Wendy Marx: President, Marx Communications

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Wendy Marx is an award-winning public relations and marketing communications executive who helps B2Bcompanies and executives become well-known brands. Wendy planned and executed the original public relations strategy that helped fuel the spectacular growth of Peppers and Rogers Group, the world's preeminent customer relationship firm. For the last 20+ years, she has served as president of Marx Communications, which has helped numerous B2B companies in the technology, financial services, ad tech, manufacturing and professional services space become well-known industry brands. She currently writes a blog on thought leadership for Fast Company, She also blogs on the website of her company Marx Communications. She has been recognized as one of the Top Fifty Women on Twitter and she and her firm have won First Place Gold Mercury Awards. Before founding Marx Communications, Wendy worked for AT&T and GE Capital in marketing and public relations management positions and helped develop the communications strategy behind the highly successful AT&T Universal Card.

How did you get into the industry?

As a one-time journalist, I confess I initially turned my nose up at PR people. I mistakenly thought journalists did all the heavy lifting while PR people had it easy. How wrong I was! I subsequently went back to school and got an MBA in marketing. After business school, I did marketing for AT&T and as part of my work was asked to help out in PR. To my surprise, I discovered I had a talent for it and that PR could be creative and challenging. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Any emerging industry trends?

My agency, Marx Communications focuses on B2B public relations. That means our clients sell to other businesses, not consumers. In the B2B space, several major trends are occurring. One is the importance of influencer marketing. With studies showing that the vast majority of people trust recommendations from individuals, even if they don’t know them, over brands, influencer marketing can make the difference between successful and ineffective marketing. Buried by the overwhelming tsunami of information, we rely on influencers to forge a safe path to decision making. Another trend is the ever growing importance of thought leadership. With the potential of fake news gaining the upper hand, establishing trusted thought leadership can help cut through the noise.

Looking at the state of the overall PR industry, a recent study from USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations (CPR) predicts a convergence of PR and marketing into one discipline. My agency as well as other agencies I know are moving more and more to integrated marketing, where we not only handle public relations but also marketing functions. This trend will only get more pronounced.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

A key opportunity is measurement. For too many years, determining the impact of PR was a crapshoot. You knew it was working but you couldn’t put any hard numbers on it. Now, thanks to the web and new technology it’s much easier to measure PR’s effectiveness and obtain the hard data that means something to a CEO. No longer are you reliant on a sheaf of pretty clips to tell your story but instead can tie a story to click throughs, leads and purchase.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I originally got into PR for the excitement and challenge of getting a story told by the media. I loved doing media relations. Now, however, so many reporters have been laid off and the ones remaining are often overworked, making media relations often more challenging than exciting. That said, there are still those magic moments where all your hard work leads to a terrific story. Fortunately, PR has spread its tentacles into so many other areas leaving media relations but part of a mix that includes owned, shared and paid media. In addition, at our agency, we do inbound marketing allowing PR to truly augment marketing. I anticipate that we’ll be taking on more marketing functions including combined PR and marketing campaigns.

We expect to expand our work in influencer marketing and develop a service dedicated to that. We will continue to look for new and better ways to serve and benefit our clients.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I am a founding member of PR Boutiques International, a worldwide network of elite boutique agencies. We are 37-members strong with representation in 13 countries. It’s a fantastic way to network with agencies around the world, share best practices and insights. Beyond that, members partner with one another to provide scope and scale beyond the reach of one agency. It gives a small agency the heft of a much larger firm without taking away from the attractiveness of a boutique where senior-level professionals are hands on and do the actual work.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

In the tech meltdown of 2001, we lost most of our clients since we were heavily wedded to tech PR. At that time, I realized, we couldn’t simply focus on one industry and expect to survive. At that point, we branched out into financial services, professional services, marketing technology and manufacturing and by now have handled virtually every area in B2B.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We view our clients as partners and to that end do everything possible to enhance their business. That can mean everything from introducing them to others who can help their business to providing trusted counsel. Our clients are at the center of everything we do — ensuring we not only meet but also exceed their needs. To that end, we have an articulated strategy with clearly stated deliverables and use a project management system so that everything we do is transparent.We typically hold weekly check-in calls to keep everything on track and the momentum going. Our goal is to be as proactive as possible while ensuring the client is in sync with our work. At the end of the day, our greatest pleasure is getting results for our clients that make a viable difference in their business. That is what keeps us going.

How do you motivate others?

I try to begin where the other person is. That is, you can’t assume that the other person will react to things or work the same way you do. You need to understand where the other person is in terms of his or her learning style and abilities and start from there. For example, you can’t expect someone who has never written a white paper and has limited writing abilities to be able to pull that off. Instead I try to begin with someone’s strengths. If an employee is good at client relations, for example, I will encourage her to work and improve in that area. That way she can quickly see progress and be further motivated. Once she masters something relatively easy, I will give her more challenging items. I also try to be a role model for the people who work with me. That doesn’t mean I’m stodgy but I always try to be professional and helpful.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Don’t stop learning. You’ve probably heard that before but it can’t be repeated enough. PR is changing faster than a quick-change artist and if you don’t keep up you’ll be backbenched. Read key blogs, attend conferences, take courses, stretch your mind.