In my early career I was thrilled to be a Chicago-based account executive at Burson-Marsteller, working with Harold Burson for a large manufacturer in the Midwest. However, I would routinely come into my office in the morning to find faxes from New York waiting for me. These always turned out to be press releases Harold had written personally for the client CEO.They were, of course, impeccably crafted, with terrific news judgment.
The CEO called Harold with news because of their close relationship, and he wrote the releases himself. Over time, I realized his actions were not reflections on my capabilities; rather, this was how he balanced strategy and action. At business dinners, for example, he was always the first person to pick up a notebook, even though more junior personnel were always at the table.
In the years since, research and strategy have become key words in modern public relations. But to earn credibility with senior management, you must be able to take action. This early account assignment led to other and better-known agency clients for me, but Harold's lesson in strategy implementation was a keeper. It was truly my big break.
Steve Carr is now SVP and MD at CKPR in Chicago.