January 24, 2010

Now I’m a ‘Burson Person’

Now that it’s official I will be joining Burson-Marsteller as the firm’s new President and CEO in the Asia-Pacific region, I would like to offer a few reflections about how I got here.

When I elected to leave Edelman (where I served as its North Asia President) after six years of service, Harold Burson was kind enough to send me a personal e-mail message wishing me well. I was intrigued that he should take such an interest in my career trajectory, and I made a mental note to follow-up with him in due course. That I did a few months later, and so on the brisk morning of October 22nd in New York City, I met the legendary founder of my new firm for the first time.

During our pow-wow at his Park Avenue office, I was blown away by the depth and breadth of his feel for the public relations industry. I was especially impressed by his sense of people in PR and his understanding of what makes them tick. It became clear to me that one key ingredient of his success over the years is his acute awareness of the other person’s point of view and a sensitivity to their needs and concerns. This I found very refreshing, because in the small town that is the global public relations industry, there are a lot of fast talkers but not nearly as many good listeners.

The antique radio in Mr. Burson’s office caught my eye, because I collect them as a hobby. In the old technology of radio, like the new technology of social media, there is a term called ‘signal to noise.’ Let me just say that I left our hour-long meeting thinking that this man has probably more ‘signal’ and less ‘noise’ about him than just about anyone else I’ve ever met in the industry.

In many ways, I felt as though I had met Mr. Burson repeatedly during my career through his consistently premium-grade representatives, aka ‘The Burson Person.’ My first PR mentor and a co-founding partner of my old firm in Canada cut his teeth at Burson-Marsteller. When I first moved to Seoul, Burson was the class act in that country and I very deliberately applied lessons learned from its winning ways when I was in charge of Edelman Korea. Later, as I traveled across Asia, I discovered that a large proportion of the region’s top talent earned its spurs at B-M and when I met Simon Pangrazio and asked for his advice about building a business in North Asia (an experience that my predecessor and I share in common), he — like all the other B-M pros I’ve met since then — could not have been more impressive.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve a few weeks ago, when I first spoke to B-M’s Global CEO, Mark Penn. I had almost signed on with another firm by year’s end, but I found his intelligence and vision most compelling and I decided to pursue the B-M option with enthusiasm. Especially because I’ve been giving these lectures on campus of late about how public relations is becoming more of a science than just an art, I was immediately drawn to B-M’s new, data-focused approach to PR called “Evidence-Based Communications.”

I’ve really enjoyed my 18 month sabbatical, but now I am looking forward to working with a tremendously talented team of the highest caliber and professional character. This is a business that’s going places (for many of the reasons I wrote about in this blog post about choosing the right PR firm).

With a rich inheritance of wisdom and experience gained during nearly four decades of experience in Asia-Pacific, Burson-Marsteller is addressing the future with confidence as we focus on setting a new PR standard of excellence in communications achievement.

  1. Congrats, my friend. Very proud of you, and exciting about your new career path! Happy to have you back in Asia Pacific!

  2. Congrats Bob! I guess you’ll be visiting Seoul more often now. Look forward to getting together and catching up in the near future.

    Great job with the blog by the way.

  3. Congratulations Bob. I’m sure you’ll excel in the new role and look forward to having as a (relatively!) close neighbour.

  4. I just happened upon your site. Congrats on the new move. I’m also from Queen’s. A BIG congrats again!

    Cha Gheill!

  5. Congratulations! Wish you all the best.

  6. Congrats Bob!!! I bet Asia missed you. Where will you be based in now? Hong Kong? Anyway, once again congrats and welcome back!

  7. Congratulations, Bob. Burson-Marsteller made a very wise choice in choosing you to lead their Asia-Pacific operations, as you did by accepting this most pretigious posting. Under your leadership, I predict that B-M (Asia-Pacific) will become a PR powerhouse that will set the standard of excellence in all areas of Communication. All the best.

  8. Catharine Heddle on January 25, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Congratulations, Bob! that’s terrific news and I’m very happy for you.

  9. Congatulations Bob!Fantastic opportunity for you, and you have worked hard to get this position.
    Paul Lawrence Photography

  10. Congrats, Mr. Pickard! You are a great mentor. I hope to be a “Burson Person” too one day!

  11. Congratulations Bob! B-M is lucky to have you and you will do great things with their offices in AP. And I am sure you and your family will really enjoy Singapore! Best of luck from February 1.

  12. Sincere congratulations Bob. I’m sure this will be another exciting chapter in your professional life. It was great to touch base while you were back in TO and I trust we will stay in touch.
    Denny Allen

  13. Congrats Bob. I’m sure you will bring lots to your new role. All the best!

  14. It’s so refreshing to see the right person ancheive the right rewards! I was a lucky audience member in your presentation at Humber College PR program last week. You managed to connect a few dots for me in regards to what I want to do with PR and how I can really make a difference in this field.
    I have good international experience and I believe that the future of PR will require more professionals in the field to be comfortable crossing cultural lines.
    I look forward to taking some pages out of your book and following your new appointment; you’ve got such great advice for up and coming PR professionals, we’re lucky to share in your advice!
    Congratulations, Mr. Pickard!

    Katy James

  15. Congratulations on the appointment, Bob. Hope to catch up with you in Australia some time.

  16. Sharon Kim-Philadelphia on January 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Congrats Bob! We will miss you! Hope to see you in Singapore!

  17. Congrats Bob!

    Well-earned, well-deserved and well-suited.

    So thrilled that you’re joining a data-driven, management-by-objective, ‘evidence-based shop.

    You KNOW I’m a booster of that approach.

    Good luck


  18. Congratulations, Bob. NATIONAL Public Relations has a long and successful history working around the world with our affiliate Burson-Marsteller and we look forward to future opportunities to collaborate with you and the B-M team in Asia.

  19. Congrats Bob! Going to miss having you in the neighbourhood and our great conversations. Looking forward to reviving the chess game and to hearing of you and your team’s successes. More importantly looking forward to connecting in the Far East! Safe journey to you and the family.

  20. Congratulations, Bob! You will definately continue to amaze all of us with your leadership.
    Wishing you all the best!

  21. Congratulations Bob on yor new appointment. It was great to hear you are back to Asia. I am really happy for you. ^0^

  22. Excellent news, Bob!

  23. Congratulations, Bob. I look forward to working with you.

  24. Congratulations Bob! I was really glad to hear your recent news yesterday. Wish you the best!

  25. I would like to thank you all for your kind congratulations and for taking the time to comment on my blog. All the best and keep in touch.

  26. Enjoy Singapore!

  27. Welcome aboard, Bob. As a long-time Burson Person, I’m looking forward to great things in Asia-Pacific.

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