March 13, 2010

Here’s to working with friends

Yesterday Burson-Marsteller announced that my former colleague and good friend of many years Margaret Key* will become our new Market Leader in Korea. PR Week in London ran a story with the headline: “Burson-Marsteller lures Edelman Japan MD Margaret Key to take charge of Korea

Especially knowing the British journalistic sensibility and personal style of the fellow who wrote that story, I found the choice of words apropos to the situation. Just for fun, I then looked up the word ‘lure’ in the dictionary, and noted that it is defined as “the power of attracting or enticing.”

In the small town of the global PR industry, when you’ve been living there for a decade (as Margaret has) or for two decades (as I have), you get to know all the local notables of the trade. You find out who has a reputation:

  • for quality work or for mediocrity
  • for being trustworthy or for being duplicitous
  • for fair play or for doing whatever it takes to win
  • for keeping confidences well or for being indiscreet
  • for actually being a thought leader or for just claiming to be one
  • for heralding the accomplishments of others or taking credit themselves
  • for inspiring the loyalty of direct reports or for suffering constant turnover
  • for embracing diversity or for wanting to work with people just like themselves
  • for knowing how to actually do things or for just how to be a cheerleader for others
  • for supporting employees to improve their lives or for exploiting them for personal gain
  • for reliably delivering on commitments or for making promises that never seem to be kept

Most people fall between these polarities, but the point is that every industry has its stars and its scoundrels, its utility players and everyday people. Lately there has been a lot of research about how birds of a feather flock together on social networks. Check out this study on homophily (i.e. the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others).

In my case, getting back to the point of this post, I don’t think I ‘lured’ my new colleague so much as I feel we were both attracted by the idea of working together again because we are friends who share in common a trust in each other, a respect for each other, and confidence in always being there for the other while constantly having fun as colleagues.

I’m 45 years old now. The other day we did a demographic study of B-M’s predominantly young and majority female staff of approximately 600 people in Asia, and I was stunned to discover that we have only 14 people who are my age or above. PR is indeed a younger person’s game.

So, for me as I get older, the journey is becoming much more important than the destination. Some people are willing to put up with a lot of work unhappiness hoping to get some big payday in the future, but I’m with Eckhart Tolle when it comes to ‘the power of now,’ focusing on the possibilities of the present moment. Thus when I saw a chance to work again every day with someone who is such a fine friend, I was immediately convinced that this would be a good idea.


Because one thing I know over a long PR life is that as careers evolve, the friends you work with during special and formative phases of your career scatter to the winds, so if those winds should ‘lure’ those friends together again, then life is pretty good.

* Margaret is one of Asia’s foremost public relations professionals and one of the region’s great healthcare communicators. Korea is a key strategic growth market for us in Asia and she has a proven track record of business success in Seoul. I worked with her for years at Edelman and experienced first-hand how Margaret inspires colleagues, clients and communities by setting the standard for PR excellence. She is emblematic of the entrepreneurial, digital, and ambitious new generation of diverse talent we are now rallying in Asia.

  1. Totally agree what you posted not only margaret but also the professionalism

  2. Bob! We heard this news in DC and I was sad to hear M would be leaving Japan but happy for her to return to Korea and work with you again! You two will do great things in Asia. Hope you’re having fun.

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