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Do You Work with a Don Draper?

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

In last week’s season opener of the AMC series Mad Men, Peggy Olson tells Don Draper “we’re all here because of you.”  The episode also shows Don’s struggle with revealing his personality – he blows a profile opportunity with AdAge before getting a second try at answering the question, “who is Don Draper?” with the Wall Street Journal.  And, not only does Don shy away from revealing his personality to the public, he also tries to quaff his support staff’s attempts at defining the company (by disparaging Pete Campbell’s attempt to portray the agency as a scrappy start-up and by calling Peggy’s guerilla PR tactic a ‘shenanigan’).

Whether you work for a global PR firm, a boutique agency, your own solo practice or part of an in-house department, chances are you’ve come across PR ‘personalities.’

How important is it to have a recognizable personality behind your business?

First of all, having a recognizable personality behind your PR brand (recognizable in a good way, that is) can help attract business.  Publicizing agency leadership is a form of in-bound marketing in that it helps prospective clients understand who they’ll be working with and what they’ll be buying before-hand.  Anyone looking for a job will have heard how important it is to demonstrate their expertise through social media – by answering questions on LinkedIn, writing an original blog or posting comments to another widely-read blog, maintaining a web site and developing a following on Twitter.  “Sharing your expertise publicly is a way of promoting yourself” tweeted Kellye Crane (@kellyecrane and @soloPR) when this topic came up on a recent #soloPR Twitter chat.  “It’s also a way to practice what you preach and demonstrate that you know how to build an effective brand and reputation,” added another #soloPR chatter.

It can also help up-sell.  The bigger the personality, the more valuable the counsel that person provides and the more you can charge for it.  Anyone who has worked on the agency side of the PR business knows that the firm’s most senior leaders charge astronomically high billing rates when they are involved with client work.

Some clients and business partners are willing to pay higher rates for a big personality because they sense they’re getting more than just PR counsel for their dollars.  I call it a rain-maker mentality — in which buyers think they’re also purchasing the services of someone who has valuable connections and is business savvy.

What do you think?  Do you work with a PR personality?  Do you cultivate your own professional personality?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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