Leadership on Accounts with Matt Friedman



Matt Friedman graduated from the Newhouse school in 1994 with a degree in broadcast journalism.  As a student he never thought about a career in public relations but admitted he only saw the tip of the iceberg that represents our industry.  Friedman is currently the co-owner of Tanner Friedman-Strategic Communications, a fast-growing firm with a focus in media relations, brand and message development, public relations, community relations, internal communications, crisis management and media training.  They serve public companies, private ventures, non-profits, professional service firms and associations.

Friedman has been back to visit Syracuse University almost every year since graduation.  When he came to campus last week, not only did he hit up places like Varsity, Dinosaur Barbeque and Cosmos, but he made it a point to speak with Newhouse students about leadership on accounts.

17ee24bQ: How did it feel to be back at your Alma Mater?

A: I love coming back.  I’ve been back almost every year since I’ve graduated.  It’s one of the highlights of my year.  I really enjoy seeing friends and meeting students, and I love the feeling of coming up University Avenue and seeing Newhouse and all the buildings.

Q: Why do you think it is important to talk about leadership on accounts?

A: Leadership is really what we get paid for in this business.  Our clients are looking for a level of leadership.  Individually, the most fulfilling careers tend to be when you are in a position of leadership.  The best way to make an impact is being able to design and implement a successful strategy.  The only way to do that is do develop leadership skills along the way. I see a great opportunity in teaching young people starting out some things I wish I had been taught, and I appreciate being given that opportunity last week.

Q: What do you think makes an effective leader?

A: An effective leader in public relations has the same qualities as one in any other field.  A leader has the ability to listen, act rationally, and engage others in his or her vision.

Q: How can someone learn to be a leader?

A: The best way is to emulate the leaders you respect, and to notice what about them motivates you.  On the flip side, you can learn by watching people you have less respect for and noting what not to do.  Some leadership qualities are innate, but I also think there are qualities that can be learned and acquired over the years by smart people who are paying attention.

Q: How big of a role do you think public relations firms play in organizations?

A: I like to see us play a big role and have a have a seat at the table with those running the company.  I prefer to have access to the CEOs, CMOs and COOs, rather than be glorified assistants.  The ideal client situation is when you are given that opportunity and able to build value.