HRTS Member Profile: Dick Lippin
Dick Lippin is Chairman and Chief Executive of The Lippin Group, an international public relations and marketing organization with offices in Los Angeles, New York and London. I recently had a chance to interview Dick to discuss carrier pigeons, Wall Street and motivation.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I grew up in a small town in New York with wonderful, giving parents who taught me the importance of ethics and values. As far as a career, I didn’t have a clue and spent most of my time devoted to sports and not to academics. I was not quite sure what, if anything, I would make of my life. When I got to college I woke up for some reason and realized I should get serious about my education. I actually did quite well to the surprise of my parents who you used to call my grades in high school HAPPY C’s which meant if I got a C they were happy!
After college I went to the Institute of Finance and received NYSE, NASD and Chicago Board of Trade licenses. I began my career on Wall Street with no money but a fascination with one thing, what MOTIVATES people to behave in certain ways. In particular, I was fixated on the relationship between “news” and investment buying decisions. The word MOTIVATE has been a key word for my entire professional career.
I left Wall Street with not very much more money than when I arrived and moved to Los Angeles from New York. After wandering for a while, I was fortunate to meet some terrific people in the entertainment industry who hired me to represent them initially, in the area of investor relations because of my financial background. One thing led to another and I opened my own company in 1986, which combines strategic consulting with public relations and marketing.
Q: How did you first get involved with the HRTS?
-The largest part of our Company comes from the world of television through our representation of television companies and networks, television/new media membership organizations and television programming in the United States and around the world. My first exposure to HRTS came from attending the luncheons where I learned a great deal about the industry and met and developed very meaningful relationships with many of the leaders of our business. The association with HRTS was taken to an exciting new level when we were retained by HRTS to represent its interests in 2003, so it has been a great partnership for almost a decade.
Q: How are publicity and PR different today than when you started?
-When I started, press releases were sent by carrier pigeons! The biggest change is the way in which information is disseminated. Today, we are living in a 24/7 world, dominated by rapid online distribution of information which requires far more thought in managing what is disseminated. In addition, greater attention is given, more than ever before, to ensuring that the campaigns we design and implement result in opening the door to new opportunities and enhancing a client’s business interests. Crisis management has also become a more integral part of what we do because the information that gets out into the world these days is delivered fast, but often not correctly.
Q: How will publicity continue to change as a result of the transmedia landscape?
-It will become increasingly more challenging. Client campaigns and strategic plans will require a more in-depth analysis of the timing and direction of messages and a more targeted approach to specific, key audiences. Also, our Company is involved in all the platforms including television, film, music, home entertainment, the Internet and mobile, so different campaign elements need to be designed to address traditional and digital media content distribution to reach the audiences critical to achieving the business goals of our clients.
The international entertainment community is also continuing to grow in importance, therefore, when you do campaigns, you must tailor them to audiences and cultures that are materially different than ours. We have learned a lot over the years having represented companies throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Q: What is your decision-making process when considering a potential client?
-Since virtually all of our business comes to us by referral, I have kept it very simple: (1) Do not take on projects that are outside our sphere of experience and understanding, which is why we specialize in the entertainment and media space; (2) Deliver on what you promise, and, (3) Do not work with people who are going to make your life, or the lives of your staff, difficult. Fortunately, these guidelines have worked very well for us. Over 40 percent of our clients have been with us for 10 years or more.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a publicist?
-I would tell them that like any profession you have to study and learn to be really good. I would tell them to practice analyzing situations and finding solutions. I would advise them to absorb information and news and know what is going on in the world. I would stress honesty and the need to maintain high ethical standards. I would recommend that they develop good verbal and writing skills. I would suggest that if they can’t get exactly what they want financially, they offer their services to public relations agencies as an intern, so they can learn and increase their value. And, I would tell them that what is so important in our business is to ask the question: what is it that will MOTIVATE someone on the outside to find what my client does of interest?
Q: Anything you would like to add?
-When I look back I never dreamed I would experience the incredible things I have in my professional career. I am very fortunate that the path I followed took me to where I am today. I have met and represented an incredible group of people from around the world and many have become longtime friends. But, honestly, the greatest joy I have is being in a position to give back and to enrich the lives of others. That is what is really important to me.