Behind the Headlines With Deborah Radman

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DSC_3700=croppedIf you can’t earn your audience’s trust, you won’t earn their business.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, says Deborah Radman, senior associate at The Stevens Group. She recommends personalizing brand communication to build more personal relationships with your audience.

In this interview, Deborah discusses the challenges of communicating with different generations, the growth of social media and the trends that will impact marketing and communication moving forward.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

There have been several, but if I had to pick, I’d pick these three:

  • Being the project leader on the IBM Centennial celebration program for Ketchum, a multi-faceted program that won just about every award to win in the PR industry.
  • Receiving the President’s Award (2014) and the Phillip Dorf Leadership Award (2010) – both from the New York PRSA.
  • This past November, spending a week at the University of Kentucky as the featured lecturer for the James C. Bowling Executive-in-Residence program for the UK College of Communications and Information. There have been only 16 lecturers – among them Harold Burson and Richard Edelman.

What are you most excited about in your new role as senior associate at The Stevens Group?

I am at a point in my career, after 40 years, where The Stevens Group represents the ultimate next step for me. For years, I’ve talked with my colleagues around the country about how, as agency owners, we needed to be thinking in terms of transitioning or selling our businesses.

And, I know that this issue is one of the most critical that an owner of an agency faces as they think about life after PR – perhaps even more so than taking the plunge to start an agency. The question we ask ourselves is “how do I cash in to help fund my retirement, departure or even the next phase of my professional life?”  

I sold my firm back in the late 1990s and through that experience I learned that I truly want to help agency owners prepare their organizations for sale, acquisition or a merger, and think about this move in the context of their dreams for the future.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing brands today? How can they overcome it?

There are surely no shortages of challenges facing brands in the world today. I will not list them all, but chief among them is marketing and communicating with millennials and generations Y and Z. Brands must understand each generation’s motivations, desires, beliefs, habits and communication preferences.  

Most brands want to build trust with their consumers, the foundation for any relationship.  Thus, brands need to individualize efforts, forming more personal relationships with individual consumers.  Building these personal relationships with such widely diverse audiences, to me, is the biggest challenge facing brands today.


You’ve worked in communications and marketing for over 40 years. What do you see as the biggest change that’s occurred in the industry?

Since the late 1990s, we’ve experienced a marketing channel explosion.  Along came one-to-one marketing, then social media brought about significant change. Definitions of different channels have changed, and the lines between them have blurred.

With that, paid and earned media channels changed significantly and have become digitally diversified; shared and owned media channels have become increasingly essential to communication and marketing success.  

Today, brands are figuring out how to integrate all forms of media for maximum effect. And the conversations on social media never stop – 24/7/365. Brands cannot communicate once and then call it quits – they have to continue the conversation, engage consumers, motivate them to do something and empower them to act.

So the goal of all brands is to connect the dots and integrate for maximum results. And, they have to earn their consumers’ trust. This has placed greater emphasis on earned media that can foster a connection with someone and impel them to share their thoughts about a brand with their social networks.  

And if this isn’t enough, the insights this provides must be harvested, analyzed and understood to be able to constantly improve a brand’s deployment of paid, earned and owned media to activate sharing.  

This is not for the faint of heart and has dramatically changed the way brands communicate, their marketing mix and ultimately the tenor of their consumer relationships.

The communications industry is constantly evolving. How can brands keep up?


To keep up, brands must stay ahead of the technology curve, understand that social media is not a vertical, but a horizontal layer that wants to touch every part of business, from customer acquisition to customer retention.

Brands must understand data collection and analysis and must be able prove quantifiable value. In short, be always on, listen, analyze, question and then respond.

How do you envision the future of communication and marketing?

There are several trends that I think will have the biggest impact on the future of marketing and communications:

  • Mobile is going to become the centerpiece of marketing, from cell phones to smartphones, tablets to wearable gadgets.
  • Transparency will dictate brand-customer relationships. Customers are seeking more engagement from marketers, and this trend will continue as customers become more demanding of transparency, authenticity and real value.
  • The need for good content will not abate, and user-generated content and co-creation will continue to grow in popularity.
  • If it hasn’t already, social will become the next Internet, serving as an integral part of the broader marketing discipline. It has the full potential to become not just one of the channels, but the channel.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in communication?

I tell students and young professionals that it’s not enough to just be tactically proficient. They must aspire higher. Over the years, four values have resonated with me: leadership, ethics, intuition and courage.

They must understand strategy and begin to lead that kind of thinking early on in their careers. They must find ways to engender trust and practice their craft with integrity and according to a code of ethics with employers, colleagues and customers.  

They must tap into their intuition and balance their rational thinking with the emotional gut level feeling they will experience in everything they do. They must be prepared to have the courage to do the right thing. This also includes the courage to recognize their strengths and weaknesses.  

And finally, find a place and way to give back; get involved and inspire others to do the same.

Rapid Fire Round

1. My biggest pet peeve is…sloppiness.

2. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…Annie Oakley. I’m from Deadwood, South Dakota and used to pretend to be her when I was little.

3. My hobbies outside of work include…sailing, hiking, kayaking, cycling, camping, reading and needlepoint.

4. I always thought I’d be…an archaeologist.

5. My guiltiest pleasure is…a good historical fiction novel.

6. I laugh most at…witty comebacks.


Images via Pixabay: 1, 2

About Maria Materise

Maria Materise is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Formerly a copywriter, she enjoys creating content that excites and inspires audiences. She is an avid reader, movie trivia geek, Harry Potter fanatic and makeup junkie..

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