Profile: Doll: proof that loyalty has its just rewards - After years serving as Ron Rogers’ right hand, Lynne Doll now holds the reins at Rogers & Associates. Aimee Grove sits down with a PR pro who’s as adept in a crisis as she is o

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 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

computer crashed.



’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

agency?





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

clients.



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.





Staying independent



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

Sacramento.



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

rewards,





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.



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