From the moment we sat down to begin the interview, it became plainly evident that Nancy Behrman of Behrman Communications possesses a uniquely powerful presence and an incomparable degree of poise. She immediately commanded the full attention of the room and held that attention throughout the interview with her enthusiasm, intelligence and charm; traits that were clearly natural to her, but had also been strengthened and sharpened over a 30-year career in the public relations and brand building industry.
Nancy has been recognized as a pioneer and an innovator, and it is quite clear that her passion for her professional life’s work has not dwindled in the slightest since she founded Behrman Communications thirty years ago. Starting from humble beginnings with just one client on her roster, Kiehl’s Since 1851, Nancy’s initial success led to a lengthy career in which her firm has been repeatedly charged with shaping an initial concept or idea in such a way that it can become a multimillion dollar venture.
With a tireless creative vision, Nancy loves a challenge and is often most excited to work on projects that fall into what she refers to as the “white space,” a term Nancy ascribes to clients whose brands introduce a whole new concept or category that has never been done before.
You’ve been in the PR and brand-building industry for over 30 years. What is it about the industry you enjoy most?
“I have always appreciated the creative freedom that exists in this industry, and that there is always room for thinking and doing bigger and better. I enjoy the scrappiness involved in executing a good ground game, and taking risks in order to get the ball rolling on the next big thing.”
What were the early days like for you?
“They were really tough, but I didn’t realize until years later that I possessed an uncommon work ethic that allowed me to endure those first few years. We had a wonderful client in Kiehl’s, but I still had to work as a cocktail waitress at night while doing PR by day. It was exciting and it was fun, but I am certainly grateful for the stability Behrman Communications is now able to enjoy.”
What’s the most difficult aspect of selecting clients?
“We are creative and we believe in always working toward a bold vision, but we are also realistic and understand how to best accomplish a particular goal. As a result, we do not take on clients we feel have unrealistic goals or are seeking to become an overnight sensation without putting forth the necessary effort. We can be very particular about the partnerships we make and we work very hard to ensure that we share a common vision with our clients.”
Tell us about the strengths of Behrman Communications.
“It’s all about the continuity of the team we have in place. Our team members are incredibly sharp and work diligently not only in the service of our clients but also as mentors to the new team members we welcome to Behrman Communications. Most of my senior staff have been at the agency for over five years, sometimes ten.”
How do you identify the most ideal team members?
“I deeply value intelligence and creativity, but I also want to work with people who understand that a career in PR is as much a profession as it is a lifestyle. My staff and I absolutely employ some of the more traditional evaluative tools for hiring decisions, but it’s ultimately a decision that includes emotional, gut feeling components as well.”
Interview by David Lee Jensen