8 Apr

Indiana Public Relations Leadership Summit recap

Last week I attended the annual Indiana Public Relations Leadership Summit in Indianapolis.  This year’s theme was Creating, Building, and Defending Brands.  William Whitman Jr., Vice President of Communications at McDonald’s USA gave an excellent keynote.

The audience was enthralled hearing about his role as chief communications officer for a corporation with billion dollar brands and more than a million employees (and its share of criticism).  Whitman said that McDonald’s (which is mentioned online every 10 seconds) is one of few lifestyle brands – whether you’re 8 or 80, it could appeal to you.  This was an interesting observation, as lifecycle marketing is at the heart of our institution’s integrated advancement model.

He opened with some brand basics, explaining that no one owns a brand exclusively.  The brand is less about what you say it is and more about what the public says it is.  Our job is to ensure what we think the brand is and what the public thinks are in balance.  Brand management is the ability to anticipate change and use it to your advantage.

The highlight of the presentation was Whitman’s eight leadership competencies – what he looks for in employees at McDonald’s.

  1. Candid and effective communication
  2. Puts the customer first
  3. Leads change and innovation (not exclusive to technology; your ability to connect the dots and see the big picture)
  4. Builds and leverages talent
  5. Plans and acts strategically (you can have tons of creative ideas; if they’re not tied to your brand’s core values, why bother?)
  6. Achieves through teamwork (best ideas largely come out of the interaction with others)
  7. Leads through influence (inside or outside your discipline)
  8. Executes for results (at the end of the day, did you get it done?)

A strong list.  Personally, Whitman said that his goal is simply to leave the (PR) industry better than he found it, and he encouraged attendees to “reach back as you climb.”

These leadership competencies could represent a solid set of core values for any advancement team – ones you could really commit to.  Does your team have core values that help build and define your culture?  What would you add or subtract on Whitman’s list?


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