PROFILE: Hock helps keep Newmont Mining on solid ground

Trained as a journalist, Newmont Mining's Doug Hock bridges the gap between corporate communications and media relations for the largest gold producer in the world with aplomb.

Trained as a journalist, Newmont Mining's Doug Hock bridges the gap between corporate communications and media relations for the largest gold producer in the world with aplomb.

As director of public affairs and communications at Denver-based Newmont Mining - which became the world's largest gold producer when it acquired rivals Normandy Mining (Australia) and Franco-Nevada Mining (Canada) in 2002 - Doug Hock keeps his eye on mining operations from Peru to Uzbekistan. While a global gold mining firm's potential breadth of issues and audiences may seem overwhelming to some, Hock savors the challenge. "Most global companies operate in places like Europe and Japan," Hock says. "We work in places where we're the first type of development a community has ever seen. Mining issues affect the financial media, but there are also environmental issues and human rights issues. Providing jobs isn't enough; we're expected to build infrastructure. My job is to publicly communicate our performance around the world." As Newmont's spokesperson, Hock is responsible for all written communications for the company, which operates in 10 countries on five continents. Major sites in Peru, Nevada, Australia, Ghana, and Indonesia have communications staff, and Hock works with each of them to develop strategy in communicating messages to local communities, governments, officials, and press. "Our CEO understands the importance of the press and the value of reputation," Hock says. "Our ability to mine is really dependent on our reputation. PR plays an integral part in that. We've got to get it right: how we operate on the ground, how we treat people, how we are stewards of the environment. There are so many issues beyond financial disclosure. We're the largest gold producer in the world. We have to be open and engage the press." A Denver native, Hock studied journalism at Drake University. He graduated amid a recession in which reporting jobs were scarce and decided to go to work in PR - even though journalism school had "drilled into" him that working in PR was "selling out." He believes that PR has gained more respect since those days. "Reporters now recognize that they need PR people," he says. "It's a symbiotic relationship. The best training for PR is journalism, because you understand what journalists are after." Hock gained a lot of exposure to national media when he traveled the country as a spokesperson and media trainer for PACE Membership Warehouse. After consulting for a brief period, Hock put out feelers for a new corporate position through the PRSA. Peggy Mackinnon, president of her eponymous PR firm, subsequently recommended him to Jack Morris, Newmont's VP of IR. "Doug is highly ethical, honest, and adaptable," Mackinnon says. "He's superb at media relations. He comes up with the most extraordinary story angles. Jack was looking for a good media relations person, and I felt [he and Doug] would get along well - and they did. They formed a partnership that was really great for Newmont." Morris, who had been a bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal, valued Hock's ability to handle tough media issues with honesty and integrity. "Having been a newsman, I know the importance of getting straight facts and of having people from the corporate side relate to reporters - not look down on them, try to hold back information, or spin the story," he says. "Doug is very straight. His ability to answer reporters' questions in a credible manner - not in an emotional manner even when the subject matter is emotional - is very good. The reporters I've talked to have a great deal of respect for him. I was a reporter, but I'm not nearly as good at working with the press." Dan Christopherson, president of Christopherson & Co. PR, remembers Hock quickly establishing strong relationships and trust with his agency's clients. "He's very bright, and he has the journalist's sensibility that enjoys plunging into new realms. He also has a good perspective and doesn't take himself too seriously." The most challenging PR issue Hock has faced at Newmont arose four years ago when a contractor spilled mercury (a by-product of the ore there) near a mining site in Peru. Believing it valuable, residents of three local villages picked up the mercury and took it into their homes; some of them even tried to heat it. Newmont immediately moved villagers into hotel rooms and provided ongoing medical treatment. Protesters, meanwhile, incited the media, blocked operations, and sued the company. "I think the story was less favorable to Newmont than it should have been," Morris says. "[The media] were unfairly critical, and Doug took some heat internally. Some in the company said, 'Why did you cooperate as fully?' Well, you should cooperate fully. Doug did the right thing, and he knew it." The accident cost Newmont $16 million and continues to be a challenge for the company. "It's much easier to communicate when we do things right and perform well," Hock says. "It's more challenging when mistakes are made. You must be able to talk transparently and openly about what went wrong and how you are going to do better." Media interest in Newmont is significant - in both good times and bad. Hock says his most "intense" but "really fun" experience occurred when a three-month bidding war broke out between a South African company and Newmont before it acquired Franco Nevada and Anglo Gold. Offers, counter-offers, and rumors flew around the globe at all hours of the day and night as the deal unfolded. It generated more than 1,400 stories worldwide. "It was great to be involved with our management and the investment bankers and lawyers in the strategy," Hock says. "It was an opportunity to really show the value of PR to corporate types who don't necessarily see it in a time when we were in the midst of a very important business transaction." "I learn every day," he adds. "It would be hard to find another PR job that offers the challenge, variety, and exposure to interesting people, places, and ideas." Doug Hock 2000-present Director of Public Affairs, Communications Newmont 1994-2000 Manager of Public Relations, Newmont Mining 11/93-9/94 Consultant 5/92-11/93 PR Coordinator, PACE Membership Warehouse, Inc. 2/90-5/92 AE, Christopherson & Co. PR 4/85-2/90 Public Information Coordinator, Lutheran Medical Center 6/82-4/85 Senior Research Assistant, Colorado Legislative Council

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