Few communication leaders have done as much as Kim Hunter to advance the number of minorities in public relations, advertising and marketing. In addition to his long career that includes key corporate and agency roles, Kim founded three organizations focused on communications, recruiting and scholarship philanthropy. Each role is significant, but Kim’s LAGRANT Foundation likely will be credited for making the greatest contribution to the future of our profession.
The LAGRANT Foundation is committed to increasing the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations by providing scholarships, career and professional development workshops, mentors and internships to African American/Black, Alaska Native/Native American, Asian American/ Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino undergraduate and graduate students. The foundation’s goal focuses on opening the proverbial “door” for minorities by providing the necessary resources and tools not commonly available to many minorities entering the communication fields.
The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations will honor Kim next month with the “Milestones in Mentoring” Award named in honor of PR legend Betsy Plank. In his interview with the Plank Center below, it is clear why Kim is most deserving of this coveted award:
What have you found to be the most important key to having a successful mentor/mentee relationship?
Transparency has proven to be the most important key to a successful mentor/mentee relationship. When my mentees ask for advice regarding the industry I do not shy away from the sometimes ugly details about a career in communication. I am honest about what happens as a result of mistakes and how important their decisions will be for future clients. My mentees respect that I am truthful about all aspects of communication, not just the interesting aspects. My honesty prepares them for their future positions by providing them with a real world perspective.
What is one powerful thing you’ve learned from mentoring someone?
You can learn something from everyone no matter their age nor position. This was by far the most powerful thing I’ve learned from my mentees. As a CEO who has been in this business for many years, it may seem strange that I have learned from those I have mentored but every experience exposes me to a new style of communication, cultural difference or even a new way of approaching a challenge. More mentors need to be open to learning from their mentees instead of assuming they are the only ones who can teach.
What top three ways can our profession’s best and brightest be mentored right now so they will be prepared to assume leadership positions in the future?
By teaching them the importance of:
Taking the initiative: The first step to any communication plan is identifying a need or an opportunity. This is the step that everyone is aware of which can make it both very simple and very difficult. Simple because it is usually obvious what trends are occurring in society and as a professional communicator, you see those and react. However, the difficulties lie in the fact that there are many other communicators just like you who have also identified the same trends. This is when it becomes imperative to take the initiative. As soon as you recognize an opportunity or in my case, an issue, be the person to make the first move and make sure it is a recognizable one.
Pushing the envelope: In my letter to the top 10 agencies in the world, I stated that the entire industry ‘lacked courage.’ This statement, among the rest of my assertive letter, shocked the media. The publication in which I was featured for the letter specifically said my statements “rattled the industry as never before.” However, if I had played it safe and made general comments to a general audience, my letter would not have caught nearly as much traction as it did. More importantly it would not have reached the people who needed to see it the most, the CEO’s with resources to make change.
Being inclusive: Last but certainly not least, you must make sure that everything you do is inclusive. Having the responsibility of professionally communicating on behalf of others is extremely complicated. It involves balancing between your voice and the voice of someone else. You must also consider all possible reactions of your communication from both your intended audience as well as the many others your message reaches. Some companies run into major crises due to the lack of consideration and inclusivity of their messaging. In order to avoid one of those inexcusable reputational nightmares, ensure your message is including as many types of people as possible. I say ‘as many’ because no message is perfect and there will always be at least one person unhappy with your decisions. However, one unhappy person as opposed to an entire race, sexual identity or religion.
What do you see as the differences between mentorship and sponsorship, and how do you approach each one?
Being someone who works in philanthropy and education, I experience both mentorship and sponsorship often. The most obvious difference between the two is the presence of financial support. In a mentorship, the resources being given are things such as pieces of advice and recommendations. In a sponsorship, the main resource given is a financial investment that usually allows for the person being sponsored to be a part of something that benefits their career. My approach to both is very similar in that my main goal is to provide those seeking my resources, with as much as I can to be successful in this industry. I always provide them with the advice I would’ve wanted in their position.
There is a myriad of changes around us. What issues have or will become a “wake up call” to the profession?
An issue that has been and will continue to be a “wake up call” in this profession is the lack of equal representation. I am very passionate about the need for diversity within the communication profession because although there has been some progress since I entered the industry, there has not been nearly enough. It is imperative that as our world becomes more diverse the profession does too because if not we are threatening the accuracy and effectiveness of what we do.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
First, a great brunch. I absolutely love cooking and I am known for my brunches…three cheese souffle, turkey sausage with pears, orange/banana/strawberry smoothie, and then going to whale watching (seasonal), hiking Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens or Lotusland, or a drive to Lompoc/Buellton and then entertaining friends at home for dinner and having a myriad topics of conversation.
If given the choice to trade places with anyone (living or dead) for one day, who would it be and why?
Warren Buffet. I find his demeanor and his approach both to life and the financial markets spot on…
Favorite place to vacation and why?
Anywhere in the Mediterranean: Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain.
My leadership tip is…
lead with conviction.
My mentorship tip is…
be transparent, honest, thoughtful, and direct.
Every mentor is…
different in his or her approach to leadership, problem-solving, and life…be a great listener.
The lesson that took you the longest to learn…
patience and I am still learning the trait…
Habits in your daily routine that strengthen your leadership skills…
plan, forecast, and reflect.
Three things you do to inspire and encourage teamwork…
collaboration, creativity, and innovation.