Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Although it might seem hard to believe, my transition from on-air political pundit to behind the scenes public relations operative was a relatively seamless and natural one. While still a student in college, I was engaged in a fair amount of political activism. In an effort to maximize exposure of my political advocacy, I started pitching members of the media from the comfort of my college dormitory on various story-lines, hoping they’d eventually afford me the opportunity to offer commentary in whatever available form. A year later, by the time I had graduated, I had already appeared dozens of times across all the major cable networks, including Fox News, MSNBC and many more. None of this was a function of my breadth of knowledge of the issues I’d discuss, nor was it my good looks (or so I’ve been told). Instead, it was a function of my ability to cultivate relationships with bookers and producers, and to effectively pitch them on my commentary being an invaluable contribution to their program. These are the same fundamental skills my team and I use every-day in order to obtain earned media for our clients. The key is determining how to make your client relevant to the news-cycle; and then selling your client to the media and capturing their attention and interest. It’s what we do every-day. And dare I say, we’re quite good at it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There have been so many different events that have transpired since our company’s initial formation that have served as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. The important thing is to extrapolate the lessons from the experiences and move forward with them in mind. I’m pleased to say we’ve been quite disciplined about doing so, and that’s in no small testament to our outstanding staff.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m proud to say that over the years we’ve been involved in many different projects that have advanced causes and political interests that my team and I share a passion for. For example, a number of years back there was a draconian law that the Polish government refused to reform that sought to criminalize any expression that associated the Polish government with the Holocaust. As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, the idea of standing idly by as a major government sought to whitewash the history of the Holocaust, was not something I was willing to do. Thankfully, we were called upon by an outstanding group of lawyers who worked tirelessly to challenge the law from a legal standpoint, in the constitutional courts in Poland. We handled all of the media strategy behind the scenes, maximizing exposure of the lawyers’ submission of an amicus brief to the courts, and generating headlines across top tier media outlets internationally. The resulting public pressure that ensued on the government was evidently too much for them to handle — a mere two days later, they eliminated the law entirely.
Without going into too much detail, we’ve also had the privilege of working on various special projects that allowed us to highlight the sort of harmony and unity that can exist among the masses — even among members of religions that wouldn’t ordinarily be viewed as maintaining the friendliest of relations. There are few things that give me more pleasure then getting to utilize public relations to advance a cause, interest or issue I care deeply about.
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
There’s undoubtedly a number of contributing factors; but for one, I’ve always strongly believed in the idea of loving what you do. I have many colleagues who work in various industries and make good money but dread going to work every-day, and hate every minute of it. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. Do something you love and have a passion for, even if the financial benefit might not be as immediately apparent. Ultimately, if you love what you do, you’ll work tirelessly to hone your craft to become one of the best in your field. And with that will come whatever financial or other forms of success you might desire. You only live once. Do it right.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
There’s undoubtedly a direct relationship between the happiness of a company’s workforce and the company’s ultimate productivity and profitability. I have never seen a successful business with miserable employees working in a negative environment. It just doesn’t exist. You have to ultimately foster an upbeat positive culture in your workplace in order to motivate your team. You’ll have yourself to thank later for that.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Establish clear company values and goals: The culture in an office environment truly starts from the top-down. A company must have a clearly recognized set of core values and goals that all team-members are aware of and consistently seek to adhere to.
- Demonstrate that you care and be genuine: It might sound obvious; but it’s incredibly important for executives to demonstrate that they truly care about their staff’s abilities to develop their skills and make invaluable contributions to the company’s output.
- Transparency and nothing less: The need to be transparent and engaged in an ongoing open and healthy dialogue with your staff is of critical importance in fostering a culture of engagement and motivation at your company.
- Be proactive about engaging team members: Assess how they’re feeling; what they want and desire. Be aware of staff members’ strengths and weaknesses and the ways they might be able to complement their respective skill-sets.
- Encourage social engagement between team members outside of the office setting: Social chemistry between staff members is of critical importance and directly relates to their ultimate ability to be productive members of the company. Sometimes affording team members the opportunity to engage outside of an office setting can go a long way toward developing the type of social chemistry that is needed for a company to succeed.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
At our public relations firm, we’re not merely devoted to building the bottom line, and cash isn’t necessarily king. We are however intensely dedicated to making positive societal impact through our work. We are constantly motivating our staff to be engaged in communal and social affairs to help make society a better place. That’s what it’s ultimately all about.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
Tough but gentle. When you’re running a boutique firm/small business and have to make payroll, rent and all the rest regularly, you have a right to be demanding quality work from your team. After all, in the PR business especially, reputation is everything. And when you’re paying competitive salaries and entrusting your staff members with contributing to the quality of the firm’s overall work product, demanding perfection (or something close to it) is reasonable. Having said that, there’s a fine line between being justifiably demanding/tough and being insolent or rude. I’ve always been very conscious of that line and certainly careful to never cross it. I keep myself abreast concerning staff members’ management of client accounts and am sure to afford them the opportunity to express any concerns they may have. Being attentive to those concerns and accommodating them when possible is something we’ve always done, and will continue to do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve truly been blessed to have a number of mentors who have always been there for me to provide counsel and guidance whenever I’ve needed it most. Since I’m doubtful any of them would appreciate being named, I’ll be sure to preserve their anonymity. Having said that, most of those I turn to for mentorship don’t work in the public relations industry. Some are professors from my law school days; others are high profile attorneys, successful entrepreneurs and even spiritual figures. I am fortunate to have the privilege of having people in my life whose judgement I greatly value; and who I can turn to for guidance by merely picking up the phone.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our firm is involved in various communal and charitable endeavors. Those include promoting social welfare, fighting poverty, and giving back to the community on a local level. We also pride ourselves on the work we do for certain nonprofit organizations whose causes and convictions are very much consistent with our own. We have consistently gone out of our way to provide reductions in rates to certain organizations whose missions we’re particularly fond of. Having a team that shares common values and convictions is immensely helpful in developing the sort of camaraderie we enjoy at our firm. And there’s no substitute for doing good. So when we have the opportunity to do good together, the feeling is one of indescribable elation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Challenge the status quo and success will follow you like a shadow.”
I’ve never been one to conform. Change is healthy; and there’s certainly no shame in standing out. If you are able to deliver a product or service that is otherwise unavailable to the general public, the demand will inevitably be substantial. And if you are indeed successful in developing and procuring that service, success will most certainly follow you like a shadow. Within my first 6 months of working in the PR industry, I discovered that the outward perception of the typical PR practitioner is a suspenders-wearing seventy-year old man working at a snail’s pace. I wanted to provide clients with an alternative in terms of style. Afford them the opportunity to make a choice between a firm that works at a rapid pace and whatever the alternative offerings might be. I’m not looking to upend the industry establishment; nor am I looking to be loud or brash. But different, yes. Nobody is more aggressive yet tactful; and nobody works as hard on behalf of their clients. We’re proud of the fact that we fight tooth and nail in defending our clients and ensuring that their media profiles are as desirable to them and consistent with reality as possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to inspire people to have greater faith and confidence in their own capacity to achieve success. Don’t worry about where others might stand relative to you at any given point in time. Focus on developing yourself professionally and otherwise. Be too busy working on your own grass to worry about the fact that someone else’s might be greener!