She's had a crash course in retail unions and scarcely blinks at a
dollars 500-per-head dinner for journalists. Meet PRWeek's new best
friend, Ellen Roeckl, EVP of Silicon Valley's Benjamin Group/BSMG
Describe the company you work for: Benjamin Group/BSMG Worldwide is the
technology brand of BSMG Worldwide. We have a reputation (earned, of
course) for having very smart business people who love technology (OK,
perhaps some of us are geeks, but that is very stylish these days, I'm
What do you do? I'm responsible for client service in all of our
offices, making sure we keep growing and making money.
How did you get into PR? After graduating with a journalism degree, I
got a job using the only practical skill I had, desktop publishing, for
a semiconductor company. The company made memory and the market was
experiencing a shortage, so it was like printing cash. When the
marketing communications manager left, I guess they figured, 'Well, we
don't really need marketing, so let's give it to that young gal who does
the Mac stuff.' I discovered my profound respect for what PR could do
for a company and I went into PR full-time.
What was your biggest screw-up? I was handling the account for a company
that had a significant vertical market case study program. We placed a
case study with a retailing publication about a major national
department store chain that was using a particular technology to cut
work force costs through efficiency modeling for retail floor personnel.
But somehow, the client never actually saw the study - doh! It so
happens that the store was in heated labor negotiations with the retail
union, and a story about cutting labor would have been like throwing
fuel on the fire. It probably would also have killed a huge deal for my
client. We actually begged the publisher not to run the story - which it
didn't - and we didn't get fired, but I did age about 10 years in the
course of a week.
What are you working on this week? Figuring out how to keep 'Mad Dow'
disease from eroding our business; helping a Linux company retool its
positioning; doing focal reviews and pitching new business.
What is the biggest item you've ever put on expenses? A dollars 4,000
dinner for eight European journalists at the Abbey in Atlanta. Somehow
the French journalist was tasked with ordering the wine and he was at
the other end of the table from me. And yes, the bill was paid, and yes,
the wine was good, and yes, we all had hangovers the next day.
What do you wish you hadn't said to the media? 'For God's sake, if there
were anything going on, do you think they would tell me, the PR person?'
- when responding to inquiry number 50 million about a rumored huge
acquisition when I was in-house.