In September, 275 head of cattle will be set loose in the streets of La Verne. Again.
Let’s face it, most of L.A. isn’t old enough to have many wacky old community rituals like the Calaveras County jumping frog contest or the running of the bulls at Pamplona. So we have to rely on P.R. people to invent ours.
The Public Communicators of Los Angeles gives an annual award to the best all-around P.R. creation of the year, be it an ongoing campaign, a special event, a publication, or whatever. This year’s Best of PRo Award went to Sid Robinson of the L.A. Fairplex, who with boss Doug Lofstrom engineered the L.A. County Cattle Drive in September 1996 an event so popular with the locals that it seems to be becoming an annual tradition.
Robinson imported a cattle herd from Paso Robles, hired 25 real cowboys, put dozens of journalists and community leaders on horseback, and staged the first cattle roundup the city of La Verne has seen since … well, ever.
The cattle drive was actually a three-day event, starting with a reception, a six-mile practice run, a barbecue and chuckwagon races. It culminated on Sept. 28 when the cows were driven through a route lined by cheering crowds in the streets of La Verne, by a phalanx of cowboys, cowboy wannabes and trained cowdogs (who of course did all the real work of keeping the herd from veering off for a trip through the local 7-Eleven). It was a sort of smelly Rose Parade.
What’s the point, you may ask? The entire stunt was a promotion for the L.A. County Fair, whose Wild West Weekend took place Sept. 28-29.
“The thing about the fair is, we’re here for fun, so we can do these kind of crazy things to promote it,” said Robinson, communications manager with the Los Angeles County Fair Association.
The event cost the association about $40,000, and generated massive media coverage most every VHF TV station in the L.A. market sent cameras, Robinson said.
The cattle drive was held in La Verne, even though the Fairplex is in Pomona, because relations between Pomona and the Fairplex are something less than cordial. Neighbors complain frequently about noise from the various auto races and other cacaphonous affairs at the Fairplex.
La Verne, however, generated so much good publicity during the event that city officials are more than happy to cooperate with the staging of another one this year, which will take place on Sept. 19.
“I think this is something we’ll carry on for as long as there is interest from the media,” Robinson said.
There was one thing, however, that put something of a damper on last year’s event. It wasn’t the cowdog that got kicked in the head when it strayed too close to one of its charges (the dog was stunned, but it recovered). It was the fact that the event didn’t increase attendance at the fair.
About 1.3 million people came through the gates last year, down slightly from 1995, despite all the hullaballoo from the cattle drive.
“We’re scratching our heads on that one,” Robinson said.
Headhunter Smooch Reynolds (yes, that is her real name), whose Pasadena-based Repovich Reynolds Group is one of the rare West Coast recruiting firms specializing in advertising and P.R. pros, unveiled what she sees as the 12 most sought-after characteristics for communications executives during a recent convention in Palm Springs.
Surprisingly, it isn’t necessarily experience or technical skills that hiring executives are looking for, according to Reynolds.
“If the mindset match or the cultural fit is off even the slightest, you can have 20 of the appropriate skill sets and it will be an absolute disaster,” Reynolds said.
The 12 benchmarks specify mainly personality traits that are in demand for marketing professionals. They include:
– Personal mindset with optimists more in demand than pessimists.
– A track record of making the right judgment calls in business situations.
– Integrity and credibility among peers, the media and Wall Street.
– Business knowledge.
– A high degree of self-confidence and drive.
– An entrepreneurial mindset, meaning that the candidate takes responsiblity for a job as if he or she owned the company.
Recruiters are not looking for yes-men or yes-women, Reynolds said. She’s looking for candidates who are willing to put their jobs on the line by giving direct and honest counsel.
“One of the complaints, historically, about P.R. people is that they don’t have a place at the senior board table. That’s because too often they have been people who only are willing to tell senior managers what they want to hear,” Reynolds said. “You can be a team player and still be able to give senior management honest, market- and fact-based counsel, whether they want to hear it or not.”
The emphasis on personality traits means that even younger executives have a shot at big-time positions although Reynolds points out that no one is likely to hire someone with five years of experience for a senior vice president’s job. Still, she points out that maturity levels vary, and some 30-year-olds are more qualified than people in their 40s and 50s.
To sum up most of Reynolds’ benchmarks, it seems that independent-minded, self-confident people who don’t require a lot of supervision and are able to come up with creative solutions are the ones who will eventually rule the marketing world.
“The days of the clock-punching mentality are gone,” Reynolds said.
Los Angeles Business Journal staff reporter Dan Turner covers the marketing, entertainment and media industries.