Friday, November 18, 2011

Anne Green: PR Queen

Anne Green (GSAS, '01) is an accomplished musician, literary scholar, and President and Chief Executive Officer of CooperKatz, an award-winning public relations firm. She helped build CooperKatz from the ground up, was named to PR Week’s annual list of "40 Under 40" rising stars in communications, and serves as a guest lecturer in the School of Continuing & Professional Studies—all while jamming out with her husband, the drummer, in their basement in Queens!

This morning, we were fortunate enough to visit with Ms. Green at her office in Midtown. Below, you’ll find an abridged version of our conversation. For the full interview, please click here.


In the early 2000's, after approximately a decade of working in the field of public relations, you entered into the American Literature PhD program at NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Science. Now, as a PR professional with over twenty years of experience, can you talk a little about your interest in English and how that education has tied into your profession?

It’s funny. When I was in graduate school, I was at the same time still working in public relations and helping Andy and Ralph build the company [CooperKatz]. This was a start-up, so I’ve been with them, really, fifteen years, but that was contiguous so there were times where I was part-time here at the office. But I was really focusing on graduate school as well. So I had a foot both in the professional world and in academia.

I think that one thing that was interesting from my perspective in graduate school and being in that program was the heavy duty theoretical orientation, the amount of information you’re trying to absorb, and trying to learn new things very quickly (say, a new theorist, a new work, or a new perspective). I always said that that kind of training was so well-suited for the agency and professional services life that I was also living in. Because, here, we are a generalist firm; we work across many industry centers. So I’m working in technology, health care, higher education—and within a day, I have fifteen or sixteen different subject matters. And the ability to ramp up that information and to quickly speak in that language is what you need to do when you’re in graduate school in the humanities. So I always used to tell my friends [at NYU], “hey if anyone wants to be in this field, in communications, you would be well-suited for that.” And I know a few people who have made that transition. The critical thinking, the ability to absorb so much information, and to see the connections between things—there’s so many connections now between industries—that’s what really what brings value to our clients. Someone who has a broad perspective and oversight, who can make connections and can give them higher-level counsel.

As a leader in the field of organizational communications, what personal or professional qualities do you find most valuable in your role?

Definitely intellectual curiosity—and I say that when I interview people all the time. We’ve talked about this for a long time, so everyone here really knows this, but we look for renaissance people. It sounds funny to say, but the types of people who truly do have interests in many different kinds of things: can ramp up different types of information, can get excited about it (that’s the curiosity piece), and can stretch themselves in various ways. Not everybody is perfectly good at everything. And some people that work in this field are better suited working with consumer clients than, say, technology or business-to-business. We want our people to be able to work in many fields.

We have a lot of people, here, who are coming from a liberal arts background, and some of them are coming from a bachelor’s where they studied public relations. But in terms of what we’re looking for intellectually, it’s still that broad, liberal arts orientation.

Have you seen social media change the field of public relations throughout your career?

Yes, massively. It’s seismic. I think the field of PR is exactly the same [as the field of social media] in that we have to connect to the different audiences of our clients in meaningful ways, in authentic ways, that are relevant to them—and hopefully influence thinking. So digital channels are completely an organic extension of that, right? So I think that for PR, since we’ve always been very good at reaching out to different constituencies with the message that’s right for them, it’s really adaptable to social media. You have to understand who you’re talking to and why you’re talking to them. You have to be able to listen to them.

But it’s challenged the field too. There are a lot of folks in this industry who want to push out the information and want to control it. So it’s been hard for this industry to understand that we’re not controlling the message; we need to work with and understand the fact that we’re getting talked back to—people are talking back to us. annegreen2.jpg

And another challenge is that there are a lot of types of marketing. There’s advertising, there’s interactive agencies, so there’s a sense of “who owns social media?” which is a weird, interesting question.

It’s interesting, and I’ll tell you one thing—keeping up with technology is a full-time job. And, you know, there’s a lot of firms that have a social media specialist. But I really feel strongly that everyone in our whole firm has to stay up-to-date with it and we have to educate each other. So whatever level we’re at, we all really have to stay connected. We all have to be sharing knowledge.

And the hard thing too is that, you know, no one had any cognitive dissonance about using an excel spreadsheet to record data, right? But with Facebook, Twitter, Google +, they’re personal tools too. So it all kind of gets wound up in how you feel, personally, as a human being, about using those tools, and how exposed you want to feel. So people sometimes have a lot more angst about these channels. Everyone has a lot of different feelings about privacy and about access, so when these things are also business tools, it gets a lot more messy. And we used to talk in academia about the personal versus the public, and I really see that now in the business world. So that’s another way that my academic background informs me.

To read more about Anne Green, her perspective of a graduate education, the role of music in her life, and even a brief opinion about the recent Penn State crisis, be sure to read her entire interview.

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