By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
The subject of today’s post, public relations leader and author Patti Temple Rocks, certainly is well-traveled — in a lot of ways.
As you’ll learn shortly, Patti has held top management positions on the agency and corporate side of public relations. She’s written a well-received book about an increasingly widespread practice in modern business and society.
And, Patti is passionate about visits to exotic locales — but finds true solace much closer to home in Chicago.
Want to learn more? Please read this dialogue.
1. You’ve held senior communications positions at iconic companies — Golin, Leo Burnett and Dow Chemical. What was the one principle that guided how you managed communications programs?
I learned a great deal from the late, great Al Golin; but one of my most important lessons of all from Al was the importance of trust — in every single thing we do. I wanted my clients, my bosses and my teams to always, ALWAYS, know that they could count on me to do what I believed was the right and best thing. And to know that I would never, EVER intentionally hurt someone for my own gain. Trust — that’s what it’s all about.
2. Why did you pursue a career in public relations? Did you envision working in communications during college? Was there a mentor who inspired you to pursue public relations?
I started my college years thinking I wanted to go into retail merchandising, but a semester working the sales floor at Marshall Fields convinced me otherwise. I learned that about myself early enough that I was able to change my major. I actually majored in public relations in college — even though it wasn’t an official major where I went to school (Albion College). Albion offered a program called Individually Designed Major, and if you could convince two professors and the Academic Dean that the course of study you put together actually made sense, it was likely to be approved. In my case, I had a concentration of communications classes, business, English and took two advertising classes at Michigan State University — which was about an hour away. I guess you could say by the time I graduated from college I was quite sure what I wanted to do!
3. Okay, let’s move on. In January of this year you published, “I’m Not Done,” a well-received book on ageism in the workplace. What compelled you to write the book?
I felt strongly that ageism in the workplace was a topic that needed to be raised and talked about. It is often said that ageism is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination and I have definitely seen — and even felt — plenty of it in my almost four decades in the business. But as sure as I am that ageism in the business world is a problem, I am just as sure that much of the ageist things people say and do come from a place of unconscious bias, rather than an intention to inflect harm. In many ways I am an eternal optimist, so I hoped that by writing my book I could both start and stoke a healthy discussion about ageism — something that has for too long been ignored.
4. In March, it was announced that you’ve been appointed head of client impact at ICF Next, a global marketing agency based in Chicago. Please describe your roll with the agency. How has your four-decade career prepared you for this position?
My role as Head of Client Impact (basically a Chief Client Officer) at ICF Next means that it is my job to make sure that all of our clients are getting our very best. Our very best people, our best ideas, our best quality and our best service. In order to be effective at doing that, I need to first make sure that our people have the resources and coaching that they need to be successful. I also need to know what good work looks like so I can build the relationships with all of our specialist talent to ensure that we deliver amazing work to our clients every single time. And finally, I think it is vital to being successful in this role that I know the world that the client lives in — and I do, because I’ve been one. I think my four decades has completely prepared me for this role because I have both been a big client, and served big clients; and having worked on both the PR and advertising side of the business, I think I am well positioned to understand the new world of agencies — which is neither traditional PR nor traditional advertising. I like to tell young people that they are entering this business at the perfect time — they will be able to help us figure out what we call this new genre of agencies!
5. We’ll finish on the lighter side. The image of you on your LinkedIn profile shows you in an exotic locale. (Santorini?) What’s your favorite travel destination and why?
That is like asking a parent to pick his or her favorite child! I simply cannot do it. The picture was indeed of me in Santorini, and I joke that the beauty of that island makes everyone look like a movie star. Santorini is both classically beautiful and thriving. This summer, I was in Vietnam and Cambodia with my son, and I cannot get the people of Cambodia out of my head or my heart. Cambodia is the polar opposite of Santorini from an economic health standpoint, but I loved them both for different reasons. But if you really must ask me to chose one — it has to be Glen Arbor, Michigan, which is, and has been, the gathering place for my family for almost 50 years. It is where my stress melts away and my happy memories accumulate.