Gina Boswell | Executive Vice President, Personal Care North America, Unilever
Matthew McCarthy | Senior Director, AXE & Men's Grooming, Unilever
Brian Grissler | President & Chief Executive Officer, Stamford Hospital
Darrell Harvey | Co-Chairman of the Board, Stamford Hospital Foundation, Co-Chairman of the Board, Ashforth
John Edelman | Managing Director of Global Engagement and Corporate Responsibility, Edelman
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
I fell into speechwriting quite by accident.
I was working at JWT New York when a small assignment to help our client Chase Bank publicize their support for a children's literacy initiative arrived. It was to be an innocuous, little newspaper ad—all type—and no one wanted to touch it, so it landed on my desk.
I soon learned the real force behind the initiative was First Lady Barbara Bush. Cool. I also knew the best way to teach children to read is to read aloud to them. Eurika. If Mrs. Bush really wants to help needy children learn to read, she should read to them. All of them. The idea of a weekly radio show called "Mrs. Bush's Storytime" became a multi-year, multi-term national broadcasting event, and my job turned from drafting an innocuous little print ad into creating cheeky, weekly "tune-in" ads with Chase Bank as sponsor.
The first ad showed Barbara Bush standing in front of the White House, her arms folded confidently over her melonous chest, with the headline, "Hear Barbara Bush Huff and Puff and Blow The House Down."
The bodycopy explained the program poignantly.
After a few of these (all them wacky) apparently Mrs. Bush asked, "Who the heck is writing this stuff?" No one new. Her press secretary eventually tracked down this lowly 27-year-old copywriter at JWT and said "Mrs. Bush wants to know if you'd like to write her speeches, too."
"Does it matter if I'm not even American?" I asked.
"She doesn't care if you come from Mars; she's from Texas, you know."
So began eight years of speechwriting for Barbara Bush, all the while keeping my day job at JWT.
Since then, I found myself drafting speeches, presentations, and pitches for agency chiefs, and, ultimately, clients.
This has got to be the best way to solidify a client relationship and move it up above the marketing or public relations department heads. If the chairman or CEO speaks the language of the campaign, it becomes their own, a part of their public persona, and they begin walking the talk. Nothing makes the CMO happier. What's more, many people hate giving speeches —that is, until the day they deliver a great one. From then on, they love it and quickly become dependent on you.
Advertising and PR are all about giving brands and companies a voice; and there's no more poweful way to do that than being the voice of the CEO.