Firm FleishmanHillard has formalized the philosophy of mixing PR, marketing, advertising, social media, and more together in its rebranding. Experts say that can work for agencies, if they know their limits.
Another quote from me on the topic of FleishmanHillard’s rebranding. I gave it a “meh.” Here’s why.
Back in 1999, when I was on the marketing team at 24/7 Media, we dropped our tech PR agency (Connors Communications — blast from the past) in favor of FleishmanHillard. There was a palpable difference between working with a small, go-get-em firm like Connors, to Fleishman, who were stodgy, conservative, and, in my eyes, supremely out of place when it came to advising startups. Then again, this was the moment where the middle ranks of 24/7 were suddenly padded with “managers” of all sorts, from places like IBM and Philip Morris (a story over a drink), so it should not have been a surprise. But Fleishman never matched the service or results we got from Connors. And they were just so…corporate.
Fast-forward 14 years, and not much has changed in terms of the agency’s brand perception. What happened with the rebrand is the culmination of the proverbial battleship taking all that time to change course. It’s not a harbinger of some big new change in the industry, but it is a smart move for Fleishman. So good on ‘em. They need to tap new revenue streams (beyond media relations/counsel) to make money, and they probably do/did need to tell the world that they can handle the increasingly business-casual way of conducting business.
Beyond that, not much applause is warranted. Am I missing something?
I dialed a number and Rotobooth took a picture of me!
How amazing is this gif of the Hotwire team from NY Tech Day? PS, the balloons are still floating, 2 weeks later…
I’m at Hotwire San Francisco! (Hi Annette ;)
I had the opportunity to contribute a quote to this Paradigm Staffing blog post about building great agency PR teams.
Here’s the directors cut version:
What advice do you have for other managers looking to build efficient teams that work well together?
- Smart people who are a good cultural fit can be taught anything. It’s never about the school, the major, or finding someone with the perfect set of experience on paper. Don’t be afraid of hiring someone who has tried a few careers or appears “nontraditional”, as long as they can articulate what they’ve learned and what brought them to this place. Having teams with a diversity of professional backgrounds creates an openness to new points of view which in turn allows them to solve problems quickly and creatively.
- The importance of internal communications cannot be overstated! People like to know what’s going on. Even the Account Coordinator should understand how their contributions flow into the overall account strategy. Most one-on-one conversations with clients — barring very private ones — should be immediately shared with the entire account team. This goes for agency communications as well. It’s easy to avoid rumors when you’re communicating quickly, openly and honestly with your team about things that affect them.
- Create a vision that is greater than any single person or client. So many PR agencies are cults of personality, where a single executive’s reputation looms way too large, inhibiting team (and agency) growth. Think of the PR agency setting as a greenhouse — as its leader, you are the caretaker of all of the seedlings, not the giant plant that sucks up all of the oxygen! Give people the basic nurturing they need to do their jobs and then step away. I’m not suggesting course correction isn’t needed, but the number one mistake I see managers making is never maturing from a “directive” style into something more like coaching.
What cautionary tale do you have in your own experience putting together a team that we can share?
Oh, I’ve made so many mistakes! The biggest would be the PR version of “no one gets fired for buying IBM.” I’ve met lots of unconventional candidates who I knew could do the job, but I failed to convince the powers that be why we should hire them versus someone who’d spent their entire career carefully moving from one giant, well-known agency to another. But I’ve also committed every other manager sin, including insisting I track the tiniest of changes onto a press release just to give it my stamp (akin to a director giving an actor a line reading). A lot of these habits die hard, but if you can have a sense of humor about it — and encourage your colleagues to catch you in the act and call you on it — that helps. It takes a village even to manage an MD :)
File under: V for Victory Formation. We move into our new office in less than two months!
Quick observation: it’s easy to conflate all technologists with “early adopters.”
You don’t have to be an early adopter to have a successful career in tech, or tech PR. In fact, I’d argue it’s a good idea to build a team comprised of lots of different tech adoption rates and viewpoints. That way you limit your blind spots and create some healthy debate about the merits of the next big thing.
Also goes without saying that not all clients are “disruptors”, though they might claim to be. If a team comprised solely of early adopters gets assigned to a mature enterprise technology account, ahoy, trouble ahead. You want a mix.
I know I’m not exactly busting any myths here, but it felt important to state.
Final observation — there is no single technology adoption cycle that defines us as end users, just like there is no single social graph that defines our sphere of influence. I’m much more likely to be an early adopter of any technology that soothes the nerves of a crazy dog than I am to try out location-based mobile apps that help people hook up.
Caninnovators, you know where to find me.
Went to see the exhibition this morning. Try to make it if you can. I came away with a couple of interesting observations:
Don’t be afraid to expose the process. The bulk of the show was a do-over of a famous exhibition Matisse organized for Galerie Maeght in the 40s, where he exhibited his “final products” alongside photographs of drafts of the works that preceded them. (Drafts seems like the wrong word. So does attempts. Hm.) He demanded the gallery owner display them this way to dispel the notion that his style was facile and off-the-cuff. For me, the metaphor is Matisse-as-blogger, which is exactly the kind of reassurance I needed at the moment. PR is full of these perfectly polished “personal brands” that drive me nuts, which is one of the reasons why I thought I might as well put myself out there a bit more.
Blackness creates light. The image below is Interior with a Violin (Room at the Hotel Beau-Rivage), which Matisse considered a pivotal moment in his trajectory as an artist. This is the third in a series of paintings of his hotel room in Nice where he attempted to capture the “silvery” light coming through the window. Where the first two canvases were literal in capturing the room’s pink carpet and other details, Matisse decided the best way to show the light’s dimensions was to black out all that interfered with it. So, if you’re suffering from the February Sads like I am, well, it’s always darkest just before dawn, wakka wakka. But it’s also interesting to contemplate how instead of telling a story in a straightforward, literal way — as we often do as communicators — playing with negative space can be equally useful.
And I had no idea Matisse spent his early career visiting the Louvre and copying masterworks. There’s hope for us all.
I’m sorry none of the Vence cut-outs made it into this exhibition, but it was well worth a 4 train ride to 86th Street.