PROFILE: Early predictions of Sachs' success prove prophetic

Her earliest mentors knew MaryLee Sachs would succeed. Today, after 20-plus years of steady advancement, and her present role as head of H&K US, she's more than justified that confidence.

Her earliest mentors knew MaryLee Sachs would succeed. Today, after 20-plus years of steady advancement, and her present role as head of H&K US, she's more than justified that confidence.

While most students were waiting until the latest possible date to lose their "undeclared" status, MaryLee Sachs had long since gotten the ball rolling on what would prove to be a successful career path. A journalism major with a PR concentration, Sachs also minored in marketing at San Diego State University in the late '70s and early '80s to ensure that she didn't close any doors for herself. "It's one thing to just take a PR course without any business grounding," says Sachs. "I always knew I wanted both, so I minored in marketing too." Glen Broom, current head of the PR major at San Diego State's communications school and Sachs' former PR professor, says Sachs left a strong impression on him when she eagerly approached him following his guest lecture on PR in 1979. "It was just one of those moments that are very indicative of what a person is like," says Broom. "MaryLee is so competent, professional, and goal-driven. That was evident from our first encounter." Broom taught Sachs in a class that had an internship requirement, which she fulfilled by working in the communications department of a corporation - an experience that provided the basis for the direction of Sachs' career. "My internship made me realize I never wanted to work on the client side of things," says Sachs. "I wanted the variety of working with different clients and brands that an agency provides." And so - in typical fashion - Sachs went after what she wanted immediately after graduation. She entered agency life in 1981 at the Gable Agency, and the only direction she has moved since has been up. From her entry-level post at Gable, Sachs got her feet wet in marketing when she accepted a job at Cochrane Chase Livingston in Newport Beach, CA. Like Broom, Tim Pearson, Sachs' boss at Cochrane and current vice chairman and global managing partner at KPMG, felt her eventual success was evident early on. "The characteristics I see in MaryLee today are energy, passion, sense for the marketplace, articulation, and strategic insight," says Pearson. "While those skills have been sharpened in the 20 years I've known her, all of them were apparent when she worked for me in the early 80s." Today, Pearson's company is a client of Hill & Knowlton, the agency at which Sachs has spent the majority of her career since she left Cochrane in 1984 to move to London. Unsure of whether or not she wanted to go back to school and get her MBA, she knew her interest lied in international business. "I sat for the GMAT, but decided to just move and go for it instead," says Sachs. She interviewed at several agencies in the UK before accepting an account supervisor position at H&K. After five years with the firm, Sachs left to go work for Fleishman-Hillard's London office as head of its marketing communications department. "It was a big opportunity for me to be in a higher position, even though it was for a smaller operation." What seemed like a great opportunity for growth turned sour 18 months later when Sachs was unexpectedly laid off from Fleishman during the recession of the early '90s. She spent the next year doing freelance work, which included Nuclear Electric, H&K London's biggest account at the time. At the end of 1991, Sachs was brought back full-time when the agency decided it needed someone to lead all marketing communications for the UK. While in that post, Sachs worked on such accounts as American Express, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, and Porsche. In 1997, she was promoted to head of marketing communications across all of Europe, when the agency picked up other big accounts such as Kellogg's and Motorola. Two years later, Sachs was made global head of all marketing communications for H&K. Clients feel that MaryLee's presence at H&K plays a big role in their satisfaction with the agency's work. Pearson agrees, "There have been opportunities to engage H&K in the past, but it was my respect and confidence in MaryLee that led us to do business with them." "MaryLee is just a top-notch professional, in terms of anticipating, meeting and exceeding client expectations," agrees Celeste Clark, VP of corporate and scientific affairs for Kellogg's. After spending 17 years overseas, "the UK had become my home," says Sachs, but an opportunity presented itself in H&K's New York office that she could not refuse. In January of 2002, Sachs and her husband, Malcolm, moved back to the US when she was named president and CEO of the US. Enthusiastic about the opportunity to run a geographic region, Sachs feels her extensive international experience will propel her success in this country. "I am constantly challenging people to think visually since I have been in my new role," explains Sachs. Because PR is a newer discipline in the UK than in the US, she feels that PR pros in the UK are less bound by tradition, which leads them to think more outside the box. "In much the same way as advertising, the PR industry tends to be viewed as more creative in the UK. I've tried to integrate that kind of thinking here." Her freethinking UK mentality in tow, Sachs says she is "delighted" to be back in the US. "The power of the PR profession in this country is incredible, in terms of initiating global thinking. You just don't have the ability to influence every market anywhere else in the world the way you do in the US." ------------- MaryLee Sachs 1981-1982 Account executive, Gable Agency 1982-1984 Account executive, Cochrane Chase Livingston 1984-1989 Account supervisor, Hill & Knowlton (London) 1989-1991 Head of marketing communications, Fleishman-Hillard (London) 1991-2002 Head of marketing communications for the UK, Hill & Knowlton (London), rising to President and CEO of Hill & Knowlton in the US (New York)

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