Am I a marketing professional, public relations professional, or a copywriter? The answer is yes, to all three. In fact, I have worn many hats over the years, including leader, journalist, storyteller, researcher, photographer, salesperson, and website developer. The strangest of all was Chief Cultural Officer, which was part of my formal title at Creamer Dickson Basford and Magnet Communications, where I was charged with transforming the organization – including reshaping its corporate culture – in order to attract and retain both the best talent and the best clients.
Admittedly, I have had an unconventional career track, as my resume will attest. Though this is due to the fact that I was never looking to build a career, or even a name for myself. I was more interested in learning and exploring every aspect of the profession I stumbled into some 30 years ago, when I was a wide-eyed and significantly slimmer young man looking for an opportunity to earn a living while developing my writing skills. And I have been very fortunate to have accomplished that – and so much more – as I seized a series of opportunities that have taken me to all corners of the communications business, gaining a tremendous depth and breadth of experience along the way.
I am a results-driven professional with nearly three decades of experience in all facets of marketing and corporate communications, including the development and implementation of strategic, data-driven plans designed to engage, inform, and motivate a wide range of audiences across multiple channels. I have worked as a marketing director, public relations executive, copywriter, and even had a brief stint as an online soccer journalist.
I began my career at A.B. Isacson Associates, a business-to-business marketing firm where I handled the advertising, collateral development, direct mail, and public relations for clients such as Avery Dennison, S.C. Johnson Wax, Sealed Air, Sonoco Products, and Windmoeller & Hoelscher. Seeking greater opportunities to learn and grow, I joined Creamer Dickson Basford (CDB), a national public relations agency headquartered in New York City and owned by Havas.
I worked my way up through the ranks at CDB, providing internal and external communications support to a variety of national and international clients in the business-to-business, consumer, corporate, and technology sectors. The most notable of these included AST Computers, Coors, Franklin Covey, Hershey’s, Monsanto, Panasonic, Pizza Hut, and Prudential.
During this time, I took a brief leave of absence to serve as the Director, Corporate Communications for ’94 Cup Daily, a daily newspaper created specifically for FIFA’s 1994 World Cup. This limited-run publication proved to be the first and only publication of International Sports Publishing, but I gained valuable experience working on the corporate side and in a start-up environment, handling all the advertising, public relations, and grassroots marketing. Plus, I got to watch a lot of soccer.
When I returned to CDB, I was given an opportunity to develop my own team. And not only that, I was allowed to work across multiple practice areas – business-to-business, consumer, corporate, and technology – often being asked to step in and “solve” some of the firm’s most challenging clients.
My success in this role was rewarded when I was selected to start-up the firm’s first West Coast office, relocating to Southern California with a single client and a single employee. As Director, CDB California, I was responsible for client service, staff and office management, and the regional marketing and sales efforts. I quickly grew the office to a staff of eight, won a number of major new clients, and repeatedly exceeded our profit goals.
After successfully developing that new market, I was brought back to the New York headquarters by a new CEO to serve as the agency’s in-house Director of Marketing, tasked with leading the national marketing and sales efforts while revitalizing our declining brand. And as a member of the executive leadership team, I also gained responsibility for fostering internal communications, shaping the corporate culture, identifying and instilling best practices, creating and managing an in-house professional development program, and serving as the liaison to both the domestic and global Havas networks.
Knowing that, in a professional services industry like ours, the best clients seek the best people, I spearheaded a number of initiatives designed to attract and retain the best talent in the business. I combined this with a comprehensive internal communications program designed to reshape the corporate culture along with an aggressive media relations campaign to promote these changes and redefine our reputation in the marketplace.
As a result, I was able to successfully increase the visibility and reshape the reputation of the firm, establishing thought leadership and differentiating it in a crowded marketplace. This turnaround sparked a significant investment from Havas to accelerate the growth of the business. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, along with my intensive brand development and corporate communications efforts, we transformed CDB into Magnet Communications, an integrated communications agency where I continued my role.
And as much as I enjoyed creating and launching that new brand, a change of management drained my enthusiasm. After a decade of service, I decided to take a break from the agency world. Sadly, the firm eventually dissolved not long after my departure, with the remaining elements being dispersed amongst the other firms in the Havas empire.
Eager to remain productive, I began doing freelance work for friends and colleagues, which quickly blossomed into a full-time consultancy. My services included public relations program planning, media relations, and event planning as well as writing and producing marketing collateral, newsletters, press materials, and websites.
When presented with an opportunity to serve as the Marketing Director of a local nonprofit destination, Asphalt Green, I jumped at the chance to give back to my community. I revitalized both the brand and the communications function for this complex fee-for-service nonprofit, helping draw more than 700,000 visitors per year to its 5.5-acre urban campus.
Working with the various program and department heads, I developed a data-driven, holistic marketing plan to increase the visibility and understanding of its mission and programs while helping set multiple records for membership and program sales, with around half the growth coming from new customers. I also developed a digital marketing plan to take advantage of emerging communications channels, which would soon be known as social media.
I take great pride in the work that my team and I did for this 300-employee organization. And the results speak for themselves, including increasing sales by an average of more than 20 percent annually, despite having three different sales directors during my nearly three-year tenure as well as facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. However, a number of factors contributed to the erosion of my enthusiasm for this position, and the opportunity to spend a month in down in South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup was the excuse I needed to finally tenure my resignation.
After a brief foray into journalism, during which I created an online soccer magazine, I successfully rebuilt my freelance business. These days, my work has increasingly gravitated towards content marketing and digital communications, both of which I enjoy thoroughly, though I am still occasionally tasked with more traditional marketing and public relations assignments. I also operate an independent copywriting practice because I really enjoy that aspect of the business as well, though there clearly is considerable overlap.