ANALYSIS PROFILE: Hospital head Doyle has a new lease on life. Lori Doyle balances a busy family life with her top communications position at an 18,000-strong healthcare organization - but she was most surprised to find herself there. Matthew Zinman catch

Some of the best career opportunities arise when you least expect it. Witness Lori Doyle, whose dream job came completely out of the blue.

Some of the best career opportunities arise when you least expect it. Witness Lori Doyle, whose dream job came completely out of the blue.

Some of the best career opportunities arise when you least expect

it. Witness Lori Doyle, whose dream job came completely out of the


’I told the recruiter I wasn’t interested,’ she admits. ’The thought of

going to a not-for-profit health system was the farthest thing from my


At 34, Doyle already had two years under her belt as GM of Golin-Harris’

Philadelphia operation. She describes herself as being ’perfectly happy’

at the time. But the recruiter insisted on flying in from the Midwest

and convinced Doyle to at least evaluate the opportunity.

Further consideration helped Doyle realize she wanted to spend less time

’mulling over P&Ls,’ since ’I’ve always liked being a practitioner as

much as a business manager.’ As chief public affairs officer at the

University of Pennsylvania Health System, she could oversee a similar

sized staff and budget with more balance to practice her craft.

Agency experience prompted Doyle to accept the position under one

condition - that it report directly to the CEO/dean. ’For a PR person to

be effective, they’ve got to have a CEO who understands the value it

brings. I’m very fortunate to have that be the case.’ This resolve

continues to serve her well.

Key leadership skills

After six years of working with Doyle, CEO William Kelley sounds as

though he’s been through his own PR schooling. ’The value of corporate

public relations is linked directly to the strategic and operational

effectiveness of the corporation’s chief PR

practitioner,’ Kelly says. ’Lori possesses all the key leadership

talents and skills necessary to be a respected and valuable contributor

to my senior management team, as well as a fine sense of humor.’

Doyle’s work ethic is rooted in the most basic of motives: survival.

Her father passed away when she was 16, so she abruptly adjusted to a

caretaker role - and pursuing an education required her to fund it


She picked up work as a waitress and fitness instructor. Additional

financing came by drawing upon her charm and singing talent to

participate in scholarship pageants, including winning the New Jersey

preliminary of America’s Junior Miss Pageant. Doyle admits this

achievement makes her uneasy, as though it detracts from her hard-earned


Her initial focus was on broadcast journalism. Doyle taught a television

production class and produced programs for a local cable station to gain

experience both behind and in front of the camera. She also interned

with ESPN in Chicago to help the new cable network sign up


Once Swore Off PR

There was a time when Doyle swore she’d never work in public


As a news director at a small rural radio station, she constantly

received inappropriate pitches from PR people. ’They were completely

irrelevant to my interests,’ she gripes. ’It turned me off to PR people

and I swore I’d never be one of them.’

Several years later, Doyle became ’one of them’ at Keycom Electronic

Publishing. The company did videotext and teletext, a forerunner of the

resources provided by the Internet today. But she really earned her PR

stripes in Des Moines, IA, working at Young & Rubicam subsidiary

Creswell, Munsell, Fultz & Zirbel. She was assigned to the Pioneer

account, which she mistook to be the electronics giant. ’It turned out

to be this agricultural company,’ she recalls. ’I worked on programs for

seed corn and called on many farm broadcasters.’ Nevertheless, Doyle

views the experience as invaluable. ’With Y&R as the parent, the company

had a lot of good training programs, which really helped me hone my


In 1985, Doyle and her husband Shaun decided to return to the

Philadelphia area where they could rely on the support of both their

families to start one of their own. They now have three boys, aged 12,

10 and 5. Shaun teaches ballet at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, and

directs a regional performing troupe. ’We don’t see much of him in the

fall ’Nutcracker’ season,’ Doyle quips. ’But we’re very fortunate that

his schedule affords more flexibility.’

Even with the rigors of her job, Doyle achieves balance by spending

’every minute’ of free time with her family. Their lives revolve around

the boys’ sports seasons, says the proud soccer mom. She manages to

volunteer at the boys’ school, teach Sunday school and still finds time

to exercise at 5:30 am several mornings a week. ’I cherish every minute

I have with them and never regret not having any time to myself.’

Brilliant surroundings

For now, Doyle is living a ’PR person’s dream come true.’ She proclaims,

’I work with some of the most brilliant people in the world. It’s not

difficult to generate positive media coverage between the life-saving

treatments pioneered in our hospitals and the new discoveries in our

laboratories.’ She adds, ’Basic science is not something we advertise,

so it very nicely compliments our paid advertising.’ The University of

Pennsylvania Health System has nearly 18,000 employees and revenues of

dollars 2 billion.

Doyle operates the department of public affairs ’like an in-house,

full-service PR agency.’ With a staff of 15, they handle crisis

communications and issues management, community affairs and internal


Unlike her former agency role, Doyle often serves as spokesperson for

her current organization. ’I’ve probably dealt with more reporters in my

first six months here than through my 12 years in the agency business

combined,’ she says. ’I thought I understood a lot about crisis and

issues management from the agency business, but I came here and realized

how little I knew.’ She adds: ’Crises happen so quickly in healthcare.

We spend a lot of time monitoring emerging issues and developing advance

positioning before they confront us.’

Doyle and her husband are now looking for a property in Florida to

eventually settle into after retirement. And at the pace they’re going,

inertia doesn’t seem to be part of the plan.

LORI DOYLE - Chief Public Affairs Officer University of Pennsylvania

Health System

1982-83: PR coordinator, Keycom Electronic Publishing

1983-85: Account executive, Creswell, Munsell, Fultz & Zirbel

1985-88: Senior account executive, Lewis, Gilman & Kynett

1988-89: Associate director, Elkman Advertising & Public Relations

1989-93: Golin/Harris, rose to GM, Philadelphia

1993-present: Chief Public Affairs Officer, U of P Health System.

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