By Stephen Burkhart

The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

 mad men and PR

The premiere for another season of Mad Men is just around the corner. It’s a delicious show to watch, because you can see the train wreck and not be on the train. 

But I think about all the shenanigans pulled by Don Draper, the star from Mad Men, and conclude that he wouldn’t like the office culture at The Hoffman Agency.

For that matter, neither would Roger Sterling or Pete Campbell.  

The culture here is a little too … shall we say, the antithesis of Mad Men? 

That may come as a shock to some.

I mean, isn’t that what any self-respecting agency does? Run around in a cut-throat excitement that occasionally works, but only temporarily?

I imagine my interview with Don Draper.

“Harmony at a PR firm? That’s a little unusual,” I hear Don Draper say through flickers of bemusement.

“Yes, that’s our culture at The Hoffman Agency,” I respond in the imaginary conversation. “Harmony.”  

“But I thought PR firms are a lot like Mad Men, full of back-stabbing, double-dealing, power-mongering clashes more akin to medieval fiefdoms.”

“At The Hoffman Agency we have set our intention on a different course: Harmony. Harmony with each other at The Hoffman Agency, harmony with our clients, harmony with our partners.”

Although Donald would spray the room with laughter at this point, a vast majority of the others take comfort.

Prospective employees, potential clients immediately relax into the concept. I feel a sense of emerging trust, happiness and connection. It is as if this is the culture they have been seeking all of their lives.

But what does it really mean, harmony? Does that mean absence of conflict? Acceptance of bad business practice? Passivity?

No, not at all. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. In our version of harmony, we have conflict, we challenge people to the furthest limits of their abilities. We relentlessly, assertively push for big-idea solutions for our clients. We ask for hard work and commitment. And in the process of that, we do sometimes find ourselves out of harmony. We know and accept that. But harmony is the place we return to.

The reason for this is both simple and profound.

The best thinking, the greatest commitment, the power of cooperation and teamwork all derive from the fertile ground of harmony.

We have seen it at work. It is a thing of beauty. Plus, it makes it nicer to come to work every morning.

Peggy Olson might be our lone superstar who could make it at The Hoffman Agency.  

Sorry Don Draper, Roger Sterling and most of the rest.


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