By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the modern business world today, and that includes the integrated marketing communications arena. Our subject for today’s Q&A post is a prime example. Debbie Harvey, MS, APR, recently decided to transition from a senior position with the American Medical Association to form a boutique Chicago-headquartered business, DHW Executive Consulting, LLC. In this engaging conversation, Debbie shares thoughts on what prompted her decision to launch a new company, the state of communications in 2018 and a subject dear to her heart — domestic and international travel. For the record: I have known and worked with Debbie for nearly a decade through our volunteer participation in PRSA Chicago.
1. The first and most pressing question: What were the factor(s) that compelled you to leave the association management world to start your own business?
After nearly 20 years leading brand strategy and corporate communications both in-house and on the agency side in healthcare, I founded DHW Executive Consulting LLC based on the concept that businesses and brands need smart, experienced integrated marketing and communications executive support often without the hassle and expense of big agency commitments. At DHW Executive Consulting LLC, you’ll get breakthrough integrated marketing communications solutions through executive level insights. I have the savvy know how and creative chops to help build brands winning strategies – and then make them happen!
My focus is on brand/rebranding strategy and campaigns, marketing and communications planning, executive/leadership communications, event marketing, internal communications, product launches, and corporate communications.
I’m building a company that is dynamic, thoughtful, experienced…and fun! That’s what an ideal partner brings to the table, and that’s what you’ll get if you partner with me. So, let’s pull up some chairs to this proverbial table and chat!
2. You have an impressive curriculum vitae, including leadership positions with a global public relations firm and marketing leadership at the largest national physician association. How will you transfer skills and experience cultivated in these larger environments to the new consultancy?
Currently I’m helping select organizations with leveling up their brand strategy and storytelling, and others with their integrated marketing and communications planning, both in the healthcare space and beyond. Launching a consultancy is something that has been intriguing, exciting and scary all at the same time. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Do something that scares you every day.”
My background is in integrated marketing communications, which, for the early to mid-2000s, this kind of approach felt like screaming into a hurricane. There were so many silos among communications and marketing ownership, really to a client’s detriment. Times are finally evolving, and it’s critical for successful C-suite executives to bring a holistic perspective to the marcom landscape. I believe successful integrated marketing communications professionals can help pull back the lens on brand planning and ensure channels work more seamlessly together for greater impact and success.
3. Now, let’s explore the state of public relations and communications. What are the greatest challenges facing the profession today, given the continual claims of “fake news,” unceasing amount of uncontrolled and unregulated digital messages, and gradual decline of traditional news sources?
You’ve hit the nail on the head with some of the biggest challenges in the communications world today. With an attack on the entire public relations profession given today’s political environment, to an attack on data security and how people engage with social media given the Cambridge Analytica crisis, PR/comms professionals face an uphill battle in effecting positive change – for themselves and the brands they represent. That said, it is still an exciting time for those professionals who commit to this profession – and commit to doing it well. A recent Sprout Social study revealed that two-thirds of consumers now expect brands to have a stance on political and social issues, making it all the more critical for communications professionals to guide and develop a brand and/or corporation’s story and how it shows up, where it shows up and what it means to its stakeholders.
4. We met through our involvement with the Chicago Chapter of PRSA, where you served as President in 2012. How did your participation in PRSA (and other volunteer activities) contribute to your growth and development as a modern communications professional?
I have been a member of PRSA and its Chicago Chapter for more than a decade, and was first attracted to joining the Chicago Chapter board due to its board members’ passion and dedication to advancing the profession and helping local practitioners. I began as the sponsorship chair, and after increasing sponsorship revenue for the chapter 25 percent in a year, became the president elect and subsequently, the president. During my tenure, I had the privilege of leading both seasoned and mid-career professionals and together we developed and launched the first-ever PRSA Midwest Conference, which included 13 regions.
The PRSA experience gave me a platform to hone my leadership skills, business acumen, and energy and drive to “get things done efficiently.” There’s a great Forbes article on entrepreneurship and increasing productivity.
This experience catapulted the progression of both my career and confidence to launch a business, and I am thrilled that many of my former PRSA colleagues and friends have reached out. It is a true community.
5. Okay, time to lighten things up. You and your husband are avid travelers. (Note: I appreciate your sage insight on Charleston, SC.) What destinations are on the proverbial horizon for 2018 and beyond?
I get the travel bug fairly often, whether it be jaunts to our favorite U.S. city (Charleston) or back to my hometown in NYC, but we also look to have an international adventure once a year. Traveling to new places is a great reminder that life is more than your job and your city (or country) – it’s important to continuously learn about other cultures, history and customs to be a well-rounded person.
I’m heading to the Amalfi Coast and Montenegro to celebrate a milestone birthday in a few weeks, and excited about experiencing each country’s personality…and food, of course! Beyond this year, I’ve been reading more and more about Latvia and its fascinating culture. Latvia is known as “the singing nation,” singing being the country’s most unifying force. As a lover of music (and food), it’s climbing higher and higher on my “must do” near term list.
But for now, arrivederci!