April 4th, 2013Comments (0)

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Take Flight with PR by Renee Wilson

College graduation is right around the corner. It wasn’t long ago that I was a college student about to graduate from Rutgers University. I was searching for a career that would be exciting, full of opportunity and important.  As a communications and Spanish major, I looked beyond my majors to find the right path.  That turned out to be a fantastic career in PR.

I actually had three internships before I found my groove, landing my first role in a global PR firm. A lot of hard work and consistent curiosity over 20 years has led me to my current role — President of MSLGROUP North America. I’m proud of my accomplishments, but also very proud of our PR industry and the opportunities it has afforded me. Over the last few decades, there has been tremendous and exciting change in public relations. In fact, the practitioners of old may not even recognize the modern industry.

Today, public relations and communications are accepted as an important strategic function. It has grown far beyond its roots in media relations, press agentry and stakeholder relationship management. Today PR is critical to driving a company’s, organization’s or brand’s position and reputation in the marketplace. Today, PR professionals are content strategists. We are managers of enormous online communities.  We are equipped to manage communications across channels. When it comes to integrated marketing, PR is no longer “being integrated.” More often than not, we are the integrators.

With such transformation at play, the PR industry needs the best and brightest of today’s graduates to become the talent who will continue to push our industry to new heights. For a career in PR, it’s not necessary to be a public relations major in college. Instead, our industry needs diversity of talent and people — intellectuals, financial whizzes, creative masters, digital experts and the socially-minded. We need women, men and minorities of all sorts.

To underscore the unique circumstances that those entering the profession today have before them, the Council of PR Firms, one of our industry’s key trade associations, just announced a video contest for U.S. college students called “Take Flight with PR.” The contest is aimed at showcasing the multitude of careers possible at public relations firms, including career paths in brand marketing, public advocacy, video production, design, and more.

What an opportunity to consider an exciting career in professional services that students might not have otherwise considered.  What an opportunity for students to look forward and dream. What an opportunity to persuasively and creatively explain what a career in PR could mean to them on a video that will be seen by the top leaders of the profession.

Crowd-sourced voting will select the top nine vote getters. These along with one “critic’s choice” will advance to the semi-final round. I’m happy to report that in July I will be part of a blue ribbon panel of PR firm leaders who will view and judge these top ten videos, and select the ultimate winner.

The prizes will include a $2,500 cash prize, an expense paid trip to New York City for the winning video’s premiere at the Council’s October 23rd member dinner; one-on-one meetings with three Council member firms while in New York, and online visibility on prfirms.org.

My own career continues to offer me much satisfaction and many thrills. Today’s college students joining our profession have so much to look forward to. And they, too, can count on success, especially, as our MSLGROUP CEO Olivier Fleurot has said, if they are “brave, imaginative and decent.”

March 13th, 2013Comments (0)

Corporate Luck and a Culture of Collision by Renee Wilson

It’s fascinating to me to learn about the corporate cultures of these wildly innovative technology and digital companies.  As a leader of a business myself, I think about culture a lot and am always interested in hearing new ideas on this subject.

I’m also a big fan of Tony Hseih, the founder and CEO of Zappos (loved his recent book!), so when the opportunity presented itself to hear Tony be interviewed about how his company and workforce is evolving, I jumped at the chance.  Tony has built Zappos on the foundation of ‘culture’ being a number one priority.  This is so important to the soul of Zappos that there are two sets of employment interviews:

1 – To assess skills by your potential manager

2 –To assess cultural fit by the HR team

He feels that culture is to a company like community is to a city.

Which leads to the next point he made — the responsibility a company has to give back to its community.  Tony shared the fact that he’s scouting out new office space in Las Vegas and is going to be moving his workforce soon.  To get some inspiration on design, he visited a few other corporate campuses he admires like NIKE.  Additionally he feels very strongly about helping to develop the Las Vegas community and wants Zappos to be a key contributor and driver.

As part of this impending move, Tony is spending time with his management team to assess their corporate evolution.  He believes a lot in serendipity and thinks that you can help orchestrate your luck.  He asked his team to think about ‘how could they get luckier?’  After discussion and research, Tony is looking to orchestrate more luck for Zappos by sparking employee talent ‘collisions’ among the Zappos workforce and physically within the new office space.  Collisions will drive collaboration.  Right now the average office density is 120 square feet per employee.  Zappos will be targeting 100 square feet per employee in the new space in order to enable more collisions.

Zappos prioritizes collisions more than convenience.  So if having only one door to enter causes staff to bump in to each while other crossing through, that’s okay.

Zappos’ move to downtown Vegas in six months will allow its employees to collide more with the creative class, physically and figuratively.   The company prides itself on causing interaction so that it leads to greater ideation.

I applaud Tony.  Perhaps he will start measuring his ROC (return on collision) per square foot.

Renee Wilson is President of MSLGROUP North America and a member of the global board of MSLGROUP.

February 15th, 2013Comments (0)

Why Leadership Comes Naturally to Women by Renee Wilson

Serious Lady Power: Bernadette Casey, Senior Editor of PRWeek, Arianna Huffington, Chair, President and Editor-in-chief of the The Huffington Post, and Renee Wilson, President of MSLGROUP North America.

Yesterday, on behalf of MSLGROUP, I was delighted to sponsor a PRWeek Discussion and Roundtable at our MSLGROUP offices in New York. The conversations centered on the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos, Switzerland, a few weeks ago – and what our panelists took away from that prestigious gathering of more than 2,500 leaders from around the world.

The purpose of the WEF is to discuss key issues shaping global, regional and industry agendas. This year’s theme, “Resilient Dynamism,” is appropriate at a time when economic, political and social shocks reverberate around the globe with increasing regularity. It is a wakeup call to today’s leaders to master strategic agility (dynamism) and risk resilience (resilient) in our complex, interconnected, yet vulnerable world. The Davos theme was the springboard for our discussions in New York and struck several chords with me as a business executive, a communicator and a woman.

Of particular interest to me was a discussion around the Davos plenary session, “Women in Economic Decision-making.” In giving his perspectives on this forum, MSLGROUP CEO Olivier Fleurot commended the female panelists who challenged a very male audience to do more to empower women, both in business and in politics. It must have been inspiring to hear the “resilient dynamism” in the voices of the first woman president of Harvard University, the first female European Commissioner and Facebook’s first female COO, among others.

Today, women are at the helm of many of the world’s top PR agencies, including Porter Novelli, APCO Worldwide, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and Cohn & Wolfe. And of course, no list of leading women communicators is complete without Arianna Huffington, the chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group and the featured speaker at yesterday’s PRWeek discussion on Davos. From the time she published a book in 1974 on the changing roles of women, Arianna has been a model of resilient dynamism for me and countless others. I know firsthand that in this business, resilient dynamism is a necessary, if unspoken, skill.

So what, exactly, is resilient dynamism? Resilient is defined as, “springing back into shape; recovering strength, spirits, etc., quickly.” Dynamism is, “continuous change, activity or progress; vigor.” Separately and together, these words fit women to a T. Women know how to flex to meet the needs of their families, their careers and their communities. In fact, a Young Global Leaders session at Davos referred to women as, “flexperts.” I can think of no better way to describe a woman’s intrinsic nature and her ability to lead millions of citizens, motivate hundreds of employees or juggle the demands of a busy personal life.

Our event with PRWeek was an exhilarating experience for us and the industry. I’m grateful to everyone who participated. I am proud that women figured so prominently in the discussions in Davos and at our event in New York. I am proud the communications field has so many capable and innovative women in leadership roles. And I am challenged and inspired to use my own resilient dynamism to its maximum potential – and to help the women around me use theirs.

November 13th, 2012Comments (0)

Cheering on the ‘Venus effect’ in Congress by Renee Wilson

Today marks one full week since Election Day, and the world has had a bit of time to pull out some of the more interesting insights from the night of November 6. There’s a particular aspect of the election that has me very optimistic about our future. You may have heard that election night 2012 marked a historical achievement. When it caucuses in January, the 113th Congress will include 20 senators who are women.

That’s more than there has ever been in our history, and when it comes to the rancor, argumentative discourse, the policy stand-offs, fiscal cliff threats, and dysfunction that our government has subjected us to in the last few years, well, perhaps these ladies can make a difference.

Besides the struggling economy, if there’s anything else more wrong with America today, I’m not sure what it could be. This awful tone to our communication has contributed to the challenges in our economic comeback and the perception of Americans around the world as disagreeable.

That’s not who we are, nor who we want to be. And, I hope new senators like Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will join with those like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the first practicing Hindu in the US House of Representatives, also a woman, to lead their fellow colleagues in Congress on a new course.

Consensus, common ground, and the national desire to build constructive bonds that bind have been in the DNA of our democracy since it was forged by Jefferson, Adams, and Paine. Yet, the warning signs of an ugly side were also there from the start. In his farewell address, George Washington cautioned that, in the absence of leadership, the political differences between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican parties would rip the country apart.

How right he was. Today, the hyper-partisan tenor in Congress is baked in. Former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK) described in his book, The Parties Versus the People, how the Republicans and Democrats drink their coffee, read their newspapers, and slurp their soup in separate rooms off the House floor.

“Members of the two parties must speak from different places, using different microphones positioned as an extension of their own side of the partisan divide. At the front of the House chamber, directly in front of the elevated rostrum from which the Speaker presides, are two lecterns. One is positioned to the right of center, facing Democrats, and one to the left of center, facing Republicans,” he wrote in an opinion story on CNN.com.

If we can’t break bread together, or can’t even speak facing each other directly, how are we supposed to govern?

Well, like many women, I know we tend to communicate a lot differently and by nature are wired to find “commonality.” This observation holds true in the composition of social networks where women are not only the majority on Facebook, they are on Twitter as well.

So why might women help the nation do this job better than Boehner and Reid alone? Here are five reasons I believe they can:

  • With their focus on people and building relationships, perhaps women can soften the rancor and change the tone. An environment where people are genuinely committed to others and to making life better for the people in our communities would be a great start.
  • Women will stop confusing governance with competitive sports. In the world of sports, someone has to win, and winning feels so much better when there are losers to step over. But, governing isn’t about winning and losing. It’s about winning and winning. The competitive nature of governance weakens the bonds of community and the fabric of our nation. Well, maybe our madam senators can “change the game” here.
  • They will focus on real family matters. It’s been said that if women were in charge, they would turn attention to tangible family issues – jobs, healthcare, and education. I couldn’t agree more. Less talk about how to define “legitimate rape” and more talk about how to create a “legitimate recovery” would be a giant step forward. Those pejorative discussions that create emotional fireworks and tear apart our nation don’t unify us. Let’s put them aside. Our other problems are just too great.
  • Women may bring more patience to the table in seeking creative solutions outside the norms. Our government has gotten in the awful habit of taking the easier route – throwing money at a problem and being done with it. Often, when the elbow grease – the time and energy – to think differently is put in, true creative solutions can be found. Our work in communications tells us this is true. But, our government seems not to have ever learned this practice. Well perhaps our lady legislators can show the way here.
  • Simply compromise. Sacrifice your positions for the greater good. The tension between individualism and the community is stronger in America than any nation in the world. Much of this comes from our heritage as a frontier nation and the heroic effort that our founders were required to put forth to survive and build communities. Rugged individualism has its ugly side when it morphs into selfishness and self-righteousness. In today’s American life, making our community work is the most important need. Women can help show us how to sacrifice our positions for the greater good, just as they have for the good of the family since the beginning of time.

In the last several months, there’s been a lot of talk about Mars and the technical achievements of the Mars Science Laboratory. Well, now is the time to give Venus a go. We need a new hope. We need a new tone. We need a new approach. We need consensus, common ground, and constructive bonds that bind. Can a “Venus effect” in Congress put us on a better track? I hope so.

Let’s call on the 20 women in the Senate to take up this challenge and change the national conversation for the good.

Renee Wilson is president for North America at MSLGroup.

May 11th, 2012Comments (0)

Women Coporate Director’s Dinner and VivaWomen! breakfast by Renee Wilson

It’s been a while since I blogged here as I have been in the process of transitioning into my new role. However after this last week, I was inspired to pull the iPad out again and get typing. I had the pleasure of recently attending the Women Corporate Director’s dinner that honored Maurice Levy, the CEO of Publicis Groupe Holding Company, for his leadership and vision. I always knew that I worked for a top firm but I was glad to hear more about all that Maurice personally had done for women at our Groupe, and what Publicis Groupe has done to support women overall.

This event was followed by a meeting of the female leaders from numerous Publicis Groupe subsidiaries at a VivaWomen! breakfast gathering in NY, to celebrate the fact that Maurice was in town. As you may or may not know, VivaWomen! is a voluntary interest group that women across the US who work at subsidiaries within the Publicis Holding Company Groupe may choose to belong to. The group looks at ways to support women of all backgrounds and levels in their careers and their career progression. The group is in its infancy, but I’d say we are a feisty bunch with lots of great ideas for the future. In the US, I am joined by another founding member from MSLGROUP Americas, Rita Masini, Chief Talent Officer. Every one of this group of women is a force to be reckoned with in her own right as they are paving ways for their agencies in new areas.

At the WCD dinner Tuesday evening, Maurice reminded the pre-dominantly female audience that Publicis Groupe’s most senior role – chairperson of the supervisory board – is held by a woman, the renowned French philosopher and feminist Elizabeth Badinter, who stepped into the role in 1996. He went on to state that he believes each employee should be treated equally and pointed out that seven out of the 14 members of the Supervisory Board are women today.

At the VivaWomen! breakfast the next morning, as part of the program, Maurice introduced Laura Desmond, the CEO of Starcom Mediavest Group, member of Maurice’s P12 board, and highest ranking woman on the operational side within our holding company. Laura shared her thoughts about being a female leader. She really feels that there are few organizations that ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ when it comes to supporting females in the workforce and Publicis Groupe is one of them. Laura explained that at the heart of our Groupe’s philosophy is ‘celebrating the difference’ and listening and embracing different viewpoints, colors, creeds, etc. is something we do.

I asked Laura during the Q&A, what was her career path that led to her success. Here are some of the things Laura explained led her to where she is today:
-she did the right thing for both the company and herself at all times
-she took advantage of pivotal positions that became available to her as the business evolved
-she embraced a risk opportunity and moved to Europe for a long-term assignment
-she failed and learned from her failures
-she became very involved in global business like P&G and Coke

The conversation then went back to hearing Maurice’s point of view and he talked a lot about his mentor Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet. Bleustein-Blanchet helped Maurice understand that you must always choose the right person for the right job and that’s all that really matters. With that Maurice ensures that at Publicis Groupe they offer:
-the possibility to achieve all you can
-the possibility of full and rewarding careers
-the possibility that everyone is offered opportunities

Other questions for Maurice at the breakfast included the following.

Q. What would you advise men within the company about women in the workforce?
A. He expects respect at every level of the organization. And, he demands that men look for the talents across all employees.

Q. What areas would you say we can improve as a company?
A. Maurice answered that detecting talent early and helping women get on a career path early on was paramount. He also said that we need to continue to offer women continuity of service throughout various life stages.

When asked about other advice he had for the group that morning, Maurice explained that it’s very important to “be true to who you are.” You cannot be who you truly aren’t and be happy. He also advised “if you have a weakness, work to turn it into a strength.” He added, “don’t negotiate with your personality, embrace who you are.” And, lastly he said, “make sure everyone at your company has a chance to bloom.”

At MSLGROUP, I personally have been given incredible experiences throughout my career here, and I have worked with awesome leaders – both male and female. Have I failed at times? Sure – who hasn’t at one time? However MSLGROUP has always thrown me more challenges and allowed me to incorporate my changing personal life stages into my career path. Today, I have a dream job and I’m so thrilled to embrace my new role as Chief Client Officer, working with our agency’s best and brightest teams and clients around the globe.

Congratulations to Maurice on his award. And congratulations to my fellow MSLGROUP females for having chosen to work for a company that supports women in their careers.

October 17th, 2011Comments (0)

Progress in 2011 by Renee Wilson

I entered this year’s conference wanting to learn “what are truly the barriers” to women’s advancement in business/society and was very happy to learn that although the problem isn’t solved yet, it is being addressed around the world. There are obviously still some areas like Egypt and the Arab regions where work needs to be done, but I’ve left the conference with a renewed sense of urgency to figure out what I can do to help in my own way.

This year’s Women’s Forum provided the following points on this problem:

• There were several sessions about the importance of getting more women onto corporate boards. Speakers discussed how boards consist of white males who are aging into retirement, and how women can be considered for placement. The overwhelming feeling of wanting to help one another was inspiring.

• Many multi-national companies promoted new leadership models that take into consideration female high potentials, and work-life balance programs that will help both men and women

• Two major global management consultancies shared new research verifying that the skill sets that women bring to the table are what business needs to get back on track (e.g., empathy, lateral leadership, consensus building, etc.). In fact, McKinsey’s “Women Matter” research study clearly states “…companies with a higher proportion of women on their executive committees have better financial performances…”

Something that sticks with me from the Women’s Forum is the need for more female mentors to pass on wisdom. I talked to a lot of women at this conference, and discussed mentoring quite a bit. I think I’ve found a solution for myself AND I have ideas to help others. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. It will make all the difference in the world. If I can help you find one, let me know.

October 15th, 2011Comments (0)

What Female Leaders Need to Know Today by Renee Wilson

October 14th, 2011Comments (0)

5 Mega Trends Learned from the Women’s Forum by Renee Wilson

October 13th, 2011Comments (0)

What I’m Looking Forward to the Most at the 2011 Women’s Forum by Renee Wilson

To kick it off my second year at the Women’s Forum, here’s my top ten list of what I’m most excited to see:

10.  Hearing what Moira Forbes has to say about “what if we had to do even more to advance women in corporations.”  She’s going to be asking “what should committed corporate leaders do to make a real difference?”

9.  Seeing Patricia Szarvas of CNBC Europe interview Muhtar Kent, Coke CEO, about the corporate key drivers of today, ie, HR, digital, sustainability, e-reputation, etc.

8.  Interacting with the panel of GenY ladies who will share perspectives on social values and career hopes.

7.  Learning more about the “Stand Up For African Mothers Campaign Launch” and how I can help.

6.  Looking for global trends as to how some of the global company participants are tackling their biggest challenges of the day.

5.  Having the chance to pick up some work-life balance tips from other working moms doing the juggle struggle.

4.  Admiring the global working women fashions that will be donned throughout the streets of Deauville, France during the meeting (Sorry – I have to be honest with you, my readers. I do observe the trends.)

3.  Spending time with my fellow colleagues from MSLGroup:  several great ladies and gentlemen and thinking of ways to bring more great MSLGroup women into leadership positions.

2.  Hearing more about “what women’s empowerment will mean for men.”  I’ve read a lot about this subject and will report back on the latest thinking in this area.  For example, what if women’s empowerment has intensely positive ramifications for men that are not yet widely understood or discussed?

1.  As always, making sure that I do something positive to advance the subject/cause/conversation for women coming up the ranks – especially for a special four year old of mine, Olivia, who will one day blaze a path of her own to do good. I’m sure of that.

October 13th, 2011Comments (0)

What If? by Renee Wilson

I’m back for the second year at the “Women’s Forum. Only this year, I’m back with a mission: understand what the real barriers to women achieving equality in the workplace are – and I mean equality across the board, at all levels of an organization.

A male colleague once told me that women had already achieved equality in the workplace, and asked me what I was “going on” about. That is part of the problem. Some today feel that the workforce is normal, because it is all they have known. Some don’t recognize that women still make on average 85 cents for every dollar of men. And now as women collect 60 percent of the graduate degrees in the US, we are still under-represented in top echelons of senior management, specifically on corporate boards. I’m still confident that there will be a greater level of equality between men and women across all spectrums of work and family life. And together we’re on a collective journey to that state.

It’s a hard topic, and no one sex is solely to blame. We really are evolving, only statistics show that we’re evolving slower now than we did 10 years ago. Why is that?? That’s why I’m so excited to be at the Women’s Forum this year: I want to know more about the barriers that exist in 2011, and I want to work with other women on shaping what the future could look like.

After all, 2011 is proving itself to be the year of the impossible becoming reality. From the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt to the earthquake in Japan and, of course, the economy. The world we took for granted has been rocked off its axis, to land in an unanticipated configuration.

The Women’s Forum chose to draw inspiration from the 2011’s remarkable global events and theme the meeting: “What If?” The focus is on what the future could bring politically, socially, economically and technologically. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this year’s conversations and to dream with other women what the future could look like for all.