A stranger in a familiar land

I spent 25 years in the advertising business. It was filled with great creative minds, some very quirky characters, lots of high profile challenges, and exhilarating moments.

I spent 25 years in the advertising business. It was filled with great creative minds, some very quirky characters, lots of high profile challenges, and exhilarating moments.  

I'm proud to say that I was a part of some truly iconic campaigns. I helped create Verizon's, “Can you hear me now?” guy (or “test man” as we called him). For the curious, the idea actually came from a very real testing exercise that Verizon did routinely. And I helped push the, “So easy a child could do it” strategy to give birth to E-Trade's talking baby (couldn't resist). Advertising also helped me take my love for film and turn it into a short (along with the very talented Nick Childs) that won at Tribeca, Woodstock, and 12 other festivals around the world.

It was a great run and I loved nearly every minute of it. I like to think that I've based my career and success thus far on a simple question, “What's next?”  What's next for my clients, for the industry, and, well, for me?  I found the answer in Public Relations. 

It's right at this point that you may be thinking, “Huh? He left all that for PR?” Yes I did and the reason is simple.  I think this is where the future lies. PR is what's next. 

The way I see it, before the Internet, reputation was mostly incremental to brand. Now, digital/social has exponentially expanded the messaging universe and turned reputation into the larger side of the equation. Think of it this way, paid messaging hasn't materially grown during the same period that saw more than 700+ million people join Facebook. 

So, yes, I'm in PR now. But I don't feel like I've changed careers. I've just followed the way of the world.  Relationships have always been at the core of PR, right there with dialogue and advocacy. And today, unlike any time in human history, the idea of dialogue-based relationships is at the center of everything.   

Steve Hardwick is president of the eastern region for Fleishman-Hillard.

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