PROFILE: Shivers: the gal to beat on Peachtree Street - Jane Shivers got her first job in PR by sitting in a program director’s office until he noticed her. She’s had little trouble getting noticed since then, as head of Ketchum’s

On a river-rafting trip in Costa Rica, Jane Shivers took a chance, scaling a high rock wall above the turbulent white water. Looking down, she paused to consider her options: ’I said, ’Jane, hold onto your vest, look straight ahead and jump.’’ So goes the life - and career - of the woman who runs Ketchum PR in the South.

On a river-rafting trip in Costa Rica, Jane Shivers took a chance, scaling a high rock wall above the turbulent white water. Looking down, she paused to consider her options: ’I said, ’Jane, hold onto your vest, look straight ahead and jump.’’ So goes the life - and career - of the woman who runs Ketchum PR in the South.

On a river-rafting trip in Costa Rica, Jane Shivers took a chance,

scaling a high rock wall above the turbulent white water. Looking down,

she paused to consider her options: ’I said, ’Jane, hold onto your vest,

look straight ahead and jump.’’ So goes the life - and career - of the

woman who runs Ketchum PR in the South.



At first glance, Shivers is the stereotypical Southern woman - petite,

blonde, straight-backed, ladylike - and she speaks with a charming

accent that can at once put you at ease and on guard. However, she’s no

blushing belle. Jane Shivers is a Texan, a self-made woman with a

penchant for high adventure in both her business and personal lives.





Success and resentment



Shivers rose to national PR prominence in 1985 when Ketchum wanted a

Sunbelt shop. At the time, she was operating a successful eponymous

regional firm with just under 15 employees. Today, she’s the gal to beat

on Peachtree Street. Between 1994 and 1999, Ketchum-Atlanta boosted

revenues from dollars 3.3 million to dollars 16.5 million. Along the way

Shivers engineered the acquisition of Crescent Communications in 1997,

riding the tech wave out of Silicon Valley and into Atlanta. This year

Shivers expects a 12% increase to dollars 18.6 million, roughly double

the size of her nearest competitor in the region.



Under her tutelage the 125-person Atlanta office has become the de facto

gateway to South America for all of Ketchum. It is also the headquarters

of eKetchum, the Web services development practice launched last

year.



And Shivers says she is particularly proud of a multi-cultural practice

that originated in her office. In addition, Ketchum’s offices in Dallas

and Miami report to her.



Success often breeds resentment, though. A spate of rumors floating

around town in February suggested that Ketchum had gotten too big and

sloppy to handle a high-profile assignment for the Atlanta Chamber of

Commerce.



It was true that Ketchum had resigned the business in under a year, and

the RFP was reissued. The account was awarded to a rising mid-size

competitor.



But it was insiders at a competing agency who dished on the supposed

transition.



The scuttlebutt was that the Chamber’s point-person, Kathy Doherty, was

exasperated over inefficiencies, miscommunications and missed media

opportunities by Ketchum’s account supervisor. Rumors suggested that the

Chamber asked Ketchum to resign or be fired.



When confronted, Shivers says, ’Well if that was the case I don’t think

Kathy would be working for me right now.’ Touche. In the week between

the Chamber’s assignment and the official press release, Doherty

accepted a position as Shivers’ VP of marketing.



Both women laugh at the insider’s ersatz scoop, calling it ’silly.’

Shivers sighs, ’I don’t know why, but someone always takes pot shots at

us.’ Well, that’s what happens when you’re the the biggest agency in

town.



Given her meteoric success, Shivers weathers such rumors with grace,

knowing they spring from the mid-management ranks of competitors trying

to impress their general managers. Her peers, on the other hand, truly

gush with praise, and the sentiments go beyond Southern niceties.



Kathy Bremer, GM of Porter-Novelli Atlanta, regularly lunches with

Shivers and a group of top female PR chiefs in town. ’One thing I like

about Jane is she’s approachable and easy to talk with, yet at the same

time, she is very astute at sizing up people and opportunities,’ she

says.



According to Ray Kotcher, Ketchum’s senior partner/president, Shivers’

personal skills run deeper than most. ’Jane is extremely compassionate

and sensitive when it comes to the human dimension,’ he says. ’ When

people know that you care - and she does - and people know you’re

interested - and she is - they want to work with her.’



Shivers and Kotcher met right after Ketchum acquired her shop in

1985.



She had a lead on some business with document management firm Lanier and

asked the New York office to send in reinforcements. ’It was my first

major pitch for Ketchum, and they sent me some hot shot account

supervisor named Ray Kotcher,’ Shivers teases. The two not only won the

account but formed a winning friendship that has lasted 15 years.



PN’s Bremer adds, ’Before the Web and technology growth trajectory

became apparent, Jane was one of the trendsetters who saw where things

were heading and positioned Ketchum to address convergence in a major

way.’



Her gutsy moves into businesses like hi-tech and multicultural marketing

have come under fire by skeptics who hesitate to accept Ketchum as a

tech agency. ’Hanging onto a label like ’hi-tech’ is all about real

estate,’ counters Shivers. ’What is ’hi-tech’ anyway? ’Hi-tech’ business

doesn’t need to communicate with its employees, with the media, with its

customers, with strategic partners? It’s about communicating with

constituents and getting out the story, purely and simply.’





Like mother, like daughter



Shivers’ straight-shooting persona comes from her mother, whom she

credits as a woman of strong will and independent spirit. It’s clear

that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. In the mid-1960s Shivers

moved to San Francisco to care for an ailing sister. After a brief stint

in spot sales for the local ABC affiliate, she found her way back to LA,

where she had earned a degree in film from USC. She had heard about a

Semester at Sea program - sort of an ’Outward Bound’ meets grad school

world tour on board an ocean liner.



Shivers walked into the program office, dead broke and determined to get

a job. No one paid attention to her, so she staged a one-woman sit-in.

’I was going to sit quietly in the hall until someone noticed me,’ she

recalls. And there she sat from 10:30 am until 4:30 in the

afternoon.



When the program director finally got tired of tripping over her, he

called her into his office and quizzed her on a number of skills, of

which she had none. ’He was exasperated with me and asked, ’Well what

can you do?’ I told him, ’Well I wrote press releases in college.’’ He

made her the director of information, and so began her PR voyage.



Shivers says that was when she really ’got global.’ And she says it like

the word really means something; as if the rest of us are just catching

on to the phenomenon. In fact, most of us are.





JANE SHIVERS - General Manager, Ketchum Atlanta



1967: Director of information, Semester at Sea



1970: Editor-in-chief for five California weekly publications



1975: PR staff at the Atlanta Arts Alliance



1980: Founded Shivers Communications



1985: Shivers Communications purchased by Ketchum.



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