By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)
There have been profound changes in many industries since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, now in its seventh month. Without question, those who practice public relations have altered the way they serve clients during this period of uncertainty that shows no immediate signs of coming to a conclusion.
To get insight on the current state of public relations, I reached out to Scott Farrell, President, Global Corporate Communications at Golin. As noted below, I’ve known Scott for several years and have found him to be open, personable and approachable.
Below are his thoughts on public relations and two other passions: His dedication to running and support of an outstanding charity, and his beloved alma mater.
1. We met way back in the early 2000s, when you were president of PRSA Chicago and I served on the Board. In one sentence, how has the public relations profession evolved since then?
More than anything, the infusion of data and analytics has had a profound impact on every aspect of the work we do, from informing strategy and creative, to targeting stakeholders and measuring impact.
Scott Farrell, Golin President, Global Corporate Communications.
2. In your role as President, Global Corporate Communications at Golin, what are your key responsibilities?
First, ensure that we have the proper plans and resources in place to accomplish the short- and long-term goals we set for the practice and the agency. Second, to see that our clients are served by the very best people and teams Golin has to offer, regardless of office location or sometimes even a particular practice. I have the benefit of being able to have a view across the agency and using that view to provide a best-teams approach to each client’s needs. And finally – the favorite part of my job – working directly with clients as part of a team that is focused on creating bottom-line results.
3. Had to get to this question: What are three ways account teams at Golin have modified strategies and tactics in serving clients since the COVID-19 outbreak?
The early epicenter of the communications need was employees. Yes, companies and brands had important information to share with customers and other external stakeholders, but we put employees at the center of our work recognizing their role as the lifeblood of the organization. Second, we quickly saw that this was no ordinary crisis. For the first time in generations, the entire world shared a common social and cultural context. That meant that media were almost monolithic in their interests and coverage. We had to find innovative ways to do earned storytelling for our clients that found the sweet spot where what media wanted to cover intersected with what our clients had to say. And finally, the words and actions of every brand were under scrutiny as we saw skeptics and critics ready to weaponize social media and trigger a torrent of criticism that could inflict an immense amount of business and reputational damage in a short amount of time. We worked with clients to ensure that every decision about a brand’s words, actions and partnerships were truly authentic and had the brand’s DNA running through them.
4. For the past several years, you have run the Chicago Marathon and have raised lots of money to support Ronald McDonald House Charities. (Buy the way: Way to go!) How do you balance training, work, life, and family?
I got into running mainly because it’s a fitness activity that fits so well into the other parts of your life. You can do it anytime and anywhere. All you really need is a great pair of running shoes. That really helps with the challenge of balance. Yes, it’s true that training for a marathon – particularly when Saturday runs are 15 – 20 miles long – can be a time suck. At that time of year, I’m fortunate to be blessed with an understanding wife who puts up with a bit of laziness after a long run. But the bottom line is I’ve seen the health benefits that have come from running and I think running makes me a better employee, a better leader and helps make sure I’ll be around longer for my family.
5. Okay, let’s move on in a totally different direction. You’re a proud University of Wisconsin alumni. In August, the Big 10 announced the cancellation of college football and fall sports due to the pandemic. How will you spend your Saturday afternoons?
I was crushed when the Big 10 announced the decision to cancel the season. There are few things I love more than spending a crisp autumn Saturday in Madison watching the Badgers. (Or watching them on TV from the couch as I recover from one of those long weekend training runs!) Some people have suggested that I “adopt” another team to follow this year, but I’m not sure I can do that. I’m sure there will be plenty of projects to do around the house. And there’s always hanging out with my grandkids. That’s a pretty darn good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, football or not.
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Note: I have been proud and honored to contribute to the Chicago Ronald McDonald House charity through the fundraising initiative launched by Scott during his Chicago Marathon runs.