Penn’s reputation, but was reeled-in by this intriguing pollster heading up a PR firm §  It was quickly clear after taking the job why my predecessor (& his predecessor) could not abide him §  Most of what we said at Edelman about B-M was true: the firm no longer what it was, a living museum to its glorious founder, stodgy and slow with a baleful bureaucracy
  23. 23. CEO, Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific @ Singapore Teaching old dogs new tricks can be very challenging §  At Edelman I had become proficient at social media and could see then that digital mastery is the future of PR §  At B-M there was push-back from a dinosaur ‘old guard’ who did not then grasp digital and were fearful of change §  I hired a number of Edelman people and Edelman alumni to try and shake things up, but the cultures did not mix §  The infamous CEO and I had a toxic relationship; he meddled constantly and his henchmen sowed discord §  The firm’s US-centrism was deeply demoralizing in Asia
  24. 24. CEO, Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific @ Singapore Leave while the getting is good after things go south §  It was clear to me the job would never work out, especially when I saw the amateur, analog, and inept handling of the crisis which arose when B-M’s ‘smear campaign’ work for Facebook against Google in the US became public §  I was offered the Asia-Pacific CEO job at a rival global agency (which suddenly fell through at the last-minute) §  My team and I had dramatically increased the revenue/ profits of the firm in Asia (2010-11), but especially with global accounts retreating, the writing was on the wall...
  25. 25. On 12 month garden leave @ Singapore Embrace opportunities to get healthy and stay that way §  After I left B-M in January, I was on garden leave and needed to observe a one-year non-competition agreement §  I sent Sir Martin Sorrell an email asking for a waiver, but he was quick to personally respond to decline my request §  At this point I knew I would be joining Lord Chadlington at Huntsworth as his Asia chief working with Blue Focus §  I spent the year travelling across Asia meeting PR firm leaders, but much of the time I was working out in a gym and running in Singapore’s spectacular botanic gardens
  26. 26. Chairman, Huntsworth Asia-Pacific @ Singapore In the PR trade we’re supposed to be good at publicity §  I was recruited to build a new PR platform for Huntsworth in Asia-Pacific, which was to have been financed via a joint-venture operated with Blue Focus §  However, Lord Chadlington elected to retire as global CEO a few months later, and the JV was mothballed §  Therefore, with no war-chest with which to expand, I spent much of the year in ‘marketing mode’ with media appearances (e.g. BBC, CCTV, Channel News Asia, etc.) §  The ability create public awareness a core PR skill
  27. 27. Chairman, Huntsworth Asia-Pacific @ Singapore Working with diverse colleagues & working with friends §  I’m not great at lots of things, yet I’m a good recruiter §  My Huntsworth experience was disappointing, but a highlight was helping bring in Chris Tang as Asia CEO §  PR is too Western-centric where firms suffer from outdated stereotypes – Asian leaders are not championed and Asia is poorly understood at HQ (Asians absent there) §  Chris, an Australian born in China, was an exciting Asian PR partner who is also a ‘friend for life;’ we didn’t have many resources to build with, but we had each other
  28. 28. Principal of (newco), launching soon @ Toronto Applying everything I have learned so far to a new firm §  I have returned to my home country, which is a mature and sophisticated yet ‘same old’ PR market lacking fizz §  There are many PR opportunities in Canada and digital technology means world clients can be served via Toronto §  I have seen in my career the power of good leaders to improve society and the ability of bad ones to harm it §  Communication is an increasingly vital skill for all leaders, and now social media is key to communication §  Thus my partners and I are creating a new firm – TBA!
  29. 29. Principal of (newco), launching soon @ Toronto §  If you find yourself in a situation where you have great clients, an amazing boss, wonderful peers and super subordinates – that is your PR sweet spot so don’t move! §  Believe in your firm, but don’t drink the Kool Aid and lose perspective by becoming pretentious (even if you are #1) §  Never allow yourself to become one of those executives who is too senior to directly deal with clients or media §  PR is a young person’s trade, so you must keep current §  Money drives the business; meaning motivates the team §  Remember: it’s not about you; it’s about your clients!

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