The Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) recently celebrated its 30th anniversary at its Spring Meeting held in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bulldog Reporter had an opportunity to speak with Anne Buchanan, Scott Hanson, and Ed Stevens, the three founding members of PRGN, as well as David Fuscus, current president, who answered the following questions:
The founding of PRGN:
1. What made you decide to start PRGN?
In 1992 when Edelman Public Relations decided to disband its affiliate network, a small group of the affiliates, each an independent public relations agency owner, thought, “hey, we had a good thing going here.” So those who were interested met in Phoenix to discuss how to maintain the relationships we had developed through the Edelman Network and how to better network and partner with industry peers. We all had been intensely recruited and vetted by Edelman to be affiliates of that firm in our individual markets. As part of that program, Edelman would fly us once a year to a meeting of all the affiliates and Edelman leaders.
And when the idea of meeting in Phoenix to see about holding our group together was first floated, that was a novel concept—to invest in attending a meeting with other agencies we did not know all that well. We wanted to group to really get to know each other better and work in partnership, which was not part of the top-down approach under Edelman. Thus, rising from the ashes of the shuttered network, the group decided on the name, “The Phoenix Network.” We always like to say it was because our first meeting was in Phoenix, but that’s not really the case.
2. How many firms were original members of PRGN 30 years ago?
We were founded with 13 members including: Anne Buchanan, LevLane, Philadelphia, Scott Hanson, HMA Public Relations, Phoenix, Ed Stevens, Cleveland, Pat Fearey, The Fearey Group, Seattle, John Van Mol, Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence, Nashville, Robert Deen and Christi Black, Deen & Black, Sacramento
Melissa Sturges, Sturges +Word, Kansas City, Dale Zabriskie, Zabriskie & Associates, Salt Lake City
Charles Pizzo, PRPR, New Orleans, Mary Ann Miller, DDF&M, Pittsburgh, Sally Jackson, Jackson & Co., Boston, Ed Neuger, Ed Neuger & Associates, Minneapolis, and Janet Maizner, Maizner PR, Miami
3. What were some of the challenges in the early days?
It was pre-internet, pre-email, so the communication channels were quite a bit slower and less immediate than they are today. There was not a lot of structure to the network as we got it off the ground, eventually getting to the point where we determined that we needed rules and by-laws to help formalize the network and how it operated. Keep in mind that we were all getting to know one another better, too. While we had all been part of the Edelman affiliates network, we didn’t interact as frequently or closely with one another as we do now.
4. What were your expectations for PRGN?
To have resources in markets across the U.S, providing us with immediate capabilities and expertise in those markets, as well as having a forum where agency owners could openly share knowledge, contacts, and resources with fellow members—things you typically cannot get from your peers/competitors in your own market. At the time, the idea of international expansion never crossed our mind. The early emphasis was strongly on sharing best practices with one another. The notion of shared business was not initially a large driver.
5. What are you most proud of over the last three decades?
We are most proud of how the network has grown, particularly on an international scale. What started as a loosely organized group of former Edelman Network members in the U.S. has become a strong, respected network with 53 members around the world. We are also proud of the personal relationships established with these community and business leaders in so many places across the globe. We are all able to call them friends and partners. All of us take special pride in founding PRGN as it is truly one of the most remarkable and important events of our professional lives.
Today, day, with the state of global affairs, we feel so blessed to have friends all over the world whose opinions and experiences have broadened our understanding of the world. It warms our heart that we have visited so many of our partners’ markets around the world and that we share business and discuss topics importance to our industry and each as a respective owner/leader of their firm.
PRGN strives to recruit outstanding firms—but we also screen exceptionally well for individuals who are likely to become lifelong friends. There is something extraordinary about being connected to excellent practitioners who are also able to share joys and heartaches—not just around running a business but also around life, too. That is pretty special about PRGN.
On the future of PRGN from David Fuscus, current president of PRGN
The founding members so clearly described the values the network was built on. It is impressive how these values have been preserved and cultivated for such a long time. Thirty years sounds like a whole life and I’m fascinated thinking how it all started and how PRGN has grown, facing different times, continuously evolving, becoming stronger and reaching further. There are thousands of wonderful moments that marked this journey and mean so much to each of us – common dreams, shared experiences, wonderful places to visit all over the world, new friends, old friends and so much more.
PRGN has clearly evolved and changed with the times and just this year we introduced a rebranding and a restructuring process meant to better express how we’ve evolved and who we are today. We have a new brand identity, a new website and new internal initiatives aiming at bringing more value to our members. To commemorate our anniversary, we developed an initiative called the “30 Pearls of Wisdom” – a campaign you can follow on our social media channels and where we are collecting and publishing communication tips and advice from our members across the world. We are also working on a thought leadership project to be launched later this year and on our Fall PRGN Meeting event, which is planned to be held in Singapore in October.
We aim to be one of the top four independent communications networks worldwide and to preserve the core values, the quality of membership and the close relationship between members. PRGN members believe in connecting and sharing and that it benefits agencies, teams, and clients. We also target to strengthen our capabilities and be able to offer more complex regional and global services for our clients. And we hope to look back after the next 30 years and to say we wouldn’t change a thing—as we are right now.