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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

Brand Manager

John Lockhart likens what he does at People Media Worldwide Inc. to a lawyer – except he represents his clients in the court of public opinion instead of before a judge. “We are similar in that we want to make sure a company has a good reputation, the executives have a good reputation and the brand is protected,” Lockhart said of the services offered by his Westlake Village public relations, marketing and crisis management firm. The 58-year-old Simi Valley resident came to his career after meeting the owner of a Santa Monica public relations firm on a chairlift when Lockhart was a self-described ski bum. Today, with a staff of eight, he offers public relations and marketing communications expertise for clients in health care, education and nonprofits. Along the way he has earned a reputation as someone who can bring people together. For instance, four times a year Lockhart brings together civic and business leaders for the Icons of L.A. series. He also hosts meetings of chief financial officers and is looking to do the same for chief marketing officers. Lockhart also serves on the board of ACG 101 Corridor, a networking group of primarily San Fernando and Conejo valley real estate and banking professionals that meet every month. He met with the Business Journal to discuss the challenges he faces in working with his clients, what others can learn from his career and the pleasures of travel. Question: What motivates you? Answer: More than anything, it’s telling people stories. Being able to engage new audiences for them, get them connected with the people they want to reach, influence or market their products to. Why? It is my training. I have a journalism degree. I got into PR about 25 years ago helping people to define their messaging, tell their marketing stories, define their brands, get their vision understood by the public they were trying to reach. That has been a challenge and a fun opportunity for us. Did you ever work as a journalist? Yes, briefly, in Wisconsin. I went to Marquette, in Milwaukee. So, I worked briefly as a journalist and then I worked in the beer business because I was in Wisconsin. I worked for Pabst as a tour guide and then a marketing person at Heileman, which is Old Style and we had Colt .45 Malt Liquor. What was that like working at a brewery? I lived two blocks from the brewery and the drinking age was 18 at the time in Wisconsin so I could work there. I bartended at night at the brewery. Every nonprofit organization in Milwaukee could use it once a year for a dinner. How did you get into public relations? I went from there (Milwaukee) to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and was a ski bum for a couple of years and sold real estate to rich Texans. I ended up meeting a guy who owned an agency in Santa Monica on a chairlift. This is before email and we had a couple of phone conversations. So, I moved to Santa Monica just on a whim. I ended up getting engaged with the rest of L.A. That was 30 years ago now. How did People Media Worldwide get going? We started as Halsted Communications. In the ’90s we sold to Omnicom, a holding company that owns Chiat/Day, FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, all those agencies. In the mid-90s we left and started a firm again. We were in Encino for a while and then moved to Ventura. We changed to People Media as a way to focus on publications. We started doing publication in vertical categories with a lot of big pictures and small articles, kind of like People magazine. We would still like to do more of that probably with digital publications. That (People Media) was our new name in the early 2000s. Title: President, People Media Worldwide Inc. Born: Duluth, Minn., 58 years old Education: Marquette University Most Admired People: Elon Musk, Rick Caruso Personal: Married, with two daughters Hobbies: Raising horses, travel What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career? Getting clients to understand the value of what we do and to allow us to have our outside expertise to help with their branding and pulling their message together in a more concise way. We are a third party and come in to make sure the client is ready for primetime. If they have issues they sometimes aren’t very good at internally managing those. Why is that important? If you are looking to sustain a for-profit company or a nonprofit entity, you want to make sure the audience you are working with, your investors or your donors, are going to be supportive and continue to support you, continue to buy your products and be loyal to your brand. We have focused on that kind of reputation management and reputation building. Who are your clients? Our clients have included USC Marshall School of Business, Cal Lutheran, Pepperdine University, St. John’s Seminary here in Camarillo, those kinds of educational institutions. In health care we’ve done Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, a variety of smaller biotech and medical device companies; MiniMed in the Valley that is now part of Medtronic. All of the Al Mann companies, basically. Pacesetter Systems, which got sold St. Jude (Medical Inc.), Advanced Bionics, those companies that Al created. In the nonprofit area, we’ve worked with the American Cancer Society, the Red Cross, United Way, the Salvation Army, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Did you ever meet Al Mann? Oh, yeah, I’ve been to his house. He was an amazing guy. Talk about a serial entrepreneur who influenced a lot of peoples’ lives in a lot of different categories, from cardiac to diabetes to cochlear implants. What can others learn from how you’ve conducted your career? I would say don’t rush into anything and think critically about your career as well as your approach to life. You have to make sure to look five to 10 years out on your career path and be involved with a company or group of people you want to work with. A long time ago somebody told me, find where you want to live and build your life around that. I come from the Midwest, I grew up in Minnesota and California has been a great experience because I came from a place where you were who your daddy was and that defined your life. Here in L.A. you can be in this market and be whoever you want to be and people will pay you to reach your potential. How have you ever turned down clients? Oh, yeah. If it is anything illegal or moral issues that have caused us concern, we have to protect our own professional capability. We have had crisis clients that have come to us and asked us for help and when we checked it out there was a backstory there that made us not want to represent them. You have developed a reputation as someone who brings people together. Why? We have noted in today’s media market it is all about gathering people because nobody watches the same TV, reads the same paper, even pays attention to the same digital or social media. In order to build an audience or support within an audience it is still reaching frequency, one of the old standards in marketing. You have to have a good message, you have to tell it frequently to an audience that is interested in listening. So, we gather people through the CFO Focus events, the Icons of L.A. with some frequency so you can meet and engage with those people and have an understanding there is a mutual success involved in reaching their goals. Companies are looking to do mergers and acquisitions. Executives are looking to keep their jobs or get the next job. In order for them to engage with professional peers they need venues to do that. That’s what we have been trying to provide through some of these events. Why did you start these events? I am a member of the Rotary Club of L.A. We meet at the California Club every Friday and I think I learned how to do this there. Every Friday it is an opportunity to meet your peers. It is like going to church except it is in a professional environment. You meet your best friends there or professional peers and clients or potential clients. In this area, VICA (Valley Industry and Commerce Association) does an excellent job, L.A. Chamber does an excellent job, the Conejo chamber does a great job, ACG (101) does a great job pulling those people together. What we do is to augment that. We are doing chief financial officers now and we are going to start chief marketing officers program as well. Anything you would have done differently in your career? I wish I had more education. The idea you can get an MBA, a PhD, a law degree, any of those are great because they allow you to be a peer at the table. I have been in meetings with large companies especially where they have asked me where I got my MBA and I’d say, “I don’t have an MBA.” That’s been a challenge. Get as much education as you can so you have it for your life. As my mom used to say, education is something nobody can take away from you. What is a typical day for you? I get up early because I have horses. I feed them at 5:00 in the morning. I will get on the phone. We have clients on the East Coast so I will get on the phone with them. I do a lot of my writing and thinking from 5:00 to 8:00 in the morning. That is my time to get a lot of the content and writing done that we need to do for the day. Then I work with the team as people come in during the day. We are working with people on the East Coast; our graphics guy is in Bend, Ore. and so we do a lot of that stuff first thing in the morning. I end up leaving for client meetings during the day, usually lunch with a client, media person or a prospect. Evening events, networking events are two, three nights a week to engage either with potential clients or current clients. What is the last book you read? “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” which is now a Hulu TV show. The book is scarier. I like historical fiction or biographies about William Randolph Hearst or Joseph Kennedy. I read a lot of those kinds of books. I like history told through a biography and it is great way to learn history. Who is your most admired person? I like the audacity of someone like Elon Musk. I like how he thinks about putting people on Mars and then what he is doing for the environment here with the electrification of cars and homes and how he is into the hyperloop. Regionally I like people like Rick Caruso and the communities he is building around the area. Building places where people can base themselves and live and work within a four, five block area is great. Your daughters are adopted. How did that come about? My wife got involved with an international adoption group. We adopted our first daughter from China. She’s 22 now and just graduated from UC Berkeley. Our other daughter is from Vietnam and she goes to Moorpark College. She’s 19. They were great kids. And it was fun to go to China and spend a month during the adoption process, and then go to Vietnam. I would have kept going and done more kids if we had the resources and the time. I encourage people if they have the ability and the interest, adoption is a great way to change a kid’s life. What are your interests outside of work? Horses. I have gotten a little bit into horseracing and going out to Santa Anita. We have adopted a few ex-racehorses and converted them into jumpers. We do “eventing” – dressage, show jumping and cross country over three days. I learned that when my kids were growing up out in Fillmore with us and it was kind of boring for them. We got into the horses as a way to enjoy the country. We started competing and one thing led to another. Where do you like to travel? I am big believer that you should see the U.S. and get to the beautiful things we have in this country before you head internationally. A lot of people go international because they think that is where everything is, but we have beautiful things here. What are some of your favorite places? Getting up to Vancouver, which is Canada and where my wife’s family is from, is a favorite place. My brother is in Jackson Hole, so going there and Colorado where I have family there. Anything in the Rockies and west is great. What about the East Coast? I still love going to New York. We have clients in Washington, New York and New Jersey, we end up going back there. I enjoy the opportunities for the culture in New York, just being around the museums. But the natural beauty of the Western U.S. is amazing. Any places you want to see but haven’t yet? I haven’t been to King’s Canyon. I have not been to Yosemite as an adult.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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