Profile: Will Sullivan, PR 21 - If there’s a Will there’s a way/Will Sullivan prepares to take Edelman’s new sister agency into the next century

Forget about taking the odd taxi cab on the way to a public relations pitch, Will Sullivan flies himself in one of his two privately-owned jets.

Forget about taking the odd taxi cab on the way to a public

relations pitch, Will Sullivan flies himself in one of his two

privately-owned jets.

He finds time to collect Warhols and he runs at least one marathon

somewhere around the world every year.

He’s the kind of man who describes himself as ’aggressively living life’

and he has been hired to head up Edelman PR Worldwide’s sister agency,

PR 21, which began operating at the beginning of this month. The

appointment looks to be a success. After one management meeting last

month, Sullivan talked until he got 10 leads for new business. The word

is out and Edelman worldwide bureaux are asking if they can start a PR

21 office. ’I couldn’t pass up the chance of building a global agency,’

says Sullivan. ’My aim is not to be the biggest, but the best.’

The premise behind the new sister agency is to be able to accommodate

companies that approach Edelman to provide PR, but may present a

conflict of interest with the agency’s existing clients. Edelman claims

it has been turning away clients on a weekly basis up till now because

of conflicts of interest.

PR 21 (its name chosen in anticipation of the 21st century) has opened

offices in New York and Chicago and expects to launch in Hong Kong and

London within the first two quarters of this year. Last week, the agency

signed up its 20th client, CNN Financial new media, hired its 20th staff

member and already has pounds 2-pounds 2.5 million in billings fees.

Many of the clients have been passed over from Edelman.

Sullivan has more than 20 years of PR, public affairs and international

marketing under his belt. He began his career as an official for the

State of Wisconsin in the 1970s, working his way up to managing a team

of 300 staff in the department of local affairs and development, as

deputy cabinet secretary.

In 1979 he entered the corporate world, starting a eight-year career

with multinational 3M, developing and managing global marketing

communications programmes for the company’s products, including

anti-inflammatory treatments and pulmonary and muscle relaxants. He also

ran 3M’s corporate issues management programme, which involved close

ties with NASA, to develop 3M’s experimentation programme aboard space

shuttles, a personal interest of Sullivan’s.

With his strong background in healthcare, Sullivan ventured out on his

own in 1987 by launching VideoCare, a company that developed programmes

on video to help people needing cardiac rehabilitation. Two years later,

in the Midwest conurbation of Minneapolis/St Paul, he founded Sullivan

Communications Group, which was acquired by the Rowland Company in


Sullivan sees this as a beneficial ’marriage’ for both parties. Rowland

wanted a presence in the Midwest United States and Sullivan had several

multinational client companies that wanted an international profile.

Sullivan became the president and CEO of The Rowland Company’s

Minneapolis/St Paul office and served on the agency’s international

board. Over the next five years he was named director of healthcare and

international director for Rowland.

He was lured back to 3M in 1996 as a communications consultant, to

advise on the demerger of 3M’s data storage and imaging division and in

1997 became chief marketing officer for the new company, Imation. Here

he was responsible for Imation’s worldwide marketing strategy and all

corporate communications functions from public affairs to advertising

and packaging.

’He is one of the most visionary people I’ve ever met,’ says PR manager

for Imation, Jason Thunstrom. ’He was a key factor in paving the way to

how we present ourselves today as a Fortune 500 company.’

’He’s energetic. attractive and a charming guy,’ says Daniel Edelman,

founder of Edelman PR Worldwide.

As for the space shuttle, Sullivan still has hope. ’If John Glenn can do

it again, there’s no telling what’s next for me!’



Founded VideoCare


Founded Sullivan Communications Group


Sold Sullivan to the Rowland Company and became president and CEO of the

Minneapolis/St Paul office


Chief marketing office, Imation


President and CEO of PR 21

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