CooperKatz won two Bronze Awards, in the “Best Campaign Under $50,000” and “Best Annual Report on Corporate Social Responsibility and/or Sustainability” categories in the 2014 Bulldog Media Relations Awards. The 2018 Bulldog PR Awards are now open for submission.
Length of PR career (so far): Over 25 years at this point, starting with a summer internship in 1992 at Burson-Marsteller in New York, back when it was the largest agency in the world. I later joined CooperKatz in September 1996, a few months after it started, and I’ve been helping to build the agency for more than 21 years now.
Best thing about working at your agency: Without a doubt, our people and our culture – which, of course, go hand-in-hand. And by “our people,” I also mean the wonderful clients who become such close and trusted partners.
Most interesting thing about your job: I adore the vast array of subject matter that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. The sheer amount of knowledge I’ve absorbed over my years in PR is staggering, and I’ve always valued this part of the work. What a privilege it is to have executives at client companies, across so many industries, take time and effort to brief you, so you can help them connect with the audiences that matter most. I have never, ever been bored working in PR. And I enjoy serving as a senior counselor. This is why I continued on this track, leaving behind my original intention of becoming a university-level American literature professor.
Most poignant professional moment: Saying goodbye to our CooperKatz co-founder, Andy Cooper, in 2013 at the end of his battle with cancer. I’d first met Andy in 1993 at Burson-Marsteller when he headed the GE Appliances account. He was so senior at the firm, and I was just starting out as a fulltime professional. But despite my youth, he always listened to my ideas, treated me as a valued colleague and encouraged me to do (and be) better. He set the bar high. And I’m grateful to have worked side-by-side with him for two decades.
Most misunderstood thing about PR: People don’t always grasp the incredible breadth and depth of the PR discipline. We are (and, frankly, have always been) so much more than media relations, even while earned media remains central to our work and impact. However, you can conceive of connecting with audiences and key stakeholders, online or offline, PR is there. I feel such excitement and confidence about the role and relevance of our work. But we as PR professionals must also grasp and embrace this breadth – and must constantly push ourselves to keep evolving with every new channel, technology and broader societal shift.
Your most memorable campaign: Launching Virgin Mobile USA with a huge consumer event that shut down Times Square. To underscore the brand theme “Nothing to Hide,” we started by dropping Sir Richard Branson off the top of the Virgin Megastore while the cast of “The Full Monty” performed their signature strip-tease below, and ended with a live and satellite-broadcast press conference featuring Branson, Dan Schulman of Virgin Mobile and Tom Freston of MTV announcing a major content partnership. It would be hard to beat that one for sheer scale, reach, content and overall dazzle. And it was highly impactful too!
Biggest complaint about social media: My biggest complaint about social media…is when everyone complains about social media. I always say that no one has an existential crisis over an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a business tool, plain and simple. By contrast, social media deeply blurs the lines between our “public” and “private” selves. Particularly for those in public-facing roles, these channels force a near-constant collision between our business and personal lives. This fuels a lot of intense emotions in people about social media’s essential “value,” its purpose, whether it’s “good” or “bad,” etc. Ultimately, like so many things, social media is simply a reflection of us as humans. It can be amazing and utopian, utterly dark and destructive, and everything in between. How we effectively use these channels to connect with different audiences, provide information, forge better levels of understanding, create shared experiences – those are the issues that most interest me as a communications professional.
Last time you didn’t do any work all weekend: As CEO, it’s pretty rare that I don’t spend some time each weekend catching up or working on projects that require quiet attention. But during the most recent Christmas weekend, I left my laptop in the office and barely glanced at work email. It’s important to create those moments of real downtime. However, I also don’t over-fetishize “unplugging.” We live in a connected world now, one where work and personal life are highly-comingled (especially at the executive level). So I don’t spent a lot of time angsting over “social media blackouts” or “no emails after 7:00 p.m.” or similar self-imposed rules. I simply try to find the right balance day-to-day, while also remembering that this is what I signed up for (so to speak) as a leader in this field.
What got you interested in a PR career? To be honest, I had no idea that PR existed as a field until I spotted a listing for the “Harold Burson Summer Internship Program” at the Vassar College career center. It was a competitive internship with 10 spots awarded per Summer at Burson-Marsteller New York. In my applications materials, I somehow came across as lucid enough about the field to gain an in-person interview – and from there, I landed the job. This was the start of my immersion in the world of public relations, marketing communications, advertising and so much more. Burson was an incredible training ground for me, and opened the door to meeting and befriending many wonderful leaders and mentors in our industry.
Number of meetings you were in last week: During a very heavy week, maybe 20 to 25 (or more). If I’m lucky, I can get it down to 10. Like so many today, I try to look with care at my schedule and determine if each meeting is absolutely necessary vis-à-vis the other issues that require my time and attention. It’s critical to create the space and time to simply think, as well as to read things that might not seem immediately actionable or relevant. If you open yourself to paying attention and engaging broadly, the connections will come.
Your nightmare client in 3 words: Absent. Judgmental. Ego-driven.
Favorite way to de-stress: Yoga and the gym. Or a long walk in the woods (which is one reason I love living right next to Forest Park in Richmond Hill, Queens).
Best advice to a PR student: Cultivate true, authentic curiosity in everything. This field is vast in scope and diverse in subject matter. Love that and embrace it. The client you thought you’d never be interested in, may ultimately be the one that teaches you the most – and could become your favorite! Also, cultivate optimism and enthusiasm. Demonstrate to everyone around you that you are truly “in it” as well as “into it.” Let that enthusiasm permeate the counsel you offer your clients, the support you give your colleagues and the engagement you bring to all you do. People want to work with those who exude energy, optimism and openness.
What do you read daily?: I scan the New York Times online and scroll through Twitter a few times a day—linking out to various articles and updates. And the Muck Rack afternoon e-newsletter is an amazing source for news I might otherwise miss. In scrolling through it, I always end up with about eight browser tabs open with different articles to read.
The moment you realized PR is more important than you thought it would be: One big positive realization came early, which was the feeling of impact and engagement that comes with getting a proverbial “seat at the table.” It was amazing to feel “heard” and to have your insights and counsel appreciated in a business context. That’s what I wish for all of our young professionals—to build their voice and presence as a trusted counselor.
Favorite non-work hobby: I’ve always been a singer, though never professionally. My husband, on the other hand, is an actual working musician (a drummer) with a studio set-up in our basement. So it’s wonderful to have the chance from time to time to record music together.
Last book you read: As everyone who knows me is aware, I’m a lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes. I recently went back to read the one long-form Conan Doyle story I’d somehow missed, called “The Valley of Fear.”
Cocktail of choice: I’ve grown really fond of single malt scotch whiskey, with favorite brands including Tomatin and Auchentoshan.
Your first “real” job: My first job was in an office. I did clerical and temp-type jobs for my mother, Suzanne, who served as office manager for two restaurant entrepreneurs in northern New Jersey. If you happen to know Basking Ridge, New Jersey, we worked on the two floors directly above The Store restaurant. And I later served as a hostess in the restaurant too.
Childhood “dream job”: As a young child, my first “dream jobs” were bowling star and truck driver (both highly influenced by 1970s television), followed closely by parapsychologist (aka, ghost hunter).