Larry Weber is a globally known expert in public relations and marketing services. He founded one of the industry’s first interactive marketing agencies, Thunderhouse, and has worked with world-class clients including ARM, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Cook Medical, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, and many more. In 1987, Larry started his own public relations company, The Weber Group, which within a decade became the world’s largest public relations firm. The Interpublic Group of Companies purchased The Weber Group in late 1996, and in early 2000, Larry was named chairman and CEO of Interpublic’s Advanced Marketing Services, a $3 billion unit with 12,000 people, and included the company’s public relations, research and analysis, and entertainment holdings.
How did you get into the industry?
I basically got into the industry by accident. When I first started my professional career, I began as a teacher. I was asked to write a brochure during the summer due to the writing skills I exhibited. Since I did a good job on the project, people reviewing it said I should get into the public relations and communications industry and I’ve never looked back.
Any emerging industry trends?
The integration of influencer software in the public relations world is going to be a huge trend. We’re going to start to see companies (especially PR firms) start automating these things.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
One of the industry challenges we’re facing is paid social and how agencies handle blogger relationships. We are in a new reality where clients can pay for editorial opportunities and in this new era, we really need to be sure we are being transparent and exceed client services standards. Additionally, another one of the biggest challenges and potential opportunities for companies is Facebook Live. All of these are good and interesting challenges.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
In today’s world, emerging and Global 1000 companies are either technology companies or attempting to transform themselves by integrating technology into their core. Our agency’s best business idea was to take advantage of both technology and innovation stories to tell a brand’s story in order to shift their image. Because of experience with helping companies evolve, brands seek out Racepoint’s technology origin and pedigree to help them to better understand, strategize and engage in this new reality.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We will continue to market our influencer software abilities, by heavily focusing on FieldFacts, Racepoint’s proprietary technology and intelligence tool. Digital advocacy will also be a large part of our focus, as it will only take off from here.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the continued transformation of an industry that can no longer just do PR. And the definition of a successful PR campaign today, has creative and paid elements attached to it. So overall, integrated campaigns are proving the most effective. We called the importance of integration many years ago and were many steps ahead when we integrated our agency 4 years ago. We merged our earned shop with our digital shop and added additional teams and services, including creative, paid media, technology, SEO, etc. We adapted to a new model early on, and it’s proved to be an extreme success for us.
Additionally, we’ve seen an increasing number of large agencies dipping into the mid-size agency space. In order to continue the success of Racepoint Global, we decided to keep our size as is, which has created a small agency feel but one that offers large agency capabilities and offerings and delivers stellar results.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Perhaps not a difficult moment, but it can sometimes be a challenge to step into a different mindset when you need to strategize at a very high level. It’s a state of mind we need to be better at stepping into at a very fast pace. I find that oftentimes, communications professionals tend to be great executers but we need to remind ourselves to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
One thing that hasn’t changed for our clients is results. Creating an experience that will get our clients the results they desire is important to me. Our client’s main goal is to get more recognition and become closer to their customers. A second is the importance of chemistry with their teams. This is a must in order to be successful. Lastly, listening. We need to be stellar listeners and truly hear what our client’s needs are.
How do you motivate others?
For me, it’s all about the environment. I really try to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing and working together and aim to create a relaxed place of work compared to a hyperactive and stressful one.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Always be in the know, especially when it comes to a new business opportunity. Up to the minute you’re stepping into a new business pitch meeting, make sure you do one last search on Google News so you are aware of all news related to the prospect’s brand. It’s one thing that many of people in the industry forget to do.
Larry serves on a number of Boards of corporations, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. He is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX), the largest interactive advocacy organization in the world. In 2013, Larry was a speaker and a member of Oxford’s 2013 Union Debate team at the annual Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford at the Saïd Business School. Larry has authored five business and marketing books, including The Provocateur: How a New Generation of Leaders Are Building Communities, Not Just Companies (Random House/Crown Business, 2002), business bestseller Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business (Wiley & Sons, 2007, with a second edition in 2009), Sticks & Stones: How Digital Business Reputations Are Created Over Time…And Lost in a Click (Wiley & Sons, 2009), and Everywhere: Comprehensive Digital Business Strategy for the Social Media Era (Wiley & Sons, 2011) and his newest book, The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric, was released in Spring 2014.