Fred Wellman is the founder of ScoutComms, a niche agency in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He specializes in public relations and marketing efforts in support of corporations and nonprofits focused on veteran and military family support, as well as veteran-owned and focused businesses. In this episode, he explains why he started his own PR agency that focuses n service and why running a B Corp (a mission-driven benefit corporation) can create a competitive edge in attracting top quality clients and employees. He also explains the importance of serving pro bono clients and why we should hire against our weaknesses. As the hardest working man in public relations, Fred Wellman is the James Brown of PR.
As the hardest working man in public relations, Fred Wellman is the James Brown of PR. A graduate of West Point and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, he ran for mayor in Georgia, served as an Army Scout and Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Iraq, worked for Generals David Petraeus and Martin Dempsey (later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). General Petraeus selected him to become an Army public affairs officer.
Fred started his own agency at the bottom of the last recession. He found a niche that focuses on veterans’ issues. His business, ScoutComms, is based on one simple idea: There are very few veterans in the agency world, so ScoutComms would serve as the expert in that niche for larger PR agencies initially and, eventually, for corporate clients directly.
There is a bias against hiring senior practitioners who have not previously worked in agencies. This seems to be based on the assumption that it’s difficult or impossible to learn how to manage client relationships and develop new business. This bias precludes hiring talented communication professionals with deep experience, rich insight, and a robust network in a particular sector.
It is important to integrate all communications (PR, marketing, internal, executive, digital, etc.) across an organization.
Know your clients. Bring on experts who know the client’s business, culture, sensitivities, language, and how they communicate.
It’s important to know how your organization is different. What is your competitive advantage or secret sauce?
Forming a B Corp can cost more money, but also can be a good fit if your business is founded on more than making money. Much of ScoutComms’ business is in corporate social responsibility, so having an organizational framework that reinforces that social good creates a strategic, competitive advantage. The B Corp certification process can serve as a coaching tool.
Fred refers to his former employees as “graduates” and he is very proud of what they have gone on to do. One runs a USO center in North Carolina, one is running an environmental organization in northern Virginia, and one works for Dr. Jill Biden.