Russ: This is the Businessmakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com. It's guest time on the show and I'm very please to have with me Mark Hass, president and CEO of the U.S. part of Edelman. Mark, welcome to the Businessmakers Show.
Mark: Russ, it's a pleasure to be here today.
Russ: All right, great. Well, let's start by you telling us about Edelman.
Mark: Edelman is the world's largest public relations firm. It's independently owned with offices in 64 countries around the world including 15 in the United States. We represent clients across a broad array of industries through our consumer practice, our corporate practice and our digital practice.
Russ: Okay, I'm pretty sure that most of this audience is aware of who Edelman is, but boy, I don't know if they understand the magnitude. A global PR agency seems to me as though that could be a huge advantage these days.
Mark: Well, I mean, we certainly hope our clients find it to be that. We have the ability to scale programs around the world and we also have the ability to bring global expertise into very specific, local problems and local opportunities. So our experts, for example, from New York or from San Francisco or Chicago are relevant in Houston. Whenever there's specific expertise that's required from other parts of the network, we have the ability to quickly bring that expertise to bear in a market like Houston that might not otherwise have the benefit of those experts.
Russ: Okay cool. Now, it's obviously rapidly changing times. I did some research on your background too and know that you've been with Edelman now for how many years?
Mark: Not that long. I joined in 2010 to run their China business. I just got back to the U.S. to become the U.S. CEO in May of this year.
Russ: Okay. And then before that, you had this kind of marketing PR branding interactive expertise, which certainly is a topic that we cover a lot here on the Businessmakers show, but talk about that, your background in those areas.
Mark: Well, I always followed my heart professionally. I'm a journalist by background and training and spent 18 years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Washington, Miami. I finished my newspaper career in Detroit where I was the managing editor of the Detroit News and in the early 1990s became interested in the internet and the impact of what was then fondly referred to as the Worldwide Web the impact of the Worldwide Web on communications in general. I guess I was an early – I was up on my toes and I saw kind of how the news business was going to change and was fortunate enough to get out. Started a public relations business based on the idea that the internet was going to change the way large organizations communicated. And at the time, that's about what I knew. Built that firm into Michigan's largest. Sold that firm to a large marketing holding company, became the CEO of MSNL Worldwide, which was the acquiring company's PR firm. Then left that firm, started another independent firm around social media. Was fortunate enough to sell that to Edelman and join Edelman.
Russ: Okay, it sounds to me – I sense that you might have enjoyed, quite frankly, the path that you've been on all this time. Is that right?
Mark: Yeah, it's been a good ride. You know, I've sort of followed my heart professionally and tried to build on the only skills I really have, which is the ability to communicate, the ability to think. Other than that, I'm not trained to do much else.
Russ: Okay. But, you know, it seems to me that – and I think of this when you're talking about your background too, that the world of ad agencies, of branding agencies, of PR and interactive all seem to sort of be coming together in various different shapes, but it seems like today is interactive important to Edelman? I'm sure it is, but describe that.
Mark: Our digital practice which is the PR industry's largest, is about 25 percent of our revenue in the United States, 25 percent of about 425 million in revenue. And it is growing exponentially faster than our core business. And Edelman has a unique set of capabilities. A lot of our competitors in the PR space have really strong brand marketing capability as does Edelman. I would argue they're the strongest. Some others have a strong corporate communications capability. We have both of those. I mean, we have world-class brand communications capability, world-class corporate communications capability and we have this third leg of our stool called our digital practice that has made us a unique kind of firm because we combine those three disciplines, brand marketing, corporate reputation and corporate communications and digital practices in a very seamless and integrated way.
Russ: Okay, so when you talk about digital being that big of a significant portion of your business, are you talking about social media, websites, interactive website, all of the above and more?
Mark: Well, you know, currently, the bulk of our business is around social media execution, content creation and digital strategy. You know, it has evolved of course. When we got into the digital business, it was all about building website.
Mark: That became a commodity and I think now it's about kind of the strategic expertise we can bring to bear, particularly around storytelling and content creation.
Russ: Interesting. So one of the successes that we've had on the Businessmakers Show with partners, actually, is what we call thought leader vignettes. They grew out of a series of what originally was best practices and then we called them domain expert vignettes and now we call them thought leader vignettes. I think they were all pretty much the same, just the vernacular changed along the way. But it's so obvious that the world likes to consume 90-second pieces of a company kind of displaying their expertise as opposed to a commercial. Does that make sense in your world too?
Mark: Well, you know, we talk about – when we talk about content, we talk about content that drives into four separate categories. We sort of call it a cloverleaf, the four leaf cloverleaf. One is traditional media. You know, it wouldn't surprise you that the Houston Chronicle is still important, NBC is still important to our clients. But we also believe that hybrid media are important, the Huffington Posts of the world, for example, we also believe social media are important. What you learn on Facebook, what you consume on Instagram, Twitter are important in shaping opinion. And the fourth category is owned media. And owned media is your own – are your own websites, your own digital embassies we call them on Facebook or Twitter. And all of those together have to be included in shaping a media relations strategy and a communications strategy. So those digital pieces, you know, three of those clover leafs have strong digital connections.
Russ: Absolutely. Okay, so you got on my radar because annually Edelman does the trust barometer, which is a massive global survey on sort of what people believe these days about trust in general. Share your overview of the 2013 report.
Mark: The 2013 report was the 13th report we've done as a firm. We do it annually. This year we surveyed 31,000 people in 26 countries around the world. And the headline for me, if needed to describe it in just one sentence would be the crisis of leadership that is evidenced around the world and by that I mean that while trust in institutions themselves is creeping back up coming out of the decline, the deep decline that we saw in 2008-2009, while institutions are climbing back up, trust in the leaders of those institutions is headed the other way. So that gap between rising trust in institutions and declining trust in the leaders of those institutions is a troubling new direction in the study.
Russ: Okay, and it's hard to argue against that too. I obviously got to share the details of your presentation report and it is really interesting. A little bit frightening, a little bit depressing, but I kept thinking that there seems to be a huge cause of it all was the decline of the economy. Now, one might say, well, what that meant is that it just suddenly revealed a lot of inaccuracies and untruths that leaders and Ponzi schemes and all sorts of financial, particularly people in the financially industry were practicing, but the economy is just awfully important to bringing it all back up, to a degree, isn't it?
Mark: I think the economy definitely drives kind of a level of trust and you see a correlation between economic performance in emerging markets, for example, high growth markets like China and India and Brazil, which didn't feel the effects of the 2008-2009 recession in quite the same way, that trust never really hit the bottom there the way it did in Europe and in the U.S. And if you look at where trust now is still most fragile, it's in Europe, which I would argue is in kind of the shakiest economic state of the regions of the world.
Russ: Right. It was also real interesting by sector, technology getting some of the best grades in trust and then the financial industry, some of the worst.
Mark: Yeah, I mean technology for year has been – one of the questions we ask the respondents is, “Do you trust individual industries?” and we run through a laundry list of about 20 industries and technology for the last five or six years has been at the top. Since 2008, banking and finance have been at the bottom.
Russ: Wow. And I also noticed that spirit and brewing ranked pretty high in the U.S. Is that right?
Mark: it was a – last year, that kind of industry shot up to the number two position in the U.S. and you know, my humorous analysis of why is because we all needed a drink after the political season we lived through in 2012.
Russ: Well, I'll drink to that for sure. Mark, I really appreciate you coming and sharing some of your time with us here on the Businessmakers Show.
Mark: Once again, it was a pleasure to be invited. It was great seeing you again.
Russ: You bet. You bet. That's Mark Hass, the U.S. president and CEO of Edelman. And this is the Businessmakers show heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com.