Bob Feldman is not one to follow a predictable path. After an early career in the agency world - highlighted by eight years as CEO and president of GCI Group - he shifted to DreamWorks Animation as the company's first corporate communications head.
He now helms Feldman & Partners, a corporate consultancy he founded in March 2007. Its goal, broadly speaking, is to help organizations get more out of their communications function. Clients include CA, Amgen, The Home Depot, and Moody's.
"Our service is high-value, project-based counsel to help companies with stuff that's important to them," Feldman explains. "Often that means organizational design, competitive analysis, agency ROI, and crisis management."
Feldman says he spent a lot of time analyzing the competitive marketplace before selecting his post-DreamWorks path. He had little interest in returning to a traditional agency and wanted to be sure his next project would be valuable. He spoke to many CCOs who conveyed difficulty in getting their teams structured properly.
"Most [CCOs] are being pressed to do more with less," he adds. "[They] express a frustration that their people are seen as too tactical inside their companies and not sufficiently strategic. There are real structural and smart ways to address that - to raise the bar for the function inside the organization."
When CA wanted to realign its communications staff in the aftermath of a financial scandal involving former executives, it sought out Feldman's services.
"CA was going from managing a crisis, to working with the general business press, to the training and development of our people," says Bill Hughes, CA's SVP of corporate communications. "He had an idea of what it took to get my team [organized] and... to expose them to different ways to do things."
CA now links the senior leaders of its communications team to each of its nine major corporate functions and business units.
Feldman says that devising the strategy and completing the structure is complicated, but the truly hard part starts when the company tries to roll out the new organization and get staff on-board.
Feldman's goal is to provide best-in-class service, as opposed to large-scale tactical execution, which is left to both the in-house team and its agency colleagues.
"[It's great to] get someone constantly working on your behalf, while your team is doing the day-to-day work," Hughes says.
As someone who has spent 27 years in the agency world, and now views it from a client-expectation perspective, Feldman has had a prime seat to see the evolution of the agency environment. He says big firms haven't changed much, except they've gotten bigger. He believes some focus too much on differentiating themselves from their competitors, while not taking enough time to provide the best services they can to clients.
Despite his analytic expertise, Hughes says that Feldman is not just an abstract thinker.
"Bob is incredibly driven," he says. "He rolls up his sleeves and does the work himself. He [won't] hide behind a strategic blanket."
Hughes adds that Feldman has a great sense of the macro issues affecting the PR industry.
"There have been a couple of calls where we were talking about the issues of the communications function and profession," Hughes says. "Those things stimulate ideas for my team. It's pretty comforting to know you've got someone there to tap. He demonstrated his value in a short period of time."
Feldman & Partners, CEO and managing partner
DreamWorks Animation, corporate comms director
GCI Group, CEO, president