Wayne Catan's days as a college wrestling champion left him well qualified to go to the mat for clients like MSNBC Sports.com, Nike, Stairmaster and Sammy Sosa.
And after taking second place at last year's PRWeek Awards, this devoted sports fan and even more devoted PR practitioner is a champion once more.
Nevertheless, those thrill-of-victory, agony-of-defeat lessons must have served the New Jersey PR pro well late last year when a major client, Pets.com, got pinned in the dot-com crash and went out of business.
Catan had devoted many hours to promoting Pets.com's Sock Puppet spokesman, but he could hardly be blamed for the failure of the company itself, which had spent an estimated dollars 27 million on advertising. By comparison, Catan's frugal PR efforts - which helped him triple PR billings culminating in a 2000 total of dollars 240,000 during his first three years as a solo practitioner - made the Pets.com Sock Puppet a household name. His activities in 2000 garnered prominent news coverage of the Sock Puppet's licensing deal, and included an April news conference where the puppet announced he was suing a Late Night with Conan O'Brien writer who alleged the character was a rip-off of that show's spokesdog. Catan also negotiated with PetSitters International to secure Pets.com's sponsorship of Take Your Dog to Work Day.
The Pets.com account helped Catan triple billings during his first three years as a solo practitioner, culminating with a 2000 total of dollars 240,000.
Catan's wrestling career helped him to land in the PR ring. In 1987, he ranked fourth in the world in his weight class and qualified for the US Olympic Committee's job opportunity program.
Placed at Manning Selvage & Lee in New York, he worked on Visa's sponsorship of the 1988 Olympic Games. Catan also represented the USA Wrestling organization at the 1996 Olympics and helped promote its 'Wrestling for the New Millennium' campaign.
Aside from Pets.com, sports still dominate Catan's PR work When Quokka Sports wired Michael Johnson to the internet to study his stride rate, heart rate and splits, they called on Catan to break the results in the press. With no press release Wayne broke the story in USA Today and Fort Worth Telegram, and followed it up with a ton of other media credits.
Catan also helped USA Judo to gain Olympic coverage.
As a 'true solo practitioner,' Catan grapples with the mundane tasks that large agencies usually pay other people to do - filing, answering phones, compiling media lists, writing his own press releases and making all of his own pitch calls. 'Every day when I wake up, whether I'm sick, tired or cranky, I've got to hit the pavement,' he says. His secret pleasure is excelling at things people tell him he can't do.
When he's not counseling PR clients and setting up media tours, Catan has been known to write reviews of sports-related books for The New York Times, as well as features and CD reviews for Cover magazine. Catan also tutors and works out with student athletes in the wrestling program at the Blair Academy school in Blairstown, NJ, and he often speaks to groups of athletic champions about the importance of academics in preparing for life after sports.
A rabid fan of U2, Catan has attended more than 20 of the Irish band's concerts and covers his walls with framed concert posters. Unlike the group, however, Catan apparently has found what he's looking for - success in the challenging world of solo PR.
Judy A. Smith
Judy Smith never backs down from a fight. In fact, she often can be found in the midst of the nation's fiercest media melees. In her solo practice, JAS Communications, Smith represented Monica Lewinsky and her parents for more than a year and a half. The case turned into an all-encompassing, full-time job, with Smith charting a PR strategy that included political and legal counseling that helped Lewinsky avoid prosecution. Before going it alone, Smith worked in the first George Bush White House, provided counsel to the Iran-Contra investigation and worked as communications SVP for NBC. In August 2000, her company merged with three other firms to form Washington's Qorvis Communications.
Winner 2000: Lisa Skriloff
For this category - limited to those who work without aid from other PR professionals - entries were judged by new business wins, results for clients and other outstanding achievements.
- Wayne Catan
- Judy A. Smith
- Jennifer Bailey
MARINA MAHER COMMUNICATIONS
If Charles Lindbergh had a co-pilot, would his flight to Paris have been as great an accomplishment? Could a song called I Did it Their Way have inspired so many people? Doing something your own way without any help from anyone else puts you in a class all by yourself. That's why Marina Maher Communications believes solo performance deserves a chorus of praise. We are proud to sponsor this award because courage, vision and strength are needed to go it alone.