Twenty-nine-year-old PR whiz kid John Hellerman is one of the top media
relations pros at DC-based Levick Strategic Communications, a tech-savvy
shop which provides crisis communications and litigation PR to attorneys
and law firms. But don’t mistake him for a prudish ambulance chaser -
among the skeletons in his closet are tales of Mardi Gras revelry and
roles in peanut butter commercials.
How did you get where you are today? I identified strong mentors during
each phase of my professional career and took every important
professional opportunity that was offered to me, no matter how
What would you like to change about the PR industry? I’d do away with
hourly billing and flat-rate, monthly retainers. The profession has to
do a much better job of measuring and communicating the value our work
creates. Value billing makes for happier clients and higher paid, better
understood and more respected professionals.
Who will be the PR industry’s next big hero and why? Dan Edelman,
because he will take his shop public and make a lot of his folks
Bill Clinton: hero or fool? Fool. He did an awful thing to his wife and
to the US. From a PR angle, I can’t believe the advice he was given. He
survived, but what should have been a three-day story became a year-long
scandal and impeachment.
What is the best invention of all time? Air conditioning. How could
people have lived without it?
What was your most embarrassing moment? It was to do with Mardi Gras,
transvestites and hookers, but don’t let your imagination run too
What is your idea of perfect bliss? A Saturday afternoon on my sailboat
with absolutely nothing to do.
What would you do on a desert island? Relax, write a book of short
stories and then build a boat and get the hell off.
How many hours a day do you spend on the Internet? Way, way too many:
Name one thing about your past that people would be surprised to learn.
I was cast in a Skippy Peanut Butter commercial, but the blonde woman
set to play my mother caught a cold and was replaced with a brunette. As
a really blonde kid, I was then incompatible, and consequently my life
as troubled child actor never materialized.
What will you do when you retire? First I’d like to sail around the
world with my wife and dog. Later, I’d want to travel (via plane and/or
spaceship), bug my kids and spoil my grandkids.
What is the secret of your success? I’m good at picking winners and I
believe in myself.