One on One: David Landis

Anthony Cogswell / October 24, 2013

…a blog series by Anthony Cogswell

So far as an account coordinator at The Fearey Group, I’ve been confronted with a good deal of challenges and obstacles. Although it may seem unimportant to some, possibly the most persistent and irksome of these would be the creative roadblock I’ve encountered while coming up with a concept for a new blog series. Each week over the summer, I expressed the weekly musings of an intern new to the public relations world and now I’m happy to announce that “One on One” will be the newest installment on our blog. Every few weeks, I’ll be interviewing a seasoned PR veteran to gain and share insights on what it takes to succeed and excel in this industry. Enjoy!

Introducing … Landis

David Landis, President/CEO of Landis Communications Inc. and President of PRGN

AC: Can you define public relation in your own words?  

DL: Public relations is the business of successfully communicating your brand to its targeted publics in an effort to influence constituents in a positive manner.

AC: Can you describe your career/professional journey for us?

DL: I started the way all PR pros did – as a piano major at Northwestern University.  The dedication, discipline and work ethic required to be on the path towards becoming a concert pianist serves one well in the PR industry.  Following Northwestern, I did PR at the Chicago Opera Theatre, the Ravinia Festival and Zonka & Zonka, a local PR agency dedicated to publishing, entertainment and media.  I then moved to St. Louis to become the Assistant PR Director of the St. Louis Symphony at the ripe old age of 21, overseeing their 100th anniversary celebration campaign and introducing their new music director, Leonard Slatkin.  Then, I headed out west to San Francisco, becoming the 23-year-old PR Director for the San Francisco Symphony, opening Davies Symphony Hall in the process. I stayed there 7 years and then took a job as PR Director at KPIX TV, the CBS affiliate in town.  We oversaw several life-changing public education campaigns (one called “For Kids’ Sake, to help address children’s issues, and the other “AIDS Lifeline,” the country’s first AIDS education program on TV).  In 1990, I opened Landis Communications Inc. and haven’t looked back.  We’re nearly 25 years old and have represented a variety of distinguished organizations.  We’ve been a proud member of PRGN for nearly a decade and I’m thrilled to serve as PRGN’s President this year.

AC: What PR campaign are you most proud of?

DL: We helped launch, now the leading online matchmaking service.  We had an idea to turn their in-house director into the “Vice President of Romance,” and with just a new title were able to get her bookings on the Today Show, Regis, 60 Minutes, in People Magazine, the New York Times, USA Today and more. Another great feather in our cap was launching and serving as the agency of record for Old Navy for 7 years.  My favorite program for them involved a Library Reading program tied to 4th of July Old Navy T-shirts. We had a contest to find all the people named Betsy Ross in communities throughout America and then gave checks to dozens of libraries nationwide.

AC: What are three key attributes of a successful PR pro?

DL: Good judgment, great writing skills, and creativity

AC: Are there any absolute do’s and don’ts in PR?

DL: Always tell the truth. Don’t lie. Don’t just believe your client – verify the information.  Put your journalist hat on and question everything. Be transparent, especially in social media.  Let people know if you’re talking about your client or not. Learn proper spelling and grammar. Don’t make typos. Treat everyone with respect (but that one should do in any business).

AC: What is the most important piece of advice you could give a young PR professional?

DL: Write, write, write. And read, read, read – you can’t be a successful PR pro without doing either. And now, make sure you know, understand and participate in social media extensively.

AC: Favorite movie and favorite quote?

DL: One of my favorite movies is Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Just a jewel.  That said, I loved his new “Blue Jasmine,” too, but it’s a bit like watching Blanche Dubois implode.

Favorite quote is painted on our wall: “Happiness comes from the creative effort.”(–Henry Miller)

My other favorite quote? “Let’s have lunch.” (–David Landis)

AC: Do you have any advice about life in general that you find yourself giving repeatedly?

DL: Make sure you’re a well-rounded person.  At LCI, we look for people who aren’t one-dimensional. Those that experience life fully will be better communicators, because they’ve had to deal with many different kinds of people in hundreds of different situations.  And travel.  Travelling opens you up to a world way beyond your own little community and makes you a better person and a better PR professional.

AC: Can you describe the benefits of PRGN?

DL: As members of PRGN, we are able to compete with the big multi-national PR agencies.  We instantly have a global footprint and we’re able to spread our wings immediately beyond our own market.  We can share cultural differences and learn from each other. Perhaps the best part of PRGN is that we have PR colleagues at all levels and in all markets with whom we can share best practices.  That’s golden.

Can you give a brief recap of the recent PRGN meeting in Australia and how it went? 

DL: It was one of the best meetings ever and I really want to thank Mark Paterson and his team at Currie Communications, along with Sandy Lish and Wendy Spivak at the Castle Group in Boston for their help.  We had a smaller but more involved group attending this meeting and it gave everyone a chance to participate more fully. We talked a lot about how best to develop successful new business practices and what PRGN will be doing as part of a new CSR (corporate social responsibility) effort.  In addition, we had several amazing speakers – one in particular, Carolyn Taylor, spoke about corporate culture: how to identify who you are, and how to either embrace who you are, or move to a different corporate culture if that is what you want.  I felt like that alone was worth the price of admission.  On top of all that, Australia is an amazing place: we visited the Great Barrier Reef (put it on your bucket list!), Ayers Rock (Uluru in the native Aboriginal language), Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania.  I even petted a koala bear and a kangaroo!  I can’t wait to go back.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DL: It’s so exciting to be part of the Public Relations Global Network.  Joining this network may be the single best thing we ever did as an agency.  In particular, we are proud to have such a strong member agency as The Fearey Group in Seattle.  To a T, your team is smart, hardworking, creative and results-oriented.  At LCI, we’ve had the pleasure of working with you firsthand.  You provide excellent assistance for the network, not just geographically but in several key PR sectors, including healthcare.  We are so thankful.

I’d like to thank David for taking the time to participate in this new blog series. His advice and suggestions are invaluable to any PR professional looking to make a name for themselves. I encourage everyone to check back in to find more tips and guidance from talented experts who live, breath and make history in PR!

Comments (2)

    Hilary Burns avatar

    Hilary Burns Oct 24, 2013, 10:48 PM

    Thanks for a great Q&A, Anthony and David! I'm so glad the Sydney PRGN meeting went well--we're quite lucky to be involved in such a great global network! Cheers, Hilary

    Tarah avatar

    Tarah Oct 25, 2013, 12:29 AM

    Great Q&A with Landis' fearless leader David Landis. It is so fabulous that PRGN hosts meetings in various places in the world - truly a globally connected network of agencies. Landis is so lucky to be involved with such talented agencies worldwide. Cheers, Tarah

    David Landis avatar

    David Landis Oct 26, 2013, 3:46 PM

    Anthony, thank you for making me sound intelligent. Great job! Cheers, David

    Caleb Kruse avatar

    Caleb Kruse Oct 26, 2013, 9:07 PM

    This is awesome. Great job Anthony!