Aedhmar Hynes is a tough person to profile. Not because her accomplishments are slight, but because she constantly shifts the conversation away from herself. The CEO of Text 100 International, who helped steer the agency to its biggest account win yet, will constantly move the discussion back to subjects like her team, the demands of global PR, and increasing the relevance of PR.Self-deprecation is characteristic of Hynes, according to those who know her well. Ryan Donovan, SVP with Text 100, has worked with Hynes in San Francisco since 1998. "In a business dominated by huge personalities and overblown egos, she's a refreshing change,
he says. "There is a down-to-earth quality about her that makes you forget she is CEO."
Hynes' affinity for Text 100 is understandable; virtually her entire career has been spent with the firm. After studying English and economics at the University College Galway, Hynes, who is Irish, spent the following three years doing graduate work in marketing in her home country.
She went to the UK in 1990, planning to gain experience in the full range of marketing communications functions, including advertising and PR. When Text 100 beckoned, she answered the call and never left, and has crossed continents for the firm. "There are two things that have made me stay,
she explains. "One, they were constantly giving me new jobs and opportunities.
Whenever I thought about leaving, another opportunity would arise and I would think, well, I have to do this first."
More importantly, her career trajectory allowed her the opportunity to work closely with a number of major corporations - "walking the corridors of client companies,
as she puts it - including Gartner and Xerox. "I became so absorbed with what they were trying to do as businesses, and was involved at a very strategic level."
Hynes says that in the UK, and Europe in general, there is generally a greater opportunity to work strategically with senior management outside of marketing communications functions than in the US. But she does not see that as a sign that PR is not finding a place in the boardroom. "I think that's because in the US, the PR industry is more mature and there is a higher investment in it,
she explains. "So there are normally a lot of people in-house, as opposed to in Europe, where the PR agency can often end up supporting one PR person."
Text 100 had already launched an office in Seattle when Hynes was offered the opportunity to open the San Francisco office in 1997, in part because it gave the firm a chance to pitch for another portion of the Xerox account.
"I had been running the Xerox business in Europe, and the company was looking for support for its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC),
"They said if you have a presence in the area, you could pitch for the business."
For Hynes, it was a chance to live in the US, one of her goals dating back to the time she worked as a waitress in New York City during breaks from her university studies.
Text 100 won the PARC account, and still retains the business today.
John Seely Brown, chief scientist at Xerox and one of Hynes' biggest advocates, says that in the years he has known her, Hynes has advanced the significance of PR to his organization in concert with her growing leadership within Text 100. "She realizes the importance of producing corporate strategy and strategic intent with a PR sensibility,
Brown says that Hynes has a unique ability to identify client concerns and priorities. "You couldn't do this kind of work if you didn't have an amazing ability to build an empathetic relationship, and be able to listen better than anybody else,
he says. "Listening to what is not being said is as important as listening to what is being said."
Colleagues cite similar strengths. Matthew Ravden, regional director of the Asia Pacific operations, was Hynes' boss when she joined the firm.
"There are always two sides to every client situation,
Ravden says. "One is the ability to give good counsel, and she's one of the best consultants in the global business. The more subtle thing is that she builds a tremendous rapport with people. That's the real weapon she has. She has a knack for building trust."
One of Hynes' priorities is to continue the firm's global vision, a goal that became a little more tangible when the firm won the product side of the three-tiered IBM account. For Hynes, the fairly unexpected success of the IBM pitch crystallized a lot of what she and Text 100 have been working toward, from both an international and technology perspective.
"What I saw (when putting the pitch together) was the embodiment of what we've tried to develop,
she says. "We had everything to win and nothing to lose. It gave us a great sense of who we are."
All of this talk of superior "empathy
and "strategic insight
should not obscure the fact that Hynes enjoys a laugh and a cocktail. She often says one of the things she misses most about Europe is the sense of irony, and her own brand of humor bears that out. Ravden points out that since Hynes was named CEO in 2000, the cocktail hour that traditionally took place after board meetings has crept up to an earlier slot on the agenda.
Clients get to know all her sides - she's not given to posturing or putting on corporate airs. "I think she is truly an unusual person, and both corporations and the PR profession are going to profit from the leadership she is showing,
says Xerox's Seely Brown. "I also find her a fun kid."