Silver Star: James J. Roop, APR, Fellow PRSA, on Volunteering and the Anvils

June 1, 2015

James J. Roop, APR, Fellow PRSA
James J. Roop, APR, Fellow PRSA

James J. Roop, APR, Fellow PRSA, has been involved with PRSA for more than 40 years.

“What’s not to like about networking and continuing education?” Roop says. “I think it’s important to give back to both your community and your profession.”

Roop has more than 35 years of PR counseling experience. Before founding the Cleveland-based Roop & Co. in 1996, he served as chief operating officer of Watt, Roop & Co. (now Fleishman-Hillard) for 15 years, which was then one of the Midwest’s largest independent PR firms. Earlier in his career, Roop was vice president for both Burson-Marsteller and Ketchum.

He is the chair of PRSA’s Honors and Awards Committee and past chair of the Financial Communications Professional Interest Section. Roop is also the past president of the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Chapters.

Under Roop’s direction, his client projects have won seven Silver Anvil Awards. In 1999, he received the Greater Cleveland PRSA Chapter’s Lighthouse Award for lifetime achievements.

Roop is a graduate of West Virginia University, chairs its North Coast Cleveland alumni chapter and sits on the advisory board for the journalism school. He is also the immediate past president of The Hermit Club, America’s oldest private club devoted to the performing arts, and is on the board of trustees for Malachi House and Home Repair Resource Center.

Here, Roop speaks with Tactics about his PRSA experiences and the one thing that new PR professionals must do:

What was your dream job as a child?
By the time I was in junior high, I knew I wanted to do something with journalism. I liked writing and it came pretty easy to me.

How did you get your start in public relations? And how did you come to start your own agency?
After a couple of college internships, I started my career at Ketchum in Pittsburgh, which was its headquarters at that time. It was a great place to work, and I still have several friends who I worked with there. After a stint at Burson-Marsteller in Chicago, I moved to Cleveland for a “ground floor” opportunity at an agency being started here. A few years later, that firm had grown significantly, as did my equity stake in it. I sold my interest in that firm and started my own in 1996.

How would you describe your personal leadership style? Also, what makes a good leader?
I’m pretty hands-off. Over the years, I’ve been privileged to be surrounded by a lot of good people who are self-starters. As for what makes a good leader, I subscribe to the philosophy of the founder of one of our clients, RPM International Inc.: “Hire the best people you can find. Create an atmosphere to keep them. Then let them do their jobs.” I’ve worked with this client for 25 years, so I guess the Kool-Aid has taken.

What are some challenges you face in your day-to-day job as president, CEO and executive director of Roop & Co.?
We’ve been fortunate to have great continuity of both staff and clients. Once we get a client in the door, we rarely lose them. But new business is a challenge for us, as it is with many agencies. In the Midwest, client relationships tend to be long-lasting, not just with us but with our competitors as well. This means that new business is often a long and drawn-out process.

The Silver Anvil evening is always one of the highlights of the year for PRSA. Is there a particular evening that stands out to you?
Any one of them when we’ve won an Anvil is special. But the one that stands out was in 2009, when I recruited my friend, Terry Stewart, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (recently retired) as our guest emcee. He was a very unconventional choice at the time, as we had mostly media types in that role previously. He hit it out of the park, so much so that we brought him back a second time in 2013.

How do you think that the Silver Anvil has maintained its iconic image in the PR profession?
Even though awards programs have proliferated over the years — and some of them are quite good — the Silver Anvil arguably has the most rigorous requirements for documenting all aspects of the four main steps in a program: research, planning, implementation and evaluation.

What has been the most significant change that you’ve seen with the Silver/Bronze Anvil’s evolution in your time as Chair of the PRSA Honors and Awards Committee?
Probably the move to electronic judging this year was the most revolutionary, and certainly was a huge effort on the part of Silver Anvil chair Terry Bowen, as well as several key staff members, including Karla Voth, John Bomier and John Gumbinger.

You’ve been a member of PRSA since 1973. Why do you think it’s important to be involved in organizations that focus on networking and continuing education?
The answer is in the question. What’s not to like about networking and continuing education?

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your 35-plus years in the PR profession?
That’s a tough one. I’d say learning how to empathize. That quality is absolutely critical in dealing with clients, staff and suppliers.

How would you describe the market for PR professionals in the greater Cleveland area?
It is pretty strong, but not strong enough to absorb all of the recent PR graduates from the great, nearby universities. On the corporate side, our booming health care economy has created a lot of opportunity in public relations. The agency side is more fragmented than it was when I first moved here, but it is very vibrant and growing.

What advice do you have for those looking to break into public relations?
Internships, internships, internships

What trends do you see on the horizon for public relations?
This has been going on for a while, but the role of public relations as part of an organization or as an agency supporting an organization continues to broaden exponentially with the growth in social media, websites, apps, etc. No more than 15 percent of our revenue now comes from conventional media relations.


Getting to Know Jim Roop, APR, Fellow PRSA

Favorite movie?
“The Shining”

What are your daily sources of news?

The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Plain Dealer, Fox8 and Fox News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and Facebook, which gets me to all of the weird stuff I might not see.

Favorite thing to do in your downtime?
Read and garden

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


Mike Fulton says:

Jim is a fellow Mountaineer and has given a great deal to the profession -- his employees, clients and colleagues! Wonderful words of advice and very worthy recognition of Jim Roop!

June 7, 2015

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