ANALYSIS: Profile - PRSA Foundation puts its faith in Farinelli Jean Farinelli may have left agency life, but she’s still in high demand - just ask the president of Houlihan’s, who tracked her down in Australia to seek her counsel. Claire

When Jean Farinelli was growing up, she would chat up the customers of her parents’ hairdressing salon and ask them if they wanted the interior of their cars cleaned for a quarter. Those quarters went toward the purchase of a red convertible Chevrolet ten years later, which gave her 25 years of faithful service.

When Jean Farinelli was growing up, she would chat up the customers of her parents’ hairdressing salon and ask them if they wanted the interior of their cars cleaned for a quarter. Those quarters went toward the purchase of a red convertible Chevrolet ten years later, which gave her 25 years of faithful service.

When Jean Farinelli was growing up, she would chat up the customers

of her parents’ hairdressing salon and ask them if they wanted the

interior of their cars cleaned for a quarter. Those quarters went toward

the purchase of a red convertible Chevrolet ten years later, which gave

her 25 years of faithful service.



As the new president of the PRSA Foundation, she is again chatting up

people for money, except this time her audience is PR industry high

fliers and corporate giants such as Sears. If you’ve done well in the PR

business, then odds are Farinelli will be introducing herself to you

soon.



Two years removed from agency life, Farinelli has found an outlet for

her talents at the PRSA Foundation, where she holds a non-paying

volunteer position. The body is funded to the tune of dollars 3 million

by institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Prudential Insurance

and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. But Farinelli’s goal is to see

that figure raised significantly. To her credit, she knows how to drum

up interest.



Already Farinelli has introduced new board members from Sears,

McDonalds, Navistar, ITT Industries and Philips Electronics - companies

that, coincidentally, have huge PR budgets. PR agency chiefs seem

glaringly absent from the foundation’s board, though Farinelli claims

that there are some mid-size agencies on board and other members being

added. Behind the finance drives, the mission of the PRSA Foundation is

to advance the stature of the PR profession and foster superior thinking

through projects such as the National Credibility Index (NCI), which

analyzes the public’s most trusted sources of information. When the NCI

debuted last year (PRWeek, June 28, 1999), Arthur White, founding

partner of the legendary research firm Yankelovich, Skully & White,

says, ’It has the potential to improve the quality of civil debate in

America.’ The newest Credibility Index, assessing 40 different

information sources for personal investing, will be released this

week.



’Think of the Foundation as an idea lab for spawning high-impact

projects that can generate the very best communications thinking and

practices - certainly that’s my mandate,’ Ms. Farinelli explains.





New life



The PRSA Foundation is just one of a number of new projects that

Farinelli is spearheading now that she’s left agency life behind. For

the former CEO and president of Creamer Dickson Basford, it’s quite a

change of scenery.



Farinelli parted company with CDB more than a year ago in less than

amicable circumstances. Industry sources claim the firm was losing

senior staff and had a hard time growing geographically or financially.

But it would be unfair to lay all the blame at Farinelli’s door. During

her 11-year tenure two separate advertising giants, Aegis and Havas

Advertising, owned CDB. Within a 12-month period Farinelli had 11

different bosses - not an environment conducive to growth.



Farinelli recalls having to support at least one decision she did not

agree with - the spin-off of the agency’s healthcare group, which had

brought in significant revenues. ’I thought about my life and decided I

don’t want to do this anymore,’ she says about her departure from CDB,

which is now headed by Darryl Salerno - whom Farinelli brought on

board.



Salerno refused to comment for this piece, referring the call to

Havas.



According to former colleagues, Farinelli has never been afraid to let

managers grow, even if that sometimes results in mistakes. ’She gives

people the authority and allows them to make mistakes. That didn’t play

out too well at Creamer,’ says one source.



Despite the turbulence, Farinelli feels she made major contributions to

the agency. She established WebDiagnostics, a Web site evaluation

service, and a corporate reputation study called Hidden Value. Marilyn

Laurie, a former EVP at AT&T and now a consultant, says: ’She has done

some great research in the interests of intangible values that affect

corporate success.’ CDB also earned kudos for its creative work, such as

the hugely successful campaign for Pizza Hut, which involved sending

free pies to people named Domino.



Farinelli is also a firm believer in the healthy body, healthy mind

mantra.



She’s traveled to Australia, enjoys mountain climbing and even started a

wellness program at CDB, which helped employees quit smoking. When a

high paying cigarette client came knocking at the door, Farinelli stuck

to her principles and took a pass, according to a colleague.





Faith in the industry



Having faith in your convictions is something that Farinelli would like

to encourage in the PR profession. ’PR people have to be willing to put

their jobs on the line every day. They have to convey things that people

don’t want to hear,’ she says, and encourages pros to make the most of

their unique top-to-bottom oversight of a corporation.



The biggest challenge facing the industry, she claims, is ’to bring

critical thinking to the table.’ She bemoans the fact that graduates

from elite institutions such as Yale, Harvard and Stanford join

management consultants like McKinsey & Company and Andersen Consulting,

rather than take up PR positions.



There’s no doubt that Farinelli herself brings critical thinking to the

table. Dan Scoggin, now president and CEO of Houlihan’s Restaurant

Group, recalls tracking her down in Australia to see if she would run a

project for him. The two previously worked together to raise the profile

of TGI Friday’s in preparation for a public offering. Scoggin says he

has worked with around 50 PR people since those days, but is yet to meet

someone as good.



Larry Chiagouris, another former colleague and now vice

president/analysis strategy for Starz Encore Media Group, thinks that

Farinelli deserves to stand back a little and enjoy her success.



But Farinelli keeps running in more ways than one. She is currently

working on a 12-month consultancy project for restaurant review

authority Zagat’s, as well as running several PR societies such as the

Women’s Forum. She has also devoted several months to posting 27 years

of Silver Anvil winners on the PRSA Web site.



And as this issue was closing, she called to let us know she’s signed up

another trustee to the foundation board - from her personal

treadmill.





JEAN FARINELLI - Founder, Farinelli Consulting



President, PRSA Foundation





1969: Corporate PR executive at Dow Jones



1972: Account manager at Carl Byoir & Associates



1982: President of PR division of Tracy-Locke/BBDO Dallas



1987-98 President and CEO, Creamer Dickson Basford.



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