In the third year of its Regional Forums, PRWeek will focus on seven top markets: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, theBay Area, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Texas.
For each, leading PR pros from a variety of agencies, corporations, and nonprofits participate in a roundtable discussion about issues affecting them and their peers. Julia Hood, Eleanor Trickett, and John N. Frank were in Chicago for the third of this year's PRWeek Regional Forums.
For the transcript as it appears in print, click here.
The unedited transcript appears below.
John Frank (PRWeek): Is business improving in the Chicago market? Gary Slack (Slack Barshinger):
Gary Slack (Slack Barshinger):I would say the answer is yes. And it has been for some time. In our niche, business-to-business marketing communications, PR is growing its share of budget across most of our clients; not just doing well regionally. In some cases, PR has eclipsed advertising in becoming the dominant awareness building tool. B-to-b marketers are also doing a much better job of integrating PR into their larger brand building and demand-generation programs.
Frank (PRWeek): Are other people seeing that? George Stenitzer (Tellabs):
George Stenitzer (Tellabs):Definitely. We're spending more on PR than we were a year ago. Business is healthier. It really is about awareness and building the brand. That's what PR is about.
If you look at the Business Marketing Association, Gary and I have both done stints there, you'll see more people have jobs, there's more opportunities and people are trying to figure out how to build revenue, its all about the revenue.
Brad Wilks (Ogilvy): I would echo that. We had a strong year last year in Chicago and we're seeing good growth this year as well. Our growth is coming in the corporate arena, b-to- b and consumer marketing; all of those are areas where we're seeing increased opportunities not only from existing clients but new clients.
Harlan Loeb (Financial Dynamics): I can't speak for their thinking but it seems to me Financial Dynamics would not have opened an office in Chicago in early '05 but for the research and the demographic information suggested this is a market they needed to be in to be a full-service, truly national agency beyond the legacy business that defines Financial Dynamics -- IR business. Beyond that, they can see substantial opportunity in corporate communications, traditional corporate communications, crisis. If you look at the core of our office, most of you know we are, not one of us, are IR, financial communications experts. I think they would not have made the investment they have of close to $1 million dollar but for the opportunity they see.
Adaire Putnam (Ketchum Midwest): We're also seeing, fortunately, double-digit growth throughout the past two and a half years now, but what really encouraged me is that it's consistent. Clients are coming to us with budgets and, unlike in the past when we saw that mid-year erosion, we're not seeing mid-year erosion either last year or this year. So I'm really encouraged that one the budgets are getting support at the business levels and two that's got to be because we have such a strong commitment now on delivering results. Clients are really demanding that if they're going to spend their dollars, they've got to see a return. It's organic with existing clients and it's also new clients.
Bridget Brennan (Zeno Group): We've finished probably our strongest year in Zeno in Chicago this year since I've been there, almost seven years now. And we're seeing the same thing, clients at least from our perspective, they seem to be really struggling with this fragmented media and they're coming to us with requests and with projects that are well out of the realm of media relations. How can we help them keep track of what people are saying on blogs, what should we do about product placement, how does it work, and how can we help them meet set designers. They're really trying to figure out in their own marketing departments how can they get more out of agencies like us, more guidance in this new terrain, and its brought great opportunity, it's a great time to be in public relations.
Frank (PRweek): Who's winning the business with product placement? Brennan (Zeno):
Brennan (Zeno):I think it's all up for grabs. And that almost everybody whose going into it accepting a project is carving new territory. I know we have meetings with our client Whirlpool Corporation out in Benton Harbor, MI. They have agency day almost every week and its Publicis, their ad agency, and us at the same table as well as their direct marketing firm, and everybody sits around the same table, and they do not care where the ideas come from. They expect us to be a team and "whose going to write the website content," all the hands will go up. Its very collaborative but the sense I get from being in these types of meetings is it is open territory and traditional public relations agencies, we seem to be broadening the definition of PR and into marketing communications almost on a daily basis now.
Wilks (Ogilvy): I think you're point is very well taken which is that clients are really looking for PR folks to be able to successfully play within the arena of integration and speak the language of all their other marketing communications partners because that's what they really want is a program that's seamless across all those things. And they don't want turf battles and they want everyone to be able to collaborate effectively
Cathy Calhoun (Weber Shandwick): one of our clients, a large Fortune 200 company that's located here, actually has four different marketing services agencies and they have appointed us the point agency so we are now developing strategic documents and creative briefs for advertising, for direct, for online. It's a really unique new role for our folks to be in and they're so energized and excited about it.
Frank (PRWeek): How do some of the corporate people feel? Allie Harmon (Unilever):
Allie Harmon (Unilever):Being in-house and working with brands, definitely the integration is happening but mostly they just want the smartest person at the table and they don't think of it as the PR agency rep, as a PR or promotions agency rep, as special events. They want a little soft fight to occur and whoever's left standing will lead and claim they're the smartest person in the room. Either they've picked up the ability to think as marketers or they learned it someplace else and they're happy enough to see someone say 'I don't know about this but I can do it.' Also a lot of the way Unilever is growing investment is by sending the PR agency assignments to areas where they normally didn't exist. So instead of consumer PR, it might be customer skills, it might be working with R&D to help R&D, the scientists, understand what the market needs to be. And those informal requests happen out in the hallway and only because a brand director might think 'oh I bet they know how to get this done.' So we're forcing our teams to develop capabilities as we need them and then they go and do it and if they can't do it then they hire someone who already knows how to do it or had one very good experience. So we're all developing together.
Cheryl Procter-Rogers (HBO): I would agree. At HBO, there's a real investment in the communications function and really supporting the growth of the different teams because we have media relations, corporate relations, public relations, and they have different elements. Also I think we have more synergy with our sister organization, the TimeWarner companies, so we're really leveraging a lot of the resources and the expertise we haven't in the past and that's paid off for us tremendously in the marketplace
Leslie Sutton (Discover Financial Services): I'd say likewise for Discover, we've been stepping up our public relations activity as well and we're also looking for those integrated offerings and particularly looking for support to help drive the objective.
Frank (PRWeek): Is it easy to find them or are you having to pull teams together? Sutton (Discover):
Sutton (Discover):We have strong support.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): Our internal basis is strong; our use of external agencies is minor.
Wynona Redmond (Safeway): I'd say in the last year we've probably had more out of the region because of where our parent is located. We've done projects with local agencies on a project basis, so I'd say we probably haven't grown locally but we've still had a good investment in PR nationally.
Frank (PRWeek): Gary was saying there's a lot of b-to-b work. Chicago is known for consumer goods and that area really carried a lot of agencies through the recession. Is there more growth there as well, or has it gotten beyond that, are there other areas growing as well? Brennan (Zeno):
Brennan (Zeno):I see consumer healthcare growing. These companies that traditionally have been spending dollars hitting consumers with these advertisements on late night TV, morning shows, are now starting to funnel money into direct-to-consumer PR.
Putnam (Ketchum): Anything in the home space, housewares, appliances, DIY, that seems to be a pretty hot arena. We're seeing our consumer packaged clients doing much bigger, much more strategic programs, not just announcing a line extension or a new product in a traditional media relations sessions but really getting in their and interacting in a number of marketplaces with a combination of event marketing, PR, and some local. They really seem now to be focused. Now to Brad's point, how do we get in there in a very integrated fashion and make a difference and build a relationship with this consumer?
Calhoun (Weber): I think the consumer business is really strong, I would agree with Bridget on that, that whole shelter area business, the packaged goods business is still really, really strong. The biggest challenge for us that have a chunk of that business is conflicts now because conflicts are so narrowly defined. You know it's a buyers market in PR and we won't discuss it with my client here, and fairly so. We're privy to some pretty confidential information in the product development stage and I can't blame them a bit but it does become a challenge when you literally can't grow your business anymore because you're conflicted out of everything. We turn more things down than we do. Bridget s in a great position because she's on the other end of that flow. But it's smart that you guys have that. For us the consumer business is really strong, very stable, can be our engine. We're diversifying into other areas here but the conflict issue is just a daily grind.
Frank (PRWeek): And consumer companies just keep getting bigger... Calhoun (Weber):
Calhoun (Weber):They're fewer of them. All of a sudden you're conflicted out. You were working for two companions that are now one. You can almost not keep up with it. Most people are fair-minded and you're able to work it through but more time than not you have to take a polite pass. Its heart breaking.
Frank (PRWeek): We're going to see more mergers in Chicago, Brad, you were telling me that. One of the things that came up last year was that everyone at the table said they felt there were a lot of people waiting to change jobs. As the economy got better, there would be an exodus, a big shift of people going from one agency to another or corporate to agency, There was a lot of concern there was going to have to be a lot of staff replacement, has that happened, what's the job market like here?
Loeb (FD): I think you've seen a good amount of transition. You know, we all keep up with each other, its a fairly incestuous, in the best sense of the word, an incestuous business, and I think there's been a lot of movement. A lot of movement from agency to agency. Its unlike many other industries in that by the time I left Hill & Knowlton and moved to Financial Dynamics, I was, at least in the Chicago office, one of the more senior people in here and that was after only five years. At a job I had as a attorney, there were people who had been there 30, 35 years, the average was I think 18 years. So I think there is a natural ebb and flow to this business. There is a certain axiom or adage -- the way to move up the ladder is not to stay at one company but move on to another and whether and to what extent that's true empirically I don't know. I've seen a lot of job changes, a lot of friends I started with H&K in 2000 are now with their second and third firms since I started and doing well. I don't think it's a function of lack of goodness of fit. I think its opportunity and a dynamic environment. In my sphere, issues management, crisis issue management, it's a project based economy, it always has been. I think there's been a migration into other areas of public relations, there seem to be more project based there too, I say that as a neophyte.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): I think also people are looking to turbo charge their careers. Several years ago, there was a little impatience because the economy was such that particularly in the area of agency where people they weren't moving because they weren't sure if the new move would last very long. So they were very hesitant to make changes even though they were unhappy with where they were. I think also individuals struggle with turbo charging their careers but at the same time dealing with the whole work-live balance issue, so they're looking for opportunities that give them that professional growth but at the same time give them the flexibility to pursue those same life jewels they want to make...
Frank (PRWeek) Are people asking more about that now that the economy is picking up? Procter-Rogers (HBO):
Procter-Rogers (HBO):We see that particularly amongst our members in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), they want opportunities that speak to their aspirations as it relates to their career but they're also looking for organizations that provide the kind of environment that allows them to have that creative outlet but at the same time creates some balance. So those agencies that have unfortunately that 'reputation,' they're really working hard to shed that 'reputation' because its no longer about the title and what clients am I going to represent, its about the quality of life issues
Putnam (Ketchum): I would say it's about both, actually, because we have a lot of younger staff who work very diligently to make sure that they're on the kind of business that they see as a marquee career building piece of business. So I do think its definitely about 'lets find some balance and lets find a way to work and live at the same time' but I think its equally about what business are they working on, what opportunities does that client afford them, and, quite honestly, what's it like to work with that client. And we're getting a lot more folks who are very particular, rightly so, about the respect that they deserve and working with clients who have a collaborative environment
Wilks (Ogilvy): I think we're still at the early stage of a massive reshuffling of the deck I think there's going to continue to be a lot of change. I think we went through a period where there was limited opportunity and so people were static. What I see it if you look at the resumes I get its definitely at the junior level where people are ready for that next career building move. And I agree they're much more selective of what they're going to do and its at the higher levels too where people have either hit the glass ceiling or the plateau where they're at and they're looking for a new opportunity. What's interesting to me, we went through a period where clients were saying 'what I want is senior counsel and execution I'm not paying for that 28-year-old VP in the middle whose sort of learning on the job' and all of that. So we kind of went through a period where that layer got a little bit hollowed out on the agency side and those are the hardest people candidly to recruit at the agency level.
Harmon (Unilever): Inside the company you want to talk to someone who's smarter than you who knows more than you about their specialty but also can fill your shoes if you're out. So yes, I'm not interested in the 28-year-old VP learning when I speak. That's not what I pay for. Sure somebody's got to run campaigns and your people.
Loeb (FD): I think that's universally true of professional service activities, you're talking of law firms too. I work with some of them that don't even have summer associates classes anymore, the bigger ones do, the Kirklands, the middle tier firms are no longer willing to train younger associates. As Brad said, I think we're in a period of change because people are expecting more, they're expecting integrated counsel, they're expecting a perspective and a vantage point that isn't yours, and I think what we offer our clients in large measure is what I would call experiential intuition. I don't think there's anything we do, I think there are a lot of things we do, the judgments we make on a circumstantial basis, particularly people that are offering senior counsel. When somebody is calling those of us in the room, really the people at the top of the chart, and asking them 'well what do you think' that's where we want to play, in that circle of trust, and you base it on your experience, you're basing it on seeing a similar scenario played out in 15 different ways and that's essentially what I think clients are seeking. And so I think that raises a lot of questions, I think particularly at the larger agencies, about profit models, it has for the law firms. I've talked to many of my friends who run these firms, sit on the executive committee of these firms. Because their profit model is largely that troche of senior level associates, junior level associates, in PR-terms VPs, SVPs, and senior account supervisors, that's where the profit model are at. I'm not sure if going forward that's where our client demands are going to be
Harmon (Unilever): I think maybe it used to be when I was on the agency side trying to budget to the plan on the lower end, well this client probably only needs someone heading up the business on the account supervisor level or that's the best deal we can get out of them. Nowadays I think that would never fly. I'm happy to have the account supervisor in the room learning from the conversations, the discussions that are playing, but if I have to take recommendations from someone with five years experience I think I'd rather not do it.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): I think the whole business culture now has really created great opportunities for the PR and the communications industry because I think what it has done it has really created a high level of awareness of the need for that good judgment, and that the advice, and counsel that you get, particularly in the area of corporate reputation management, everything under the PR umbrella. But certainly there is this desire to have that comfort level with the counsel you're getting is sage counsel and that these individuals are bringing to the table not only that tactical or strategic expertise to be able to create a strategy but also have enough experience and scope of experience to bring that level of judgment that's required in this kind of dynamic world that we are in today. I also think that we are at a crossroads when it comes to communications because we now have students that are majoring in public relations, by the time they graduate, they've had three to four internships and so they're moving out with a lot more experience than I know I had five years into the business. That's because of what they're learning in school and the kinds of opportunities they have that we, I'll say we as the old senior practioners, that we didn't have. And so I think there's a learning curve that needs to happen as well because some of these 28-year-old VPs are really knowledgeable and they really have a great deal of experience but just looking at them visually you say 'oh they can't possibly be able to help me.'
Slack (Slack): What they don't have is the life experience and all those war stories that come with maturity and age.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): But when you ask someone and they say 'oh I have 20 years of experience' and then you dig a little deeper, you find out they really only have one year experience. They learned this one year and they've been doing it for 19 years. So the same could apply to someone young in a very dynamic environment where they are getting that experience and someone with eight years experience may have seen more and experienced more and made more mistakes than someone with 20 years.
Putnam (Ketchum): I will say though now that while I think its harder to find now the 33-year-old VP, someone that does have a little more experiential intuition, while its harder to find that person now, I think its for two reasons and one is that what we went through three, four, five years ago showed some people that they just don't want to be in this business. So the people that are in it are really bright and really committed and really good. So if we can get our hands on any of them, they have a terrific career and we can continue to build that career and help them grow. But because of what we went through there are just fewer of those folks who started out with a PR undergraduate degree and stuck around.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): So why do you think in the PRSA one of our fastest growing membership demographics is the independent practioner and these are experts. It goes the gamut from the 23, 24-year-old deciding that they can't find a position that they're really after so they decide to go on their own, to that mid-level. I'm seeing a lot of that 33-year-old, 28-35 year-old.
Brennan (Zeno): It's the definition of work. They've watched their parents get laid off after working 20 years in one place, they have no perception they don't have that paternalistic view of their employer that their parents did and so they define work and life balance differently and they have confidence that they were the generation that was told 'you can do anything and be anything.' So they're going off and doing it.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): So we have a challenge to try and recruit those individuals because they are smart.
Harmon (Unilever): I think the opportunity to the 28-year-old VP in PR is so much bigger than the 28-year-old marketing manager who is coming out with their MBA. They have four years of work and went and did their MBA full-time. That's a great experience but ,ok guys, they're starting out at the bottom at a place, and so the PR person who didn't have to take time out to go back to school really can jump start but what they need and, I'm not sure it exists on the agency side, is some type of strategic schooling. When someone makes their transition to strategist that's when the magic happens.
Slack (Slack): I think the question we're really asking here is where does judgment come from? And it comes from diversity of experience. Some of the best people I have don't necessarily have a traditional PR background, they may have an MBA, they may have an electronic engineering degree as well. I've had guys with EE degrees who are also very creative and they're potent when they're mixed with the right group of people, PR and advertising people. So I don't think any one of the disciplines has a lock on judgment. I think it has a lot to do with diversity of experience in terms of people cross industries or cross functions. The best PR people I've seen work in marketing communications worked on the advertising side, worked on the brand side, not just PR. I think PR by itself runs the risk of being an island, its just a little piece of a greater continent which is marketing and if you haven't been to those other places on the continent you can't be that effective.
Loeb (FD): I think the thought leaders on communications, on marketing, those in business schools, there was an article not that long ago in the Harvard Business Review that talked about this , somewhat of a migration, at least in modeling, of the communications. More like the management consultant speaking to a number of different issues, diversity of experience, diversity of background. I remember at the crossroads of my legal career, before I went and counseled a client , I interviewed at I think it was Andersen Consulting at the time. And they had people running in from music majors from Indiana University to anthropologists to MBAs and all of that. And they valued that diversity of experience and opinion because, as we all recognize, there's no challenge that has a siloed solution. There's an interdisciplinary solution in almost any challenge we face. So it will be interesting to see in an industry, professionally speaking, in many respects there are no barriers to entry in the public relations field, there's no education requirement , there's no pedigree that's required to enter our field. The fallout after 2001 created a natural selection process, a percolating of sort of the best and the brightest to the top. And we're seeing, we just hired three people in the last month, all of whom are far smarter than I am. What we're seeing in some of the younger people are creativity and insight, a degree of insight and creativity than perhaps some of us didn't have. The exposure they've had to some types of learning opportunities that at least I didn't have, so I do think that we are evolving as a discipline. I think we are becoming much more sophisticated. I think we're realizing that we've got to play in the c-suite, we not only have to play in the c-suite, we have to have a seat at the table like the lawyers do, like the accountants do, the investment bankers do. I think we're headed there. I don't think we're there yet. I think we're headed there. I think it's a good five, 10 years away but I think we're headed there. The leaders, particularly the big firms, are going to have to make strategic decisions on what they want their firms to look like in terms of an evolving market.
Sutton (Discover): In order to be able to deliver to people at the head of that table it requires a diversity of experience but also I would say we expect to give counsel but we also know that we can get fresh thinking, so both really play an important part in our role to deliver on business objectives.
Slack (Slack): We find that PR people make a relatively easy transition into an integrated marketing communications firm. Frankly this really addresses another question you have, the same time we look for PR professionals who have first and foremost a passion for PR but an equally strong interest in some of the other disciplines -- advertising, direct marketing -- and unfortunately we just don't find that many PR people who earnestly, genuinely want to learn about the sister disciplines. They want to knock them.
Stenitzer (Tellabs): I think there's an absence of development that used to be there. I grew up in two of the bell companies, SBC and Ameritech, and in those days, you were in the communications department, you could start out as I did as a trade show manager, go into employee communications, go into PR, go into internet marketing, financial. You could hit all of the disciplines within one company and that was your career path and there aren't that many client-side opportunities where you can rotate through the disciplines, get an appreciation for how each of them work. Advertising may be a better PR, the Internet may be a better ad, but how do we share those experiences with our staffs and with the future? Whose going to be around this table in 10 years from now and how will they have gotten the diversity of experience to be here?
Calhoun (Weber): I have to say in our experience it has been exactly the opposite, to be contrary, those who know me know that's definitely not my nature, but our people are so excited, energized about having exposure to and getting the opportunity with clients like Unilever who sort of have a zero based marketing approach. They throw us all in a room and say 'hey just come up with the best.' Its all about the idea or the strategy, not so much who came up with what or who's going to do what. I think its easier to keep people now in PR because they have the opportunity to do so much more. Its no longer write the press release. That's still the core of what we do, anyone who says otherwise is drinking their own Kool Aid. But, I mean at the end of the day, most of our clients still want some positive exposure through the editorial media. But there's lots of other things that come into play around that, lots of other channels to penetrate, lots of other ways to do it, and also feeling that we're shoulder to shoulder with the other marketing disciplines rather than the afterthought -- where you get the plan or the ad or the promotion afterward and you're asked to amplify it. Now you're part of the team that comes up with it. Its hard now because sometimes it challenges you. Get in there and its like 'wow I'm not in Kansas anymore I've got to step up to the plate and get the lingo, the right jargon' but I think for the right person whose wired the right way it's a really exciting thing to do
Putnam (Ketchum): And given that our over-arching objective is still make sure that our companies reputations still are managed and enhanced in a proactive fashion, there's still so much new media out there now, such a rich environment, and there's so many training opportunities that companies like ours are creating for their employees that they're really excited. They love this business right now.
Wilks (Ogilvy): One of the things that we found really has dealt with some of what you described Gary in terms of PR people not really wanting to understand other disciplines. It is sort of what Cathy said. You get everybody in a room and the client articulates the problem and then it's a free-for-all, everybody is part of that whole process. I've been part of large holding companies for 20 years and the historic model was the ad guys would come in and say 'ok give us two PR slides at the end of the presentation.' How do you make this PR-able, this advertisement, and I think there's a lot more. I think it's a mutual education process. Its only going to happen through osmosis as these groups spend more time interacting with each other. Its almost going to happen organically over a generation probably.
Sutton (Discover): Fortunately for us internally it is pretty integrated. We do have an opportunity to participate in the marketing leaders meetings on a weekly basis and we do plan together with advertising and the other functional areas. We've been fortunate at Discover to have that integration. Everybody understands that going through.
Redmond (Safeway): Sometimes an integrated approach is a necessity especially as budgets collapsed. We now started to cling together more. A lot of our function shifted the advertising out of town. It's a necessity but its also synergy because, ok, we're going to use all the resources we have and see how far we can go. And one department will be able to give away product and now its just my department so there's a lot more of a buddy system going on. So its not competition, its more of a necessity. We need each other to survive.
Frank (PRWeek): What about the issue of diversity, reflecting the community, is there a diversity in agency hiring in Chicago? Procter-Rogers (HBO):
Procter-Rogers (HBO):I don't see where the needle has moved at all and I can go back to the early '80s when I entered. There's been a lot of earnest effort to tackle the issue of diversity and all of those efforts have just been met with just dismal results. I don't think the PR community has abandoned the notion of diversity. I just think that we continue to struggle with how to make it work today. Now I think, in retrospect, a lot of the things we did in the '90s were really just too long-term and by the time it got some traction all of those folks were now gone. They left the industry altogether through frustration or they were brought into what could be seen by some as hostile environments where there was only one. And now you look at the need, not only in agencies but also in corporations, in nonprofits, in the whole gamut, you've got this whole issue of diversity not only of color but where are the men? So now you've got agencies and departments that are 99% female and getting that female point of view so over time what are going to be the issues there? And we always argued, Betsy Plank always jokes with me about this. She goes 'you know when it was 85 and 90% men nobody was complaining wondering where all the women were,' but the reality is we're smarter today and know that in order to be successful in the marketplace that we have to have that diversity and I don't know what the solution is because I've been a part of many strategies to try to make a difference and Wynona can speak to this as well, it just hasn't moved.
Redmond (Safeway): I'd say it probably hasn't moved on the agency side. I think corporations, especially because they're doing so much recruitment and targeted recruitment, I've seen. I'm on the both the national black public relations society board and past president and board member of the Chicago black public relations society and I think to Cheryl's point on the agency side, I don't think that the arrow has moved but I think that we've made some really significant progress in new, more innovative efforts in the past year but with corporate side nationally and locally I've seen some pretty good senior level positions filled by practitioners within our network. But on the agency side, I still see a big opportunity for more strategic partnerships because to your point earlier, a lot of independents because they've just been frustrated on the agency side, so strategic partners, more colleagues. When we look for firms, I'm looking for firms and who they're partnering with. I know Flowers Communications Group is in partnerships with major agencies but I think the pipeline needs to be unplugged with the agencies, its ok to hire entry level, its ok to hire interns but we still see the need for more mid- to senior-level positions and we have to give credit to four agencies. Weber Shandwick is one of them. GolinHarris has been steadfast in trying to get it right. Edelman and Hill & Knowlton. Just in the last year, there's a real good dialogue and some creative thinking. One of the issues is curriculum. I think one of the major issues you raise, the point of what hasn't worked, well we've always heard there are so many people who would like to make the transition but don't have the agency experience. So there been dialogue with Keith Burton [at GolinHarris] about coming up with a curriculum for more senior people on being able to make a successful transition. So I think there's still plenty of opportunities to get diversity right.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): We just have to I think. I've become very frustrated because again I've been part of so many different strategies to make that happen. I think if we could just focus on what the immediate issues are and really focus as a profession to address those issues then I think we're going to see some changes. To Wynona's point, in corporate America there has been a real understanding of the need for diversity not only in communications but throughout the entire organization, so you've had some really aggressive diversity programs internally at organizations and that's translating of course successfully for communications but that's really been part of the overall corporate initiative and communications has benefited, has benefited greatly from that. But on the agency side, I just think we haven't gotten it right.
Wilks (Ogilvy): A couple of observations, I was a participate in the black public relations society event talking about financial PR as a career and I was amazed that there weren't more people who showed up to the event because we were making a presentation and there was probably 15 people in the audience or 20, whatever. I think one of the challenges could be that people don't perceive this as a profession that's appealing.
Brennan (Zeno): Too many people still stumble into PR.
Redmond (Safeway): Actually I don't think that event ...
Wilks (Ogilvy): The other thing I would say is because corporate America has done a great job of promoting diversity a lot more people have had an opportunity there. The challenge on the agency side though is if somebody comes to me and they've been, their only experience in public relations has been eight years on the corporate side, and they want to come to an agency, its tough. Anybody else in the agency environment can attest to the fact that it's a really different animal and it doesn't necessarily prepare you for -- you're not only making the sausage but you're selling the sausage. There are a lot of different aspects to life in an agency.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): There's also the notion that organizations can actually recruit and do some management training and get people engaged early in their careers and grow your own. You know, reach out and do that. However, when we have taken that approach and you only bring in one person and that one person, nine times out of 10, my experience has been they end up going into corporate because you know that agency experience is fabulous because you've got a pace, you can multitask, you can think, and chew gum at the same time, and you understand the dynamics of the marketplace in a way that maybe someone else with experience in a corporation hasn't. So they get a bigger bang for the buck. I think that the outreach tends to be more of a relationship development partnership than the approach we have had and you speak of a session that you attended where there was poor attendance, I'm not quite sure why that was. I know that there is a lot of apathy out there as well, no jobs for me in financial PR, where's that going to get me...
Slack (Slack): It's a waste of time, the gap's too big...
Redmond (Safeway): I don't think that one-day conference was a true measure of interest in PR by African Americans in Chicago. There were, it turned out to be a caucus instead of a one-day conference, so many attendees got a lot out of it. We talked about it afterward and said maybe we should have made the actual focus a little more diverse, it shouldn't have been just financial PR. But lots of people said Friday, timing, but I don't think that's a true measure of the interest. We did a panel the month before at Columbia on entertainment PR, it was standing room only in the auditorium and I think John [Frank] attended the national convention and we had good participation. So the interest is definitely there but one of the other points you brought up Brad about the person making the transition after all these years, that's where we're trying to be strategic and really to Cheryl's point not do the same old ideas but we've been working with Keith Burton, we're really looking at creating a vehicle where you can get this person, give them an opportunity for a true orientation and preparation to see if the agency life will fit.
Harmon (Unilever): I think that the corporations are calling the shots. Unilever is demanding diversity of thought, diversity of background but not necessarily on the core team. I think also people coming out of college right now are very entrepreneurial and they do what they want to do. Why should they go to an agency and have to earn their stripes when two years interning at Columbia Records will allow them now they have experience working with celebrities. In a company like Unilever, when we look around the room and say does anybody know about working with rappers none of us do, great lets find somebody who does and we don't use the same measures to judge their work. We're not looking at beautiful lists or even eloquence, we're just asking you knows the urban music business. I don't, so lets find somebody who does. We actually work with a couple of small startups, three or four people, and its all about who they know in the African American community. They're like family, its amazing, one woman works with 10 people and somebody has a cousin who's a football star and he came to our party. So urban or music or, in the Hispanic world, special events or TV integration, Telemundo and Univision. So I don't know if the sole intend of agency recruitment is going to work since it hasn't happen. Corporations are now asking for that thought and counsel.
Frank (PRWeek): So you're going to find it... Stenitzer (Tellabs):
Stenitzer (Tellabs):There are two things that we're really talking about here that are lost if we don't achieve diversity in our team, in our agency. One is the diversity of thinking. You know if we're all the same age, all the same gender, back to the earlier point, you tend to get a lot of similar ideas but the other issue is connectiveness with the community, the communities are different. Latest numbers of Chicago is one-fifth Hispanic and I don't see a really active high point of Hispanics who are working their ways into communications even though they have language skills I need. I need to hire someone right now in Naperville who's got great Spanish cause I've got to source Latin America out of Naperville.
Procter-Rogers (HBO): And how important are partnerships today and partnerships are that making all those deposits into the goodwill bank so that you have those relationships, so when you have a client that has those needs, you have this in-house. I can't believe I'm on this soap box, I'll stay on it for just a short period of time. The danger that we also face is that you think, 'well I would hire a Hispanic but we don't have any clients that require us to work in the Hispanic community.' That we've got to get away from that. You're hiring a public relations professional who has the expertise that you need to work on any account for what he brings in addition to that expertise is the cultural experience and background and partnerships and relationships. So once you have that, then guess what, you now have the opportunity to go out and seek other business that perhaps you couldn't have in the past because you didn't have that kind of perspective or experience within your organization. So I just want us to be cautious when we look at diversity that we're not only looking at diversity in terms of our client base as relates to the agency but that we're looking to diversify our agency, period.
Julia Hood (PRWeek): People are trying to create agency, are trying to create, for something they have won, I think it was two years ago Michael Flowers was on this and she was saying a lot of the frustration was a Hispanic joins and great work on this account, it wasn't so much that you only hire them if you had the clients it was you'd only hire them if you had the practice, you would have the practice there... Procter-Rogers (HBO):
Procter-Rogers (HBO):That's a different model but that's the model that derails us every time on the diversity issue.
Loeb (FD): If you look at some of the diagnostics, in varying degrees this industry has struggled mightily with recruiting and mentoring. We're not alone but we certainly have struggled with those issues and I think this issue is manifested itself more acutely in the context of reaching out to communities across the demographic, across the American mosaic, is just more acute in recruiting, in being diverse. A lot of my friends come from backgrounds that we'd love to have that agencies do choose in-house. A great friend of mine who grew up in politics decided to go to AARP, but I'm certain she won't go to agencies unless she did it at a very senior level but I have a feeling if she were to choose a path it would be either on her own or into politics or back to a company. So I think if we expand our recruitment or look at it more critically, there are firms who do quite well. Some firms in town, I'm sure you know who I'm talking about, have a captive recruiter whose very, she finds qualified candidates. The other things I think two of you said, I think agencies should not be afraid to reach out to their clients that have phenomenal diversity programs. They're phenomenal recruiters and say 'help us out, what are your best practices, let's institutionalize some of your practices, let's do recruiting together at college fairs.' There are any number of ways, I don't think it's an admission of infirmity to want to partner with your clients and I don't think clients..In the short period in which I was hiring, when the firm would talk to me about needs and ask questions, I looked at it as a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Hood (PRWeek): This is one of the topics we could go on forever. I think we'd better step off...