Wednesday - August 24, 2005
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David McNeil with twin daughters Skye and India,
who he says changed his view of the world
I’m grateful to MidWeek for the opportunity to author this column. My preference would be to write about the fun I’m having raising my twin girls, now 2 and half years old, but like most proud fathers I’d go on and on, and really, this is meant to be a business commentary.
But there is a connection. Being a dad has changed my view of the world. I worry much more about global warming, international terrorism, Hawaii’s future, the quality of education, even dating (sigh … they’re already showing a fondness for boys). Along with my wife Helen, comes the responsibility to raise well-rounded individuals with the confidence and skills to succeed in their chosen profession. This is where fatherhood intersects with my position as a partner in the public relations firm McNeil Wilson Communications, because much of my job is devoted to nurturing and bringing out the best in the younger members of our staff. First, a bit about our company:
My good friend David Wilson and I founded McNeil Wilson in 1982. Seven years later, we launched an ad agency that has flourished as Laird Christianson Advertising. Add to this Tapestry Interactive, an online marketing and web design service, and I’m proud to say that we have grown to be one of the largest integrated marketing organizations in the state.
More than 75 people are employed in our offices on Bishop Street. Most are young, energetic individuals in their 20s and 30s who reflect Hawaii’s ethnic mix.
My primary focus remains the public relations firm. It’s an exciting business that places McNeil Wilson at the forefront of social change and business trends. On any given day we are hard at work on a variety of tasks from shaping opinions on community issues to promoting the brand offerings of Hawaii’s largest companies.
I enjoy mentoring employees, perhaps more so since becoming a father. It’s rewarding to see young people stretching their talents and making the most of their promise. It all begins with the job interview. Some advice for aspiring college graduates looking to get into our profession:
First tip: A typo on your resume — ouch! You lose quite a few points. This is a document you should have carefully crafted, agonized over every word, checked and double-checked. Attention to detail is a big part of our business, or any business, for that matter.
Dress to impress. You’re going to be the person I send out to represent my company. I’m looking at you through the eyes of my clients. If you can’t be professionally groomed for this most important interview, well … remember, this is an image business.
The basic requirements for a good public relations person are to be creative, a problemsolver, a strong writer, someone who will leave no stone unturned in meeting their objective. You have to be bright, but you also need a lot of common sense. That will actually take you a long way.
I ask job candidates if they have ever considered going into sales. The answer is usually no. The truth is, to excel in our profession requires the self-confidence and persuasive abilities of a salesperson. As consultants, we’re selling ideas, strategies, story angles, points of view and a number of other intangibles that can be more difficult to sell than a copy machine or real estate.
Public relations is a craft. You need to be a conversationalist, well-informed, able to speak confidently in meetings, take charge when needed and have a sense of humor. You also need to be a good listener. Much of this ability can be learned and refined through experience and maturity, but I search for signs of these talents in interviews.
If you make the grade and join McNeil Wilson, one of the first things you’ll learn is to respect the press, especially news media. We’re in communication with journalists every day as advocates for our clients’ products, issues and beliefs. We present our side on a position; often someone else will represent another. The press provides a platform for these various points of view and the public gets to be judge and jury.
There’s a lot of stuff out there, and news media are under tremendous pressure to sift through rhetoric, check the facts and get the story straight, usually on a tight deadline. Even though it doesn’t always go our way, we admire them for the job they do.
Good journalism keeps society open and progressive. Having reporters and editors shine a light into the dark corners of our community is an absolute necessity. It is this scrutiny that makes Hawaii and the world a better place. And that’s the world I want for my children.
Next week: Marilyn Cristofori, executive director, Hawaii Alliance For Arts Education
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