Dan Tisch is President of Argyle Communications in Toronto. Recently, we had a conversation about how Argyle focuses its business and prepares for an economic downturn, the importance of measurement to public relations, the career path that Dan followed to the Presidency of Argyle, and the advice that Dan offers to young people attempting to land their first job in PR.
Argyle was established in 1979, making it one of Canada’s oldest independent PR firms. Noting that many of his current consultants weren’t even born when the firm was established, Dan observes, “There’s something about being associated with a firm that has this level of longevity that makes you think about communications and client relationships as a long-term process.”
Argyle focuses on “sectors of the economy that have a lot of growth and promise.” The firm’s areas of practice include consumer marketing (Nestle, Enterprise Rent a Car), corporate communications for public companies, technology communications and consumer health communications. Argyle is also one of the firms qualified in the Ontario government’s PR pool.
The team at Argyle takes award programs seriously, seeing that as a way to benchmark themselves against the industry. (We conducted our interview in front of a wall bearing numerous industry awards won by Argyle. Clearly, they’ve done well in pursuing this strategy.)
Dan sees an opening for PR firms in an economic downturn. Tough times drive marketers and corporations to examine their budgets and pare back activities that offer the lowest return on investment (ROI). Public relations firms can that public relations offers greater value for the marketing dollar than other forms of communication. Dan suggests that the demonstration of PR’s value should be an industry-wide initiative. (It’s worth noting that this is one of the primary objectives that the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms has defined for itself this year.)
Measurement is essential to demonstrating the value of public relations. And it has traditionally been public relations’ weakness. Dan feels that the Canadian PR industry is making good progress turning this situation around. He points to the Media Relations Rating Points (MRP) standard that has been defined in Canada. As this system evolves and is adopted by a broader range of users, it is providing not only a means of measuring audience, but also a means of measuring cost per contact, cost per impression and the ROI of public relations.
Politics and government have proven fertile ground for developing PR industry leaders. Dan comes out of this tradition. He started his career working for Canadian Cabinet Ministers and government departments. From there, he moved to Environics Communications. He became a partner in Argyle when Environics acquired the company in 2002 and the next year, he became Argyle’s President.
What advice does he offer to young people who want to break into the PR industry? “Get an academic grounding in PR. It is a differentiator that shows you know the basics” when you are seeking your first job. Secondly, research, learn and know the business you aspire to work in. Finally, have the right attitude. In the early part of your career, you’ll be asked to do many things, not just the things you may have set out to do. “You have to be versatile. You have to be adaptable. You have to be receptive to change.”
You can watch the complete video of our interview here.