Robert Mathias, CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations in North America, and President of Ogilvy Public Relations, was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame, along with two others on Wednesday, September 16.
Below are some excerpts from his acceptance speech.
First, the caution. As public relations professionals, we have all fought long and hard to earn a seat at the proverbial table. And I think we do have that seat now. As was not necessarily the case when Harold Burson founded Burson Marstellar in 1953, we are thought of today as an established business discipline that has a legitimate role in helping to propel an enterprise forward. But this is not guaranteed. We have to work harder than our friends, the lawyers or the bankers or the dreaded management consultants. We have to demonstrate value and ROI. Everyday and in everything that we do. And, above all else, we need to remember why we are here.
Our job, first and foremost, is to be the tellers of the truth. We do our profession and ourselves a tremendous disservice when we play fast and lose with the facts or try to create something that is, in fact, not there.
We need to avoid the sin of spin and work to excise it from our vocabulary, as it connotes an attempt to obfuscate or deceive, a slight of hand designed to hide the truth. We are not spin-doctors and must not aspire to be so. Good or bad, our job must be to take the facts as they are and help our clients – be they internal or external – craft the most compelling argument possible; an argument that will convince and persuade, motivate and inspire. This is what we do. It is the value we add. And it is how we will maintain our seat at that table.
Now, the hope.
The practice of public relations has never been more exciting or more needed than it is today. The way in which consumers, investors, policymakers and other stakeholders receive and process information has never been more varied. And our options for reaching and engaging them have never been greater. From long-form writing to traditional media relations, to the creation of compelling, shareable content that is instantly distributed across multiple social platforms, we now have virtually limitless possibilities in our took kit.
Adding uncertainty to the mix, the choices and decisions that now sit in front our clients are significant, complex and are changing every day. And while it used to be as simple as placing a story in the Washington Post or on any one of three network news programs, today’s engagement strategies need to be smarter, faster, and more robust than they ever have been before.
And somebody needs to make sense of it all.
This is where we come in. Our role is that of interpreter and translator; architect and builder. We are the ones who can see the big picture; who have the greatest potential to understand it all. And we are the ones who have the most legitimate role in advising our clients as to the best path to take; the course of action that makes the most sense.
As a result, this truly is our moment to shine; our moment to demonstrate that magical combination of creativity and effectiveness and, perhaps most importantly, our opportunity to deliver the greatest impact that we have ever had in the history of our profession. This is our time.
If I were to start my career all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to go into public relations. In fact, I would be more excited than ever.
Thank you all very much.