Now I’m a ‘Burson Person’
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.