In this month’s Trusted Advisors series, NATIONAL’s web editor meets with a true veteran innovator and respected leader in the public relations industry, Rick Murray. As the recently appointed managing partner of our Toronto office and chief digital strategist for the Firm, Rick brings our team a unique vision, insight and understanding of the business and how it’s evolving.
Rick, after spending over 20 years in the U.S., what convinced you to move back to Canada and join NATIONAL?
I feel like I’m an incredibly lucky guy. I’m joining a great firm, independently owned, leader in Canada, and I get to head up one of the flagship offices. I also get to support the rest of the company with its digital strategy, and that’s an opportunity I’m really excited by.
As you take the helm of our Toronto office, is there a specific vision or daily practices you wish to convey and implement?
The things I try to live by, the things I look for and the things I think we need to deliver to our clients – both in terms of what we do and how we can be successful in our business, in our firm, and as leaders today – can largely be summed up in what I like to call the “7 Cs”:
Curiosity: First and foremost, there’s a real need to constantly be curious in our business. To a great degree, we’re in the news business – in the business of delivering information to people and engaging them in real time. There’s no way you can do that effectively unless you’re curious, unless you know what’s going on around you in the world. Curiosity is a tremendous value and plays into a lot of what we do in terms of problem solving for our clients.
Creativity: A creative idea is born out of what is happening in the world around us; anything that isn’t steeped in true insight of what’s going on will be less impactful. I also think that creativity doesn’t just apply to things that win awards. It’s also in really smart problem-solving for our clients, and in finding new and different ways to help them address the challenges that they’re facing.
Collaboration: With technology’s increasing role in our jobs, it’s now impossible to deliver without collaborating with those around us. This collaboration can have an influence on the way we work and on the responsibilities we have, but it’s an essential evolution across practices, across levels, across offices and even with partners outside the Firm.
Communication: I’m a huge believer in open, honest, transparent and direct communication at all times. I think it’s critical internally and with clients because nobody likes surprises. The only way you can work in a collaborative environment is to have solid communication.
Constant Change: The business that we are in today is not the business that we’ll be in a year from now. It won’t look the same, and we’ll be doing things differently, with new technologies and new techniques, for different results and at a different cost. All these things play into how we need to constantly adapt what we do so that our clients ultimately always remain winners in the process.
Culture: We’re a people business. We’re in the business of influencing behaviour and opinions. We need to create an environment for our employees that is one that allows them to grow, to learn and to fulfill their personal goals while helping clients succeed at the same time. Creating that kind of culture is really important.
Community: None of us works alone, and none of us lives alone. I think that looking at the brands NATIONAL, Sonic Boom, AXON and Madano as one community of talent and people is incredibly powerful. That’s what we bring to the clients that we serve.
Ultimately, all of these values mean nothing without clients. That’s why we’re here: to serve them and to help them win. And I think that if we address the 7 Cs, our clients will win in the end. And if our clients win, we win.
In addition to your role as managing partner of our Toronto office, you’re also chief digital strategist across the Firm. Can you tell us how Digital has so far influenced us in the way we do business, and why it has become such an important and valuable asset?
We all live digital lives today. Every one of us carries one if not more than one cellphone. We use it to do everything that we do: get our news, read books, buy things, play games, stay in touch. This device that we have in our hands is more powerful than any computer built before 2005. It’s staggering to think about what’s in our hands right now and allowing us all this mobility.
Now here’s why that’s important:
- According to Moore’s law, computing power processing power doubles every 18 months;
- Mobility – and the demand for it – will only increase;
- As our job is to engage with our clients and stakeholders wherever, whenever and on whatever, we need to be thinking of ways to truly engage people on their terms. And when we customize, measure and track that communication and its impact all the way through a purchase funnel, only then can we actually truly assess ROI. All of these things are possible today but weren’t two or three years ago.
Would you say that it’s as much a question of keeping an eye on what’s coming next and mastering what’s actually happening now?
We need to know what’s practically doable today, and keep our eye on what might be doable down the road. I think NATIONAL has done a great job so far, but we’re not going to go 100% digital tomorrow. A lot of the world is still analog. This reality is also our clients’: some are analog with a bit of digital, and some are all digital. The challenge is to figure out how to play in all these landscapes simultaneously and do so in a way that is collaborative. The trick is not focusing on adopting a particular technology, but to focus instead on the behaviour, on how individuals are getting and consuming information. And that is fundamentally what our clients are paying us for. It’s to help them get involved in the process earlier and better than their competitors.
Fun facts about Rick
I was born in: Montreal
Favourite food: Sushi or a good curry
Favourite movie: Caddyshack
Favourite book: The Catcher in the Rye
If I didn’t work in PR… : I’d teach at a college
If I could be a superhero, I’d be: Robin Hood
If money didn’t matter… : I’d open a combo bike, surf and guitar shop by the beach
If I could be on a reality TV show: I’d be a judge on Iron Chef
My number one travel destination: Anywhere warm!
If I could be any celebrity for 24 hours, I’d be: Walt Disney
Favourite past time: Cycling and playing the guitar
Person I most admire: My wife, Lea
First concert I ever went to is: Sly & the Family Stone at the Montreal Forum in 1970
Favourite band/musician: Grateful Dead, followed closely by Neil Young
Guilty pleasure: Really good parmesan cheese