PROFILE: Bryant's clients savor his holistic brand of PR

The holistic approach to communications developed by food and nutrition PR guru Steve Bryant caught the attention of the Publicis powers that be, not to mention a broad range of clients.

The holistic approach to communications developed by food and nutrition PR guru Steve Bryant caught the attention of the Publicis powers that be, not to mention a broad range of clients.

Burger-schmurger - who cares, as long as it tastes good? Especially if it's good for you. Ask any vegetarian. Ask Steve Bryant. As part of his job as chief creative officer of Publicis Dialog US and president of the PR side of the firm's Seattle office, he's deeply involved in the promotion of faux meat and other natural foods for the sake of health and nutrition. In fact, it's one of Bryant's passions. Look at his client list. It includes the United Soybean Board, the Cranberry Marketing Committee, the Hazelnut Council, and Nestle (one of the world's largest food manufacturers, with brands such as Lean Cuisine, Toll House, Wonka Candies, Ortega, Carnation, Buitoni, and Crosse & Blackwell, among many others). Nestle alone has more than two dozen of its brands handled by Publicis. According to Mary Dillon, a VP at PepsiCo, formerly a client of Bryant's, he not only had myriad creative ideas, but was also a business resource, especially in crisis situations, and helped her with broader business issues. Only last fall, Publicis was instrumental in having October designated Cranberry Month. And the United Soybean Board has been using the firm for 10 years to promote the contention - authorized by the Food & Drug Administration - that soy helps reduce cholesterol and can prevent heart disease. The New York Times' advertising columnist recently quoted Bryant as saying, "There's a kind of nutrition-marketing war arms race of claims, and the list is growing every day." But Bryant also has other things on his mind, including Safeco, the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association, and the Washington State Lottery, among a broad range of other client categories. Fortunately, he says, "I have a healthy balance of right- and left-brain activity. I think it allows me to manage strategic and complex issues with creativity that often comes in handy for our clients." His immediate boss, Andy Hopson, Publicis' US president and COO, says Bryant is the most creative PR practitioner he's worked with in his own 23-year career. "He was the guy who came up with PetsMart's Rover Make-over,'" says Hopson. "To get TV cameras into an important store opening, we'd take the ugliest animal we could find in the shelter and get it on camera 'before,'" recalls Hopson. "The crew would groom it, brush its teeth, put a ribbon on its hair. The stations liked the idea so much, they had live adoptions on the air. "But his number-one objective when he took over the Seattle office was to reinforce and rebuild our food practice. And he's certainly done that," Hopson says. Since much of Publicis' work is in the food and health sectors, Bryant has been involved in conceiving the firm's philosophy of holistic communications. The company, with more than 100 branches, has PR offices only in Chicago, New York, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle, where Bryant consults with the much larger - some 200 employees - advertising department. He also writes copy for some accounts, such as Safeco. "He's an exceptional writer," says Publicis' US chairman and CEO Bob Bloom. "He's really the father of our holistic approach to communications. And when we mentioned it to our global chairman, Maurice Levy, he immediately embraced the concept, which has since become the firm's mantra, even trademarking 'Publicis Dialog Holistic Communications' (it's called 'La Holistic' in France). "Steve is also an incredible strategist," Bloom adds. "He has an uncanny ability to identify a strategy, especially as it relates to the right positioning for a brand, and how to assure its delivery through communications. His intuitive leadership helped us win the Cranberry and Hazelnut accounts." You won't find it in his resume, but Bryant was originally a professional singer (he still performs occasionally), and claims the technical skills needed in mathematics and music, "as well as the creative and emotional sensitivities of an artist." His first career ambition was to combine those gifts and become a research psychologist. Those same interests helped him rise from his job as a temp answering phones at EvansGroup in San Francisco 17 years ago, to a level where he has conceived and directed the communications programs of a wide range of clients, from Taco Bell and Pepsi to the BioMedical Marketing Association - and Safeco at Publicis, which had since acquired Evans. "We believe in finding the right communications solution, and not necessarily the one that any particular unit is offering," he says. "The reason I like the PR business," says Bryant, "is that it's an interesting amalgamation of all the things that came before in my life that I valued and was good at: creative work, persuasion (I was a very good debater in school), science (particularly in health, food, and nutrition), and, to my surprise, commerce. I didn't think I'd wind up in business, although my father was a successful businessman in retailing and real estate. I guess I learned a lot from him without knowing it." Evidently, Bryant's clients have learned a lot from him. And given his track record, they obviously know it. ----- Steve Bryant 1985 First PR job at EvansGroup (while continuing music career) 1992 Full-time supervisor, EvansGroup 1998 Appointed to lead corporate communications for Publicis Dialog in the US following acquisition of EvansGroup 1999 Named chief creative officer for Publicis Dialog US 2001 Assumes presidency of Seattle office

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