Aspirations of a PR ...


Minus the pomp and circumstance, I joined our U.S. GM Steve Burkhart in delivering the State of the Agency to our U.S. staff this week.

I look forward to the presentation and the give and take with the team. The preparation forces me to step away from the day-to-day fray, take a breath, enjoy a cup of root beer yogurt and think about the future. When I say “future,” I  mean the next three-year horizon for the communications industry (not mankind).

This year I talked about the Agency’s aspirations.

There’s a great scene in the movie “City Slickers” when Curly shares with Billy Crystal the one key to life.

Right, one thing.

Corporate missions and the like tend to suffer from sprawl, a byproduct of pacifying a zillion stakeholders. At the same time, I found that I couldn’t settle on just one overriding aspiration.

I ended up with two.

The first revolves around the work. We want to deliver extraordinary work that is truly world-class. So many variables go into this aspiration, the courage of our staff, campaign budgets, reward systems, training and clients with guts, to name some.

I’d like to touch on the reward system for a moment. Recognizing and rewarding folks based on what they accomplish for clients breeds a client-centric mentality. Unlike 99 percent of all PR agencies, we don’t measure account professionals on billability (billable hours). Instead, we believe that if we do great work and meet or even exceed the client’s expectations, financial performance will naturally follow.

The industry recognition in the form of 20+ awards this year offers one indication that we are indeed producing extraordinary work.Agency Awards 12-15Seeing existing client assignments expand is another proof point.  As our campaigns increasingly move into the digital sphere, quantifying success with hard numbers is yet another indicator that reality aligns with this goal.

The second aspiration gets into a squishy space. As part of my talk, I showed the photo below:maureenreunion_allThis photo was taken last month when an impromptu reunion took place around Maureen Tseng’s visit to the Bay Area. Mo was the first person we hired in Asia after opening our office in Singapore. We’re fortunate that she’s still part of the team.

Ray Schuster (the dapper fellow in the blue shirt) relocated from Silicon Valley to start our Asian operation in Singapore in 1996.

William Gaultier, introduced to us by Mo, worked in our Silicon Valley office for several years before launching his digital shop e-Storm.

Mo also brought her talented niece, Lauren Ho, to our attention; she’s now an account manager in our Silicon Valley office.

Paula Larson was an incredibly hard-charging VP in our Silicon Valley office for eight years who helped shape who we are today.

I could go on and on.

The point is that the Agency served as the “frame” for these amazing relationships to come about. I want to be this type of company as well.

  • Care for people
  • Extraordinary work

That’s how I think of our aspirational foundation.

Of course, we’re striving to perform financially as well.

We just don’t view it as the lead pin.


  • Sam Whitmore

    Lou, you (and your clients) are reaping what you have sown. You never sold. You steered the course of storytelling long before its value was appreciated. You and Pat McGovern (OK, maybe Dick Nixon) saw China before the others, too. But none of that would matter if you didn’t build and maintain a culture that empowered your people to do their best work, no matter the circumstances. It’s fitting that you celebrate. Congratulations.

    • Lou Hoffman

      Those words mean a lot Sam. Thanks. I do see the irony in our life cycle as a company taking on the shape of the classic arc with bad stuff happening for several years before righting the ship. Definitely gives me a greater appreciation of success and all the relationships including the one with you that make it possible.

  • William Gaultier

    Lou, you should celebrate indeed, you have been an inspiration and will continue to be one especially when you write such great blog posts. It’s been amazing to meet and stay in touch with so many hooffmanites for so many years!!

    Thanks Mo, Gene and Cynthia for hosting this reunion!

    • Lou Hoffman

      Good hearing from you Mr. Gaultier and seeing you during the Mo reunion. Heather and I had a great time worthy of a Hallmark card.

  • Reflections on My Life at Hoffman - Chicken Rice for the Soul

    […] organised a mini-Hoffman reunion when I was at my sister’s place in California in December 2015. Looking at the photos now of that […]

  • Ellie O'Rourke

    The Hoffman Agency was truly such a special environment and one that I will never forget. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of such an amazing group of intelligent, kind and supportive people who have become life-long friends –and one life partner. 😉 I will cherish those days, and no matter how difficult times might be, I always keep Lou’s “enjoy the journey” mantra in mind. Thanks for the amazing journey, Lou!

    • Lou Hoffman

      Now that’s the way to end a rugged week.

      Appreciate the positive words Ellie.

      People like yourself, Paula, Michelle, Susan, Rachel, Patrick and the list goes on have shaped the culture that exists today.

      Thank you!


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