Interview: Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton is senior counselor for APCO Worldwide and, since January 1, 2006, president of the Arthur W. Page Society. Bolton spoke with PRWeek about the rebranding efforts at the Society, the recent appointment of executive director Tom Nicholson, and the future of the 23-year-old organization.

Roger Bolton is senior counselor for APCO Worldwide and, since January 1, 2006, president of the Arthur W. Page Society. Bolton spoke with PRWeek about the rebranding efforts at the Society, the recent appointment of executive director Tom Nicholson, and the future of the 23-year-old organization.

The following is an abridged transcript of that conversation. Please go to the PRWeek podcast page to listen to the full discussion.

PRWeek: The Society is undergoing a rebranding that included a new logo and revamped Web site. We featured some comments online already, but can you go a little further into all of the elements that we're going to be seeing?


Roger Bolton: ...The disadvantage that our previous visual identity had was that even though we're less than 25 years old as an organization, we had a very dated look that was somewhat stodgy and, some people felt, elitist. It featured the visage of Arthur W. Page in profile, but it had a 40s look to it and it did not seem appropriate for the very dynamic environment in which we're finding ourselves in today with massive change - [the] digital network revolution, stakeholder empowerment, globalization. And we felt there was an opportunity to stay with the fundamental foundation around Arthur Page, but to create a dynamic new look that was more appropriate for the interactive stakeholder-empowered world in which we find ourselves in today. So we created a new visual identity that is based upon Arthur W. Page's signature.

[We] stumbled across Page's actual signature, which is quite distinctive. And we immediately gravitated to that as having great symbolic meaning because one's word is one's bond, to tell the truth, and it maintained the connection to Arthur Page, which is our differentiator, and we were able to bring the signature forward with the typeface of the Arthur W. Page Society underneath it, which suggests authenticity and integrity, and yet the openness to dialogue and approachability that the previous logo did not give us.

... The Web site had been a fairly stagnant repository for some basic information about members and, frankly, not a lot else...[There] is much more need and opportunity for interactive, ongoing learning. [We] have created a Web site that is much more dynamic in terms of permitting a discussion forum for our members, and which is much more robust in terms of being a repository for not just basic membership information, but information about trends in the profession and trends in society where members can go to become more conversant with trends as they emerge.

And finally, (and this is somewhat perspective since we've created the capability and not yet populated it with content), fundamentally, we would like to provide the same kind of interactive dialogue around subjects of interest, not just between our members, but constituents of importance to us, most particularly CEOs and other C-suite officers with whom we interact on the dynamic issues that are transforming business today.

PRWeek: [For] our reading audience and listening audience [ who] work on the agency side of the PR business, [what] is it that PR pros on that side should know about what's going on on the corporate side?

Bolton: I think the agency side is very much attuned to those of us on the corporate side who need their services. I guess I would say that... what I was always looking for and what always seems to be in most demand is a senior strategic partner who understands my business and brings a perspective to it that I may not be able to bring by virtue of having a broad range of experience serving other clients in other industries.

[To] me, the most valued service that an agency can bring is senior strategic counsel that fills in gaps and brings a level of experience you don't have.

So agencies that understand that and are able to bring to us on the corporate side a broad understanding of the rapidly changing environment, connections with stakeholders, and the understanding of the rapidly exploding influence of disparate stakeholder groups, and the ability to interact with them, build relationships with them that are meaningful and lasting in a dramatically and dynamically changing environment, that's what's highly in demand

PRWeek: Going back to the online Q&A that we posted last week, you talked a little bit about the four goals that you have for the Society in your tenure as president. Can you talk about the other campaigns, events, or other promotions that we should all keep our eyes out for?

Bolton: The most important thing that we're working on is a set of activities designed to increase the level of dialogue with CEOs and other C-suite officers about the role of the chief communications officer, and most importantly, how to build corporate trust in this rapidly changing environment...

So we have just completed and are about to release a survey of CEOs in which CEOs talk about their attitudes about these dramatic changes and how chief communications officers can help companies prepare for them; a white paper that takes into account the CEO views as well as other research we've done on how the role of the chief communications officer is evolving and has the potential to evolve if we step up to meet the challenges that face businesses.

[We] have just initiated [a very exciting partnership] with the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics. The Business Roundtable, as you may know, is an organization of Fortune 100 CEOs whose main objective is to advocate public policy change in Washington, but who are also very concerned about corporate trust. And in the wake of the Enron and other recent scandals, they've established this institute on corporate integrity at the Darden School at the University of Virginia. So we are partnering with this institute to engage some opinion leaders including CEOs and other C-suite officers and academics around this whole issue of corporate trust and what companies can do to win stakeholder trust through relationships.

We are going to be putting out a joint set of recommendations, which we believe will not only stimulate news coverage, but more importantly will stimulate dialogue within the C-suite about how we can more effectively build trust and, from our perspective perhaps most importantly of all, how the chief communications officer can play a more meaningful role with the companies in helping the companies deal with these method changes.

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