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On the Case With…

Each month, as part of “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA asks an industry leader to reflect on his or her career and make a “business case” for public relations.

More from “On the Case With…”

On the Case with Todd Defren

April 4, 2011

Todd Defren is principal at SHIFT Communications and an internationally recognized social media and PR innovator. He has helped make SHIFT one of the fastest-growing PR agencies in the United States. SHIFT works with clients such as Club Med, Quiznos, Jim Beam Brands, Bing and Wells Fargo from its offices in New York, Boston and San Francisco. His PR-Squared blog is routinely ranked as a top-20 marketing blog on Advertising Age’s Power150 list.

Name: Todd Defren

Childhood ambition:
Novelist and international gadabout

Current livelihood:
PR agency owner and professional PowerPoint jockey

What changed (i.e., how you became interested in public relations):
I fell into it. I was 22. My fiancée was pregnant. We were on welfare. I needed a job and knew how to write. I took the first job that came along [which was in public relations].

First public relations job:
PR coordinator, Jamaica Water Properties (now part of Siemens)

What you know now that you wish you’d known then:
Everything’s gonna be alright.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
“Sack up and jump in.”

Greatest professional accomplishment: So far?
The Social Media Release and Social Media Newsroom templates — but I still have a long way to go!

If you weren’t in public relations, you would be:
A professional video game tester or an international gadabout

Desired legacy:
To create a lasting agency whose accomplishments and culture are renowned for their creativity.

Make a “business case” for public relations:
Thanks to the rise of social media, public relations has finally moved from “media relationships” to “public relationships” — we are only now able to fulfill our industry’s original charter. Forget ROI for one second (though not forever, because it is important). In my view, any company that does not participate in public relations and social media is abdicating responsibilities to its stakeholders.


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