It was a moment that might have unnerved even the most seasoned PR professional. Just as Rogers & Associates partner and then-EVP Lynne Doll stood up to start her pitch to the California Department of Health Services - a timed, three-hour PowerPoint presentation involving several other agencies and a potential multimillion-dollar contract - the computer crashed.
It was a moment that might have unnerved even the most seasoned PR
professional. Just as Rogers & Associates partner and then-EVP Lynne
Doll stood up to start her pitch to the California Department of Health
Services - a timed, three-hour PowerPoint presentation involving several
other agencies and a potential multimillion-dollar contract - the
’Lynne just said, ’Oh well,’ and proceeded to give the whole
presentation without any notes or any material because the entire
outline was on the slides,’ recalls Bill Imada of Imada Wong, one of the
other firms on the pitch team. ’She never lost it or even seemed
nervous. She just kept talking right through as if she were just telling
a story. In the end, we won the business.’
Such unflappable calm has helped Doll forge a national reputation as a
noted crisis communications expert and a leader in the field of social
marketing. Her grace-under-fire nature, along with proven results for
clients such as Washington Mutual and the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy, have gained Doll the trust of partner and one-time
mentor, Ron Rogers, who handed over the reins of his namesake firm to
this 38-year-old agency wunderkind in January. But will Doll’s client
management savvy translate into running a dollars 8 million-plus
Rise to the top
Doll’s track record points to an answer in the affirmative. After all,
she’s been with R&A since 1983, has been a partner at the firm for over
a decade, and served as founder (now chairman) Ron Rogers’ right-hand
woman for as long as anyone in Los Angeles PR circles can remember. An
early pioneer in the agency’s risk management practice, Doll cut her
teeth with clients like Suzuki Motor Company, which faced lawsuits over
alleged roll-over problems in its Samurai model during the late 1980s,
as well as numerous other regional development and private corporate
It was also Doll that led the agency’s charge into the social marketing
arena, which now accounts for around half of the firm’s revenues. Over
the past six years, R&A’s public sector practice has landed a multitude
of local and state government contracts for public education campaigns,
including the California Children and Families Initiative, Rob Reiner’s
landmark ballot proposition placing a 50-cent tax on cigarettes to fund
healthy childhood development. She also oversaw two major initiatives
for the California Department of Health Services - the statewide tobacco
education campaign, and the HIV-AIDS awareness program.
Perhaps equally impressive, throughout her 16-year climb to the top of
R&A, Doll has juggled a family life (she’s married with a two-year-old
daughter) and extracurricular activities such as nonprofit work, travel,
gourmet cooking and waterskiing.
’She has always been a great role model for staff because she has been
able to balance motherhood and a life without sacrificing anything on
the career side,’ says Jerry Swerling, a long-time associate and PRSA
colleague of Doll’s.
Not all smooth sailing
Even PR superstars sometimes run into controversy, though, and Doll is
no exception. Just last year, Doll and the agency got caught up in the
flap over the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s
’pro-bono matching program,’ in which for every dollar spent in paid
anti-drug advertising, the networks donate a free minute to the
anti-drugs message, either in the form of an ad or a PSA. When Salon.com
reported that TV producers were altering program content to free up
required ad time, public outcry and accusations of censorship ensued.
R&A and Fleishman-Hillard, which handle the PR arm of this campaign,
received some harsh scrutiny.
Doll says the incident taught her much about ’the power of the online
media and how it has changed reporting.’
’The reporter wrote the story on a false premise: that this was a
secret, hidden program. This one major factual error - at least two
newspapers had written about the matching program and Congressional
testimony was on record - made the story seem sensational,’ she points
out. ’Then all the other media outlets started printing this without
checking if it was true.’
The program is moving full-steam ahead despite all the fuss. ’We have
had to spend more time explaining the intent of the program, but with
the exposure, we have also been able to initiate more and more
discussions with people in Hollywood who now understand what we are
doing,’ she adds.
Doll’s new role at the helm will determine the future direction - and
fate - of R&A. With 73 employees and dollars 8.2 million in revenues
last year, R&A was up 15% over 1997, and Doll projects handling about
dollars 9.5 million in 2000. However, such figures do not stand out in
comparison to other West Coast firms that have doubled and tripled
revenues in recent years, and Doll admits expansion has been hampered by
the tight labor market.
To combat this, the firm has begun to offer employees incentives for
recruiting new staff - paying out bonuses of between dollars 1,000 and
dollars 5,000 per referral.
Another obstacle to R&A’s growth is its reluctance to spread its wings
beyond LA. Unlike rivals like Stoorza Ziegaus & Metzger, which has
offices in every corner of the state, R&A has only a satellite branch in
But Doll, an LA native who graduated from Cal State Northridge, is not
concerned with the regional label - nor does she have any plans for
opening in other locales. ’Early on in the pitch process we determine,
’Is this a client who believes they need an agency with lots of offices?
If so, we usually drop out.’
Doll also insists that she won’t sacrifice the firm’s independence to
pursue growth, despite many offers from potential suitors. That’s
because independence means the ability to say no. ’We have the freedom
to make decisions based on our belief in the cause - without worrying
about the profit and loss statements,’ says Doll.
Faith in the cause is important to Doll, who makes no apologies for her
idealism and spends up to a third of her time involved in direct client
work. One of the reasons she has signed on for the anti-smoking
campaigns, for example, is because she lost two close relatives to lung
cancer. And she admits that her dedication to the California Children’s
Commission has much to do with her role as a new mom.
Doll is loyal not just to causes; she stands out just as much for her
loyalty to the agency. After 17 years, it seems like she’s got her just
LYNNE DOLL, President, Rogers and Associates
1983: Joins Rogers & Associates as an account executive
1990: Becomes a partner in the firm
2000: Named president of Rogers & Associates.