Michael Kempner: Founder, President & CEO at MWW

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Michael is a nationally recognized authority on crisis management, public affairs, business to business, consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility, Michael has been honored with several of the industry’s top recognitions, most recently the Alumni Recognition Award from American University for 2013; PR Executive of the Year by both the 2013 American Business Awards and the International Business Awards, as well as, International Business Awards 2012 PR Executive of the Year; Bulldog Stars of PR 2012 Agency Professional of the Year and PR Blogger of the Year; American Business Awards 2012 PR Executive of the Year; and PR Week’s 2010 Public Relations Executive of the Year. PR News also named Michael CSR Professional of the Year, and he was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame in 2009. An active member of his community, Michael served as a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, appointed by President Barack Obama, as a Founding Board Member of ConnectOne Bank and a board member of Goodwill Industries International, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and the Center for Food Action.

1) How did you get into the PR industry and why?

It was always my dream to have a career in politics, so the summer before my sophomore year of college, I received my first big break, a job running errands for New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne in his Washington, D.C. office.  That turned quickly into an internship which then turned into a full time job as a D.C.-based legislative assistant to Governor Byrne.  Fast forward through the Democratic National Committee, Legislative Director to a Congressman and a stint as the head of a chocolate company, I decided it was time for a new career direction.  While deciding on what job to apply for, I began to realize that the incredible experiences I had in the public and private sectors had taught me a true hands-on approach to marketing, strategy and public relations. So, instead of looking for a job, I started MWW in 1986 with one client, a tiny office in New Jersey and a cell phone the size of a toaster. Today, we're one of the nation's top independent PR firms, and suffice it to say, it's been an incredible journey.   

2) How does your firm utilize social media and stay ahead of competitors?

Social media is a critical component of all programming we do at MWW.  And while the communications landscape has shifted and our tool kit is constantly evolving, our mission remains the same, to impact and engage key stakeholders.  But, to break through the clutter there's an even higher premium today on crafting targeted, relevant and impactful content.  By using deep insights and a data driven approach to social media marketing, we can select the right channel and narrative to create marketing movements for our client brands, issues and objectives.  And by marrying targeted paid media, whether it is Facebook, native advertising or a host of other vehicles, we can create important catalysts for our social programs as well as traditional earned media campaigns.   What makes us unique is our ability to engage and motivate action from key stakeholders in each of our core practice areas.  Consumer, corporate, public affairs and crises, each with their own strategies, call to action channels and engagement strategies.  

3) What is a great night out like to you?  

I truly enjoy a great meal and a long walk in place I have never been before. I am incredibly curious, and I love to learn about new things and see new places. I am fortunate that my job allows me to travel the U.S. and the world, meeting great people, sampling local cuisine and experiencing great cities.

4) What brands do you rep and what is the niftiest PR move you have implemented for them?

MWW works with a range of clients including Nikon, Samsung, and Subaru and on projects such as the award-winning Stronger Than the Storm campaign for the State of New Jersey.

Because it's that time of year again, I'm proud to mention our work on behalf of Nikon at SXSW.
For the past two years, Nikon partnered with the title sponsor of the music showcase Warner Music Group (WMG). With over 25 Warner artists performing at the showcase, MWW integrated Nikon cameras into all facets of the event, capturing content and encouraging online conversation about the brand and the shows.  Nikon became a trending topic on Twitter for three nights in a row, and reached the top coveted trending spot on Twitter the second night.  

5) What is your life motto/quote?

I have a few that I live by:

On Character - "You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him." - James D. Miles

On Leadership - "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

On Daily and Business life: "If it makes sense, do it; if it doesn't, don't...your gut will never let you down" - Michael W. Kempner

6) What would you say are the top two personality traits someone needs to do a PR job well?

Emotional intelligence and unwavering curiosity are key traits for a PR professional. Every project is a learning experience and time spent with clients and influencers is always time well spent. Doing well in PR means feeding your curiosity by reading everything you can get your hands on, from policy papers to Tweets and blog posts. It is also important to understand that public relations is a lifestyle not just job. It's about living in an always-on world, and having great confidence and a desire to be great every day.  In public relations, you don't get a day off from being the best you can be.

7) Who is your mentor and how do you stay so successful in the PR industry?
I don't have one specific mentor, though I have always observed and learned from people around me – something I continue to do and encourage my staff to do as well.  By listening to business leaders, public relations pros, politicians and philanthropists, I’ve honed my management philosophy, leadership skills and strategic capabilities.  I have always believed in observing what to do and what not to do by watching, listening and learning from others.  By constantly evolving, you and your company remain relevant and fresh to both current and prospective employees and clients.

 Our success is directly tied to our unique industry position and our operating philosophy.  As a leading independent mid-size agency, we can focus exclusively on the only things that really matter: our employees and our clients.  While other agencies start with a spread sheet and a P&L, we start with what's best for our people.  It's a very different way to operate and think, in comparison to the “financial first” focus of other agencies.  We are also deeply committed to operating the agency as “one P&L” – we act as one agency, across offices and practice groups, which helps to create a highly collaborative environment.  We do not judge or motivate by individual geography or practice financials, so there is no competition among our staff members.  In the holding company agency model, clients get the best of a P&L, not the entire agency.  In essence, other practice groups and geographies compete against each other for revenue.  At MWW, our teams are dedicated to making sure our clients truly get the best resources that our agency has to offer, no matter where they sit.  In essence, we live our "Matter More" mantra.  We wake up each day and focus on how we can matter more to our clients, our staff, our community and to each other, and make sure we can help our clients matter most to all of their key stakeholders.