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Ask the Storyteller: To Display Award-Winning PR Leadership, You Must Nurture a Leadership Culture—Here’s One Approach

Bulldog Awards, leadership culture, Marketing, Pr, PR agency, PR awards, PR campaign, PR industry, PR insights, PR leadership, PR success, Public relations, Tom Hallman Jr., winning PRBy Tom Hallman Jr., Award-winning journalist; Author, “Dispatches from 1320”

If you want to improve, you must continually be learning, just as if you were back in college.

Attend seminars. Draw on the rich resources of Bulldog Reporter. Study brilliant ad campaigns and stellar public relations efforts.

Those are obvious.

But I have another suggestion: Read the biographies of great leaders.

In those stories, I learn how the subject handled defeat, loss and disappointment—roadblocks all of us will face. Before these people were “someone”—be that a politician, military leader, scientist or athlete—they were just like you and I.

By reading about their journey, I discover lessons I can apply to my own life.

You should do the same.

I thought about that after judging the latest Bulldog Awards. By now, the results are out. We salute the winners. But, as a judge, I was most intrigued by how an agency, or person, dealt with a low budget, or a product that seemingly would be a loser.

You work in a tough, bottom-line industry. Agencies juggle clients—some unreasonable—budgets and fellow workers. The pressure never lets up: Retention rates and looking for new business. There’s no coasting. This is a “what did you do for me today” industry.

But here are my takeaways, practical ideas drawn from your world, that I learned from judging the Bulldog contest.

Incorporate them in your company, or your career:

Success starts with a culture that allows room for feedback and teamwork. Bosses love those two phrases. But, if you’re a leader, do you walk the talk? If you’re a team manager, or a company executive, do you honestly find ways to nurture excellence?

Look at the background of one excellent leader who won a Bulldog Award.

I’ve edited all these comments to maintain anonymity.

But read them carefully. Just the way I read a biography.

She is a relentless champion for her team, seeking opportunities to spotlight them, mentor and provide growth opportunities. Whenever appropriate, she includes them in senior level meetings, has them present their work directly to the executive team, and does PR on her staff.

And this:

She has challenged and encouraged leadership to become more involved in the industry through speaking engagements, events and trade organizations.

And this:

Knowing her interest in bringing the next generation of PR pros up with her as she climbs the ladder, junior team members within the company, at partner PR and social media agencies, and family/professional contacts have sought her out for the same counsel. She helps them with everything from managing difficult workplace situations to career trajectory, job searches and negotiations.

She doesn’t just delegate, but teaches. She seeks to paint the picture and provide the “why” of work so her team understands the larger picture and how their work contributes to it.

Here’s excerpts from the biography of another winner:

She did not organize the teams by industry, like many agencies, because she discovered through experience that this stifles employee creativity.

And this:

The company is disciplined in ensuring the work matches the budget. But they also run with the mindset that if a short-term investment in time or dollars will help clients and in the long-term grow the agency’s relationship with them, then they have the freedom to do that.

And this:

Relationships with clients, media, partner agencies, and vendors are one of the cornerstones of the business and is what she believes has allowed the company to gain all its new business through word of mouth without the added expense of advertising.


She stuck to her vision and faced challenges head on. She surrounded herself with like-minded professionals with experience in the field and passion for their work. She took care to create a company atmosphere that rewarded hard work

Folks, that’s leadership.

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