"What a long, strange trip it's been." -- Jerry Garcia
Since I found social media religion in 2005 and let RSS into my heart to become a born-again communicator, I've watched the business evolve at both the agency and client side and have taken part in the foolish "we're better suited to own it than you" debate. As an employee at Hill & Knowlton, I've had the opportunity to experience both inter-discipline warfare and collaboration over social media strategy, insights and execution with our cousins in advertising, interactive and media planning. The reality is the real success for clients comes with collaboration not conflict, but I'll save that for another post...
The trip I'm alluding to is the decision I've made to leave the comfy confines of Hill & Knowlton and the PR community to join the ad/interactive world of Proximity Worldwide's Toronto office as VP, Social Strategy. Yes, I'll be reunited with my buddy and former colleague Collin Douma, but that's only part of what drew me there. Bringing a little of my PR mindset to the ad/interactive side of social media is also very inviting. Ed Lee (Tribal DDB) and Ian Barr (Cosette/RocketXL) broke this ground a while back, so I know who I'm going to for transition tips.
Without slagging the PR industry that's been my home for 18 years, I'm looking forward to the scale and scope afforded to the integrated ad/interactive agency. (Proximity is part of the BBDO advertising agency and they work closely together for some of Canada's and the world's top brands.) And "social" is the word on every client's lips these days, so the opportunity is huge for Proximity since as I've noted above: inter-disciplinary collaboration is the engine that drives social media success at the agency level. I'm honoured and grateful to become a part of such a prestigious agency at such an important time in their history.
But to pursue this direction, I have to say farewell to another great firm. Hill & Knowlton is a top-flight agency and I've enjoyed my time here immensely. The opportunity I was given to create the role, build the digital communications expertise in Toronto and work with a raft of blue-chip clients was the highlight of my PR career. CEO Mike Coates and GM Jeff Smith gave me a lot of rope with which to hang myself...and I used most of it over the years. They have been generous of spirit and more patient and supportive than necessary as I have been transitioning over the last several weeks.
The chance to collaborate with great colleagues like Lynn Crymble and Boyd Neil in Toronto, Brendan Hodgson and Cassandra Richards in Ottawa and Michelle Sullivan in Montreal has been truly wonderful. We've laughed, yelled, cried, cajoled and coerced in the interest of creating some of the finest thoughtfully strategic and creative work you can imagine for clients in all sectors. That's what happens when you get to work with people who you consider as both friends and colleagues you hold in the highest regard.
I've also been lucky enough to work with some great colleagues internationally, particularly the folks in our London office who look after the UK and EMEA, including the evervescent Gaylene Ravenscroft, the inventive Candace Kuss and the visionary Niall Cook. They are doing great things for this company, so I'll be keeping on eye on them from this side of the Atlantic.
It's been three years of great clients, great work, great friends and great times. I start a new chapter to the story on November 15. More to come...