Leadership and Zigging When ...


I will always remember November 14, 2014, and it has nothing to do with my birthday.

That was the day that Mike Sottak called to say he was accepting our job offer to run our European operation.

Since we entered the European market in the late 1990s, the Agency’s experience had resembled a roller-coaster ride minus the adrenaline rush. There’s nothing thrilling about taking one step forward and the one step back for more than a decade. While we’d had talented leaders in Europe, no one could quite crack the code.

Yet, I was convinced that Mike would change the trajectory of our European operation.

Requiring more than communications expertise, the role at this point in time called for business chops. I viewed the fact that Mike had zero experience in a conventional consultancy as a plus. After leading corporate communications for Cadence, Mike and his wife Toni left Silicon Valley for Turks & Caicos — don’t have the exact numbers, but seems safe to say that little venture funding is earmarked for this archipelago — and set up Wired Island, a virtual PR agency. Mike also got involved in the travel industry and a bar before moving again, this time to the South of France.

I share this background as a way to illuminate Mike’s track record of scratching and clawing his way to success. Nothing was ever handed to him. That’s the type of business expertise we needed in Europe, someone who was comfortable with ambiguity and would apply a business savvy that only comes from being thrown in situations where you need to figure things out.

And figure things out in Europe is exactly what Mike did.

I know it hasn’t been easy.

But it’s never been dull.

Teaming with Mike has been an experience that transcends business. Heather and I spent 49 days in Aix en Provence in 2015 where I worked side-by-side with Mike — literally since the end of the dining room table I inhabited was right next to Mike’s desk in his home office — immersed in European operations. At the same time, we enjoyed the rhythm of life in this part of the world and more than one café gourmand..

Fast forwarding to today, our European operation is on a roll. Wins in the region in 2016 included NXP, Lifesize and one of the Agency’s more prestigious engagements supporting the French government (Business France) across multiple geographies.

French government at CES


Equally impressive, the product from our European team is world-class — critical for us to beat the big guys for global assignments in which one weak link hurts our cause.

This is a prelude to today’s news that Mike and his family have moved back to the U.S. where Mike begins a new role with the Agency as the global lead for Business France.

It also sets the stage for announcing that Mark Pinsent has taken on our European MD role.

I’ve always mocked the personnel announcements with quotes that start “I am pleased to announce” or “I’m thrilled that so and so” for having the nutritional value of cotton candy.James Jones cartoon with text bubble

Yet, I feel a gravitational pull to use these phrases. Suffice to say, I believe Mark is the right guy at the right time to continue advancing our European operation.

Stepping back for a moment, there’s no such thing as a communications consultancy maintaining the status quo. Either a consultancy is evolving its game or losing ground. There’s a great line from John F. Kennedy that I’ve referenced before,

“The time to fix a leaking roof is when the sun is shining bright.”

The sun is indeed shining bright on the Agency these days.

Which makes it the perfect time to rethink our business, anticipate client needs tomorrow and hire new leaders as we have with Jason Cao in China and now Mark Pinsent who can nudge, or better yet, push us forward.

More to come.

In the meantime, here’s the news release on Mr. Pinsent.


The Hoffman Agency Hires Mark Pinsent to Lead European Operation

LONDON, 22 February 2017 — The Hoffman Agency today announced that Mark Pinsent has taken on the role of European managing director.

Previously, Pinsent served as managing director of the London operation of digital marketing consultancy Metia.

Mike Sottak, who previously spearheaded Hoffman’s European team, has returned to the U.S., taking on the new role of global lead for Hoffman’s support of the Business France account.

Pinsent holds the European reins of Hoffman at a time when the consultancy is gaining traction in the region. European wins in 2016 included NXP, Lifesize and Business France, fuelling growth of more than 50 percent last year.

“Rather than follow the conventional PR agency playbook, Mike took a fresh approach in combining European and global assets,” said Lou Hoffman, CEO of the consultancy. “I’m thankful that he’s continuing with the Agency in heading our Business France campaign. The combination of Mark’s joining and Mike’s new role give us a unique win-win proposition for existing and new clients.”

In passing the European baton to Pinsent, the Agency gains the ideal leader to continue growing its footprint in Europe.

Grounded in tech PR from his previous eight years at Next Fifteen shops, Pinsent’s experience reflects a push into the digital side of communications with roles including director in the digital and tech practices at Edelman, director of digital at Shine Communications, and head of content and consumer social media for Weber Shandwick in EMEA.

More recently, in his four years at Metia London, Pinsent helped shape and grow the agency’s content and social media marketing practice, building on the company’s existing strengths in digital and direct marketing, PR and lead generation. During his tenure, Pinsent added to Metia’s impressive client roster by helping to win new clients, including Intel, Workday, EMC and RedEye.

“As the Agency increasingly creates blended campaigns of traditional PR, owned media and even paid media, Mark’s strength in digital marketing, not just PR, will serve us well in Europe,” said Hoffman. “I also appreciate that his values align with the Agency’s — that extraordinary performance and care for people can co-exist.”

“My time with Metia has solidified my view that the creation, distribution and discovery of content — along with the rigorous measurement of its contribution to business outcomes — is no longer the preserve of any one marketing discipline,” Pinsent added. “The opportunity to apply my skills to organisations across the continent and help take a global agency’s European operations to the next level of growth felt like a logical forward step in my career.”

One of the few independent PR consultancies with global reach, The Hoffman Agency brings the best of both worlds to its clients — the high touch of a boutique, with the sophistication in services associated with the mega shops. The Agency, which celebrates its 30-year anniversary later this year, operates nine offices across Europe, the U.S. and Asia.


About the Hoffman Agency
The Hoffman Agency (www.hoffman.com) is an independent PR agency that helps companies in markets of technical complexity communicate compelling messages across the world. Thanks to a unique global infrastructure and culture, The Hoffman Agency takes a collaborative approach to implementing multi-country programs. The Hoffman Agency comprises nine offices across the globe, including San Jose, California and Vancouver, Washington, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo.

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