By Melanie Mills
Q. What is Edelman’s work culture?
A: Edelman’s culture is entrepreneurial. Fast moving.
It’s a culture defined by one of Dan Edelman’s sayings: “Everyone is an account executive.” Teams work closely together and partner to give the right solution to the client. All efforts are made collectively.
The more senior you get, the more you need to be a true team player to succeed. You can be a rock star at what you do, but if you don’t know how to build relationships, all other efforts are worthless.
Edelman is also a mentoring culture. People will give you feedback, people will help you with the things that you struggle with, and people will help you advance and sponsor you in the areas where you are really strong.
Q. How do you hire?
A: We like to go a little overboard on the interviewing, particularly for senior positions, just to make sure that the candidate has the knowledge and he/she will be a good fit. I like to tell people when they come on board that it’s not sink or swim but we do throw you in the deep end because it’s the only way you will learn. We hire strong swimmers and we will help you succeed.
Q. What is the leadership philosophy at Edelman?
A: This is very much a “lead from the front” culture. If you are successful here, you are willing to jump in; you are meeting people, making good connections and creating opportunity for your team and for the office. Excellence, curiosity and courage are very much at the heart of who we are and the best Edelman leaders really try to live by those values.
Q. What is the best leadership advice someone has ever given you?
A: During my first few days here at Edelman, the person who hired me to the firm and whom I have known for years, said to me: “You have to get early kill.” If you want to succeed in this industry you have to hunt for results because clients don’t want to wait. You have to get out there, make connections and show results.
Also, my very first boss in the agency world always said: “under-promise and over-deliver.” This, to me, is the golden rule for client service.
Q. How did you get into Public Relations?
A: I have always enjoyed writing. I’m a media junkie and I read a lot. Being a good, clear writer, and being able to write what a journalist would call a “clean copy” were some of my core PR competencies. Midway through my senior year in college however, I decided I didn’t want to be a journalist. I started working for a non-profit organization doing some PR for them. I later worked at a branding firm and a few years after that, moved on to an integrated marketing boutique where I worked as a planner. I don’t have a very traditional PR preparation so when I finally came to Edelman in 2005, I literally didn’t know how to do some of the things my team did. But it worked out and I was able to teach them about branding, positioning, messaging and client relations.
Q. Is there one moment in your career that you are most proud of?
A: After only three years at Edelman as a senior VP, I was asked if I wanted to lead the San Francisco office. That was a big promotion. It was also slightly terrifying because the office wasn’t doing well. When I got there, the situation was worse than I thought. I had to make tough decisions, apply drastic changes, and work hard to attract, recruit, and retain the right talent.
By the time I left the San Francisco office three years later, we had gone from being a 27-person office to having 125 employees. We were in a different office space and had a different position in the market.
I am a believer that if someone believes you can do something, you should say yes. If they are smart, they probably know something that you don’t. But it actually didn’t dawn on me until I had been on the job for two weeks, sitting at my desk at night, when I thought I could actually fail. I am proud that I trusted myself and trusted Edelman’s decision. They saw something in me and because of that, I was able to lead Edelman San Francisco to become the fastest-growing office in the Edelman network.
Q. What is next for Jay Porter?
A: It’s hard to say. I plan to be at Edelman for a really long time. Would I work on the client side or run a company that is smaller and needs my help in the future? Maybe. But for now, I want to continue to work here. I love the people, I love my job and there is still a lot more to do. One of the great things about this company is we are really good at making sure that you don’t have to leave Edelman to get your next adventure.
JAY’S FUN FACTS
- Who inspires you? Michelle Obama
- How would you describe yourself in one word? Interested
- Something that is true that almost nobody agrees with you on? “Y’all.” I’m from Oklahoma and “y’all” is an incredibly important addition to the English language.
- Last book read? Hamilton
- What advice do you give to new college graduates who want to start a career in PR? Read everything.
- What is something that you can’t live without? Coffee
- How do you like your coffee? It has to be 20°F before I stop drinking iced coffee. I like a cold brew, extra ice, and a little bit of milk. A few years ago however, when I was working with Starbucks, my go-to drink was six shots of espresso over ice with a little bit of milk. When your Starbucks clients are frightened of your order, you know you have a problem. Eventually, I downgraded it to just one shot.
Melanie Mills, a native of Bogota, Colombia, is a graduate student at DePaul University. She interviewed Edelman’s Jay Porter as part of the Chicago Agencies course. This is eighth in a series of agency leader interviews.