ANALYSIS: Profile - A pioneer of PR, deep in the heart of Texas Janise Murphy hated nursing, but she’s done quite a good job of nursing the growth of Fleishman-Hillard’s Texas operations. Sherri Deatherage Green sits down with a PR pro who

Janise Murphy came home to Texas 10 years ago as Fleishman-Hillard’s lone star in a state still reeling from the oil bust. Now, nearly 70 PR pros in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio call Murphy the boss, and F-H’s dollars 12 million in fee income soars above its competitors here.

Janise Murphy came home to Texas 10 years ago as Fleishman-Hillard’s lone star in a state still reeling from the oil bust. Now, nearly 70 PR pros in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio call Murphy the boss, and F-H’s dollars 12 million in fee income soars above its competitors here.

Janise Murphy came home to Texas 10 years ago as

Fleishman-Hillard’s lone star in a state still reeling from the oil

bust. Now, nearly 70 PR pros in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio

call Murphy the boss, and F-H’s dollars 12 million in fee income soars

above its competitors here.



What’s the secret sauce? Murphy credits a short attention span, an

insatiable desire to learn and an aversion to hypodermic needles as the

keys to her becoming one of the most influential people on the Texas PR

scene.



When Murphy left Texas in 1985, few national PR firms had offices in the

state. Now, all of the major players are carving out niches here.



’I would say that Texas rivals any other market,’ she observes. So

unlike Murphy and some of her contemporaries, today’s young PR pros

don’t necessarily have to leave their home state to find big-league

opportunity.



Texas is no stranger to booms and busts, but unlike the high that

preceded the late-’80s low, the good times the state now enjoys aren’t

dependent on oil and real estate. Texas attracted a wide variety of

industries to replace those lost in the bust, making it more resilient

to slumps in any one industry. ’The boom in technology probably makes

this boom more sustainable, because it’s here to stay’ Murphy says.



Exploding commerce can be both a blessing and a curse, however. ’The

strength of the economy and the pace of business is a threat to

maintaining the quality of work,’ she says. Taking on more clients than

staff can handle compromises the reputation a company may need to see it

through leaner times. ’We can’t allow this economy to make us forget

where we came from,’ Murphy says. ’Don’t get too far ahead of the

talent, because that’s when people can burn out.’



Her boss, CEO John Graham, calls Murphy’s enthusiasm for change ’an

action bias.’ ’She’s got a really good sense of urgency about her,’

Graham observes.



’One of the most impressive things about Janise is the ability to

attract and develop people.’



The San Antonio native started college as a nursing major. ’Maybe I

thought it would make my Dad really proud,’ she says, trying to fathom

why the thought of a medical career ever entered her mind. Her father

instilled a belief in good work as its own reward that would serve young

Murphy well later in life. After finishing her second year at Baylor

University, Murphy balked when an assignment required that she and her

roommate give each other shots: ’I couldn’t stomach that.’





A shot in the arm



Murphy eventually landed in the journalism department of the University

of Texas at Austin. The opportunity to learn something new every day

attracted her to the field - ’I found my real home,’ she recalls. Upon

graduation, Murphy wisely found a position with Jane Schlansker’s Fort

Worth firm (now PR Texas) more appealing than an offer from the

now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald. ’I knew she had a great chance to

succeed,’ says Schlansker, who recalls sending her to California with a

guy in a bear suit to deliver 100 teddy bears in cowboy hats to a

client.



When the Texas economy went south in the mid-’80s, many of Murphy’s PR

friends went north. Visiting a Texas expatriate in Chicago, Murphy

decided on a whim to apply at a few firms. Ten interviews and a job

offer from Burson-Marsteller later, she phoned home to let her folks

know she would be staying in the Windy City.



In Chicago, Murphy found love as well as her opportunity to play PR with

the big boys. She transferred to Burson’s DC office after her husband,

political consultant Craig Murphy, went to work for a Texas

congressman.



Not feeling that she fit in culturally at Burson’s office, she soon

signed on with Fleishman. Murphy thought opportunities would open up in

Texas as the economy rebounded, and she volunteered to be a pioneer if

the firm ever decided to stake a claim there. A few months later, Murphy

set up a Fleishman outpost at Electronic Data Systems’ (EDS)

headquarters in Dallas.



Murphy stayed plugged in to F-H’s larger network while going it alone in

Texas for more than three years. The firm generally follows its clients

wherever they may lead, and in the next decade, it would follow Anheuser

Busch to Houston, Dell Computer to Austin and Southwestern Bell parent

SBC Communications to San Antonio. Now settled inTexas, Fleishman has

attracted a steady stream of new clients, including Administaff in

Houston and several Austin-based dot-coms. EDS now calls on Edelman

instead of F-H, but Murphy’s 45-member Big D staff serves a healthy list

of clients including Nortel and Lennox Retail. The firm’s Texas

operations finished 1999 with nearly dollars 12 million in revenue and

should easily hit dollars 13 million this year.





Texas pride



’I think that the secret of our success has been to pay attention not to

the competition and what they are doing but to our clients and what they

need,’ Murphy says. ’Our goal in Texas is not to be the biggest, but to

be the best.’ But the competition is certainly keeping an eye on her.

Ken Luce, GM of BSMG’s Dallas office, says, ’Not only is Janise a very

worthy competitor, she has been a trend setter in showing companies in

Texas that they can stay here and have their needs met.’



Murphy claims she still has a short attention span and enjoys constantly

learning new things from clients. ’You never get to the end of the day

where it’s really the end of the day,’ she says. She approaches her

personal life with the same energy and nurturing spirit she displays

professionally.



Spare time is a foreign concept to a mother of four children between the

ages of three and nine. ’I don’t want spare time, I want more time,’ she

quips. Most weekends are spent on baseball or soccer fields, and so far,

the family record is seven games in one day. ’I play a lot of Pokemon,’

she adds.



A certain inbred pride comes with being a Texan, and Murphy understands

the compulsion her fellow natives feel to achieve their personal

best.



PR is based on relationships, and although having roots in the state

can’t replace doing good work, Murphy thinks being a native gives her

one more thing in common with some of her clients. ’It’s important that

you have the right accent, or at least that you recognize the accent,’

she says.



Y’all got that?





Janise Murphy



Southwest regional president



Fleishman-Hillard





1981: Joins Fort Worth’s Jane Schlansker & Co.



1984: Moves to Pharr Cox Communications in Dallas



1985: Joins Burson-Marsteller, Chicago



1987: Joins Fleishman-Hillard, Wash., DC



1990: Moves to Dallas as F-H’s on-site representative at EDS



1993: Founds F-H Texas.



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