PROFILE: Rogers blazes his own trail outside the family business

Knowing that a PR industry existed out there beyond his father's Los Angeles entertainment agency, Ron Rogers has now made a name for himself in social marketing.

Knowing that a PR industry existed out there beyond his father's Los Angeles entertainment agency, Ron Rogers has now made a name for himself in social marketing.

An avid horseman with a ranch in Colorado, Ron Rogers is also one of Los Angeles' PR power players, able to switch from roping cows to roping clients with the flick of a cell phone. But merging his wild side with the social savvy necessary to finesse major corporate clients may just be in his genes. The son of Henry Rogers, cofounder of Rogers & Cowan, the younger Rogers was raised with both a backroom view of high-profile PR, and an insider's knowledge of the intricacies of the LA market. Rogers began his PR career at 19 in the mailroom of his father's company in 1962. The firm was already a well-established entertainment shop, but after only a few years working his way up, he decided the star-studded family business wasn't for him. "I didn't like being the boss' son, and I didn't appreciate the entertainment business as much as others," he recalls. Rogers left to join a small advertising and graphic-design firm called Studio 5, where he became a VP after three years. Never one to follow the established path, Rogers left that position with nothing more in mind than an extended vacation. "One of my clients said that he was taking a year off and going to Europe," he explains, "and invited me to go with him. I told him I was too much of a big shot to leave, and a month later I resigned and spent a year in Europe," he remembers. Rogers worked while abroad, covering the 1968 Winter Olympics for ABC. "And then I traveled around and played and ran out of money," he says. When he returned to the states, he became the executive assistant to department-store magnate Alfred Bloomingdale, a "24-hours-a-day job" that gave him an "unofficial business degree," he claims. "He was this crotchety character who would scream at me and say, 'I've got this company that's losing money and go figure out why and bring me solutions or don't come back,'" says Rogers with a laugh. "I did everything from union negotiations to running a marine construction company, and doing a turnaround on that." Bloomingdale became ill and downscaled his businesses in 1972, and Rogers decided it was time to give his own family business another try. He rejoined Rogers & Cowan to jump-start its corporate division, and ended up living between New York and Los Angeles for the next few years as the division took off. "I am passionate about New York, and wish I had more clients there that would give me an excuse to go back," he says of his bicoastal days. "It gave me a perspective on how differently business operates from West Coast to East Coast, and how different the people really are." But once again, Rogers found that the family agency wasn't really the right fit for him, especially given his lack of interest in entertainment PR. So he decided to strike out on his own. "At that time, with the management structure, it was very difficult to push my agenda forward. The corporate work always took sort of a back seat," he explains. "And so even though my father and I and Warren Cowan and [company principal] Paul Bloch got along great, I went to them and said I wanted to leave." The result of that breakup was the founding of Rogers & Associates in 1978. The agency has since built a reputation in Los Angeles that is equal in prestige to his father's efforts, but in a very different sector of PR. It is a powerhouse for both government work and social marketing, and also has an impressive consumer side, including the recent win of Kellogg's. "I don't think we're a small agency. I would say we are a midsize national firm headquartered in LA," explains Rogers of his shop's outlook. "The majority of the work that we do in the private sector is on a national basis, whether that's Kellogg's or Honda or Washington Mutual." But despite an impressive client list and a position at the heart of the Los Angeles PR community, Rogers prides himself more on the attitude he has created at his agency rather than the financial success of the firm. A man with the kind of stone-in-the-river business polish that can only happen through time and experience, Rogers still seems passionate below the civilized veneer. "I think I'm most proud of how we operate our company in terms of both our employees and the makeup of the people in this organization - the diversity," he says. "We do a lot of pro bono work as a company, and I'll bet you'll find a very large percentage of the people that are with our company do a lot of community work outside as well." In fact, pro bono work is one of the traits for which the organization is known. Rogers himself has offered his services for almost 25 years to the Santa Monica-based Rape Treatment Center, a well-respected women's-rights advocate that he helped to establish with PR and fundraising efforts. Rogers also volunteers for the LAPD and is a reserve officer, serving in the communications department. Despite Rogers' success in the PR world, where you'll really find his heart is back at the ranch in Colorado. He spends at least a week of every month there, often accompanied by his wife, an attorney at a prominent LA firm. "The only thing I did well growing up was riding horses. I guess I watched too many John Wayne movies, and I guess it got into my blood," he says. "I never outgrew it, and so when I finally got to the point where I could afford to do it, we bought a small place. It's heavenly." ----- Ron Rogers 1978-present Rogers & Associates, CEO 1972-1977 Rogers & Cowan, head of corporate practice 1969-1971 Alfred Bloomingdale, executive assistant 1965-1968 Studio 5, Vice president 1962-1964 Rogers & Cowan, account executive

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