QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: Merrill Freund

He's a 4:30am-starting overachiever who would train full-time for the Ironman competition if he could only split himself in two. Meet Merrill Freund, VP of Schwartz Communications.

He's a 4:30am-starting overachiever who would train full-time for the Ironman competition if he could only split himself in two. Meet Merrill Freund, VP of Schwartz Communications.

Describe the company you work for Schwartz Communications is a mid-size PR firm that predominately represents hi-tech companies.

We have around 180 employees and 100 accounts. It's the most aggressive PR firm in the world. "Take no prisoners,

we call it.

Tell us something interesting about your company At Schwartz the concept of the interoffice memo is nonexistent. There is a process, but if you ever wrote it down you would be shot. The skills and methodology are handed down like folklore.

What was your biggest screw-up? My first week at Schwartz, I was told that it was up to me to save an account. No pressure. The first act was to organize and get the media to attend a morning press conference at InternetWorld. I mobilized the team and we got 25 reporters to confirm that they would attend. The morning of the press conference came. One reporter attended. Who asked the dumbest questions. Needless to say, the client left a week later.

What's the most daring thing you've ever done? Two years out of college, I had a good career going with a law firm, I had taken my LSATs and was about to apply to law school. I suddenly snapped. Three weeks later, I had quit my job, packed up my car, and moved to Vail without having ever skied or been to Colorado. After one season of ski bumhood, I went to graduate school. Being a ski bum is cool for only six months, tops.

What is your greatest achievement? My greatest achievement at work is motivating, mentoring, and inspiring people, most of whom are smarter then me, to perform their best in an atmosphere that is as fun and as devoid of pressure as possible. My greatest achievement unrelated to work is my two boys, Ben and Sam. I can honestly say that I am totally unbiased when I say they are the two greatest people who have ever lived.

What time do you get up? I get up at 4:30 am - I am addicted to exercise. If I don't work out before work, I am miserable.

What invention would make your job easier? The alter ego/body splitter. It creates a second Merrill. The first Merrill continues to work and act like a responsible adult. The second Merrill trains eight hours a day for the Ironman.

Write the headline for the story you would most like to read in PRWeek "BusinessWeek thanks PR firms for giving magazine 80% of their stories" What's your party survival strategy? A combination of self-deprecating humor, borderline arrogance, and excellent hypothetical questions.

Name one thing about your past people would be surprised to learn

I didn't get my driver's license until I was 25 - no idea why, other then laziness.

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