Oral Histories

Ron Culp

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics/Qualities of PR Professionals

Ron Culp Biography

Ron Culp is the professional director of the Graduate PRAD program at DePaul University and an independent public relations consultant. He was the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of the Midwest operations of Ketchum, has a 30-year career that spans a broad range of communications activities in government and the business-to-business, consumer products, pharmaceutical and retailing industries. Most recently, he was Managing Director and Chairman of Citigate Sard Verbinnen, where he established the agency's highly successful Chicago office. Culp also served as SVP of PR, government affairs, communications, and community relations for Sears, Roebuck and Co. for 10 years.


Interviewer: Do you think that is going to continue?

Culp: I see no end in sight. I think agencies are, and this is amazing because when I first started out in this profession, I thought you had to have a job as a reporter to get into PR. So and the first several jobs I had in corporate America I would have my HR people screen résumés and I’d be looking for a media experience. And it even start and it probably went the first year or two at Sears and then all of a sudden the light went off and I’m like, you know, these agency people I think have some good ideas. And now I go the opposite. What agency do you work for? If you are going to come and work for an agency, it really helps to have some agency experience, and I only see continued upside on that. And I actually see some corporations, especially smaller ones, just totally outsourcing that function. You know they are going to say okay this person might be responsible for communications, but the kind of stuff that we need is, is broad enough in scope that we can’t build up all of these disciplines in communications, but an agency can just kind of do as a turnkey for us.

Interviewer: So now that you’re in that environment, what qualities and characteristics are you looking for when you hire someone?

Culp: First thing I’m looking for is somebody who really is interested in doing the work. We get some resumes of people who really look good on paper. They’ve taken all the right classes, gone to all the right schools and everything else. One of our most recent hires is from Northern Ohio University. Probably wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar. But because this young person was able to come in and, and through his total passion for this profession and through his incredible research coming in. The other thing, we just have to go read an old issue of Fortune magazine when we were going to, about the company that we were going to talk to. Today they are able to research so much better and have, you know, prepare themselves far more effectively than we were able to, so I think asking the right questions coming into a situation. Not reciting that I know everything about your company or your agency when you come in for the interview but just knowing about it. Knowing what their specialty is. We had people when I was at Sarah Lee Corporation that would come in and talk about how they just love you know the cheesecakes, And that’s fine. But then, now are you aware of the other products we have? And they weren’t aware at that point that we had a Haines and Leggs and Playtex and all these other consumer products because, you know, they grew up eating Sarah Lee cheesecakes so they thought they were coming to a cheesecake factory. And that wasn’t the case. Today you know they’ll come in and they are aware of the various products and they are able to have a conversation, a business oriented conversation, with you about it. So I think you know passion and understanding of the business and wanting to do that rather than you know it’s either between PR and advertising. No it’s not between PR and advertising. You know you are going to come in and then you are going to know what you want to do and you are going to have to put a case together why you are going to be the best person for this PR opportunity. And ask good questions.