Forget about taking the odd taxi cab on the way to a public
relations pitch, Will Sullivan flies himself in one of his two
He finds time to collect Warhols and he runs at least one marathon
somewhere around the world every year.
He’s the kind of man who describes himself as ’aggressively living life’
and he has been hired to head up Edelman PR Worldwide’s sister agency,
PR 21, which began operating at the beginning of this month. The
appointment looks to be a success. After one management meeting last
month, Sullivan talked until he got 10 leads for new business. The word
is out and Edelman worldwide bureaux are asking if they can start a PR
21 office. ’I couldn’t pass up the chance of building a global agency,’
says Sullivan. ’My aim is not to be the biggest, but the best.’
The premise behind the new sister agency is to be able to accommodate
companies that approach Edelman to provide PR, but may present a
conflict of interest with the agency’s existing clients. Edelman claims
it has been turning away clients on a weekly basis up till now because
of conflicts of interest.
PR 21 (its name chosen in anticipation of the 21st century) has opened
offices in New York and Chicago and expects to launch in Hong Kong and
London within the first two quarters of this year. Last week, the agency
signed up its 20th client, CNN Financial new media, hired its 20th staff
member and already has pounds 2-pounds 2.5 million in billings fees.
Many of the clients have been passed over from Edelman.
Sullivan has more than 20 years of PR, public affairs and international
marketing under his belt. He began his career as an official for the
State of Wisconsin in the 1970s, working his way up to managing a team
of 300 staff in the department of local affairs and development, as
deputy cabinet secretary.
In 1979 he entered the corporate world, starting a eight-year career
with multinational 3M, developing and managing global marketing
communications programmes for the company’s products, including
anti-inflammatory treatments and pulmonary and muscle relaxants. He also
ran 3M’s corporate issues management programme, which involved close
ties with NASA, to develop 3M’s experimentation programme aboard space
shuttles, a personal interest of Sullivan’s.
With his strong background in healthcare, Sullivan ventured out on his
own in 1987 by launching VideoCare, a company that developed programmes
on video to help people needing cardiac rehabilitation. Two years later,
in the Midwest conurbation of Minneapolis/St Paul, he founded Sullivan
Communications Group, which was acquired by the Rowland Company in
Sullivan sees this as a beneficial ’marriage’ for both parties. Rowland
wanted a presence in the Midwest United States and Sullivan had several
multinational client companies that wanted an international profile.
Sullivan became the president and CEO of The Rowland Company’s
Minneapolis/St Paul office and served on the agency’s international
board. Over the next five years he was named director of healthcare and
international director for Rowland.
He was lured back to 3M in 1996 as a communications consultant, to
advise on the demerger of 3M’s data storage and imaging division and in
1997 became chief marketing officer for the new company, Imation. Here
he was responsible for Imation’s worldwide marketing strategy and all
corporate communications functions from public affairs to advertising
’He is one of the most visionary people I’ve ever met,’ says PR manager
for Imation, Jason Thunstrom. ’He was a key factor in paving the way to
how we present ourselves today as a Fortune 500 company.’
’He’s energetic. attractive and a charming guy,’ says Daniel Edelman,
founder of Edelman PR Worldwide.
As for the space shuttle, Sullivan still has hope. ’If John Glenn can do
it again, there’s no telling what’s next for me!’
Founded Sullivan Communications Group
Sold Sullivan to the Rowland Company and became president and CEO of the
Minneapolis/St Paul office
Chief marketing office, Imation
President and CEO of PR 21