Behind the Headlines with…Doug Spong

Published: May 14, 2014

Doug Spong serves as President of Carmichael Lynch Spong - 2013 Creative Agency of the Year.

The thing that gets me up in the morning is…My daily dose of inspiration. Every day I learn something new. From the smallest new trick of the trade — Google Glass, an app, an iPhone feature I hadn't discovered — to working through heavy problems with my staff and creating ideas that defy gravity for our clients. That's what's fun and gets me out of bed every morning.

What made me want to go into PR was…I love to write. Always have since I was a little boy in grade school. While I sucked at algebra, I excelled in my writing. Never quite knew where it would take me, but I went in to my undergraduate education with a passion to pursue my gift for writing. I quickly discovered that public relations combines the art of writing, inspiring and persuading with the science of solving business problems and achieving lofty goals while creating wealth for organizations. It's been a magical and fulfilling profession for 32 years.

If I could change one thing about the industry it would be…Exercise your creative thinking and quit talking about best practices. We ought to worry more about original, unexpected ideas than simply doing as well as everybody else. There's no win in playing a par game of PR. People in our industry need to push bigger and better ideas versus doing well at "blocking and tackling" and understanding "best practices." There's no prize for doing what everyone else is doing.

My greatest inspiration is…My two children. Both are attracted to PR, social and creative services as I am. My 23-year-old son is a platform manager for Twitter, Instagram and Vine at one of the world's largest properties in social and an envied brand. My daughter is starting her second year in the school of journalism at the University of Missouri and has aspirations to be a writer in a creative or PR agency. They both leave my mouth wide open with shock and awe at what they already know, how driven they are to lead big, robust personal and professional lives, and their god-given leadership abilities. I was just a young, dumb and excited guy at their ages.

The three things I demand in my colleagues is…First, have fun and be playful at Carmichael Lynch Spong. You spend the majority of your adult life at work, so you have a choice: misery or fun. I choose fun. Second, exude trust. Trust is all we trade on in our interpersonal relationships with clients and one another at work and play. Honesty, sincerity and follow through are hallmarks of trust. Third, success comes from the three "P"s: passion, persistence and patience.

The characteristic I most dislike in people is…Dishonesty. Little white lies have a tendency to add up and erode trust. If trust is a cornerstone of any relationship, then dishonesty is the sin to avoid. I respect clients, colleagues, friends and family who are honest with themselves and others around them. Don't exaggerate. Don't guess. Don't just tell me what you think I may want to hear. I want the cold, hard, unvarnished truth in life. That doesn't mean you have to deliver it with a sharp elbow, though.

I laugh most at…Myself. I'm at home with my quirks and mistakes in life. Sometimes I just crack myself up with the dumb things I think, say and do. That's life, though. It's imperfect and dirty. The times you can laugh at yourself make yourself more bearable to others.

The one website I always check is… It's not easy keeping your own house in order. I want to push our staff to keep our site fresh, inviting, relevant and timely. Nothing worse than a PR practitioner who counsels their clients on creating an online community and then provides a dud of an experience on their own website and social channels.

The most interesting fact about me is…I believe in service leadership. The best leaders awaken to the fact that they exist to serve others more than others exist to serve them. Service-driven leaders speak in "we, us and our" versus "I, me and my." If you work for an "I, me and my" supervisor, get out while the getting is good.

The finest moment in my career so far is…Right now. Today. While I cherish the accomplishments of the past and appreciate the recognitions that have come from founding and building Carmichael Lynch Spong in to a four-time "PR Agency of the Year" and 2013 "Creative Agency of the Year" my finest moments continue to come every day. I learn something new every day. I'm inspired by our staff. I'm surprised by the pleasant, unintended consequences of igniting momentum for our clients. I look forward to achieving remarkable things for years to come.

The next big thing in social media will be…Content creation. It's no longer enough to curate content for consumers through brands such as Pandora and Facebook. Consumers now seek brands and tools that help them create and share their own, original content. Instagram video, Vine and Pinterest are growing so fast, because they provide a simple, fast content creation channel to create and share your ideas.

In five years' time PR will…Finally win the PR category at the Cannes Lions awards. To this point, ad agencies have dominated the PR category with creative, mind-blowing ideas that fundamentally alter behavior. Shameful and embarrassing for our industry. PR firm principals and chief communications officers on the client side are demanding bigger and better ideas. Personally, I believe in a healthy gag reflex to bland, ordinary and expected thinking. I also preach that you have to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince of an idea, so pucker up.

My next vacation will be in…Marco Island, Florida. We own a place on the beach and it's my little heaven on earth. My nirvana. My happy place. My getaway-from-it-all. Nothing beats walking the white, soft sand with my wife of 30 years.

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