QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: Ellen Roeckl

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

Worldwide.



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

told).



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.



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