By Marija on August 19th, 2012
Thomas J Madden is a Platinum author on EvanCarmichael.com – to view his articles click here. We asked him how he got his first customer, here is what he said:
HOW I GOT MY FIRST CUSTOMER, A LITTLE OLE LADY NAMED ‘MA BELL’
I was sitting in my office on the sixth floor at NBC overlooking the famous ice skating rink when my assistant said there was someone from AT&T on the phone who sounded upset.
“Okay, I’ll take the call,” I told Donna and soon I was speaking to one of AT&T’s head sales guys who said he was getting a run around and could I please put him in direct touch with someone who could make decisions about phone lines.
At the time, I held the august position of Vice President, Assistant to the President, of NBC, who was then TV wunderkind Fred Silverman. For a turbulent and heady period back in the early 80s, I was his right hand, and for a brief time, the #2-ranked executive at the network.
The guy from AT&T sounded frustrated, so I promised to make some calls and have someone in authority get back to him. I learned early in my career to be nice to large companies, especially conglomerates as gratitude in high places can get you snap, crackly and pop.
Actually a couple years prior, I was a celebrated speechwriter, who had written a few speeches for Bill LaMothe, then chairman of Kellogg Company. They blasted the government for trying to bust up the three leading breakfast cereal companies, which the government charged was an oligopoly. When one of my speeches was published in The New York Times, LaMothe was so impressed he flew from Battle Creek, MI to Manhattan in his private jet to show me a good time. Expecting he’d take me to 21 Club, I was surprised when he invited me next morning to the Palace Hotel . . . for breakfast.
So wanting to please AT&T, I made a few calls as I had promised and frankly forgot all about it. Then a few weeks later, I got a call (no emails then) from the same guy, only this time he sounded elated. He said that thanks to me, one of the top guys in communications had gotten back to him, they worked everything out, and he most grateful to me for my help in interceding. He said if I ever needed anything, just give him a call.
Some months later, I left NBC to start my own public relations firm, TransMedia Group, in New York City. This was around time Ma Bell was undergoing a traumatic court-ordered divestiture of all of her operating companies.
The company was in dire straits back then and needed crisis management big time. Then I thought of the grateful AT&T guy, called him and offered my services to the beleaguered Ma Bell.
“Got it,” he said. “I’ll get right back to you.”
A few days later I received a call from Herb Lennon, Director of Public Relations, for AT&T at their mother ship in Bedminster, New Jersey. Herb invited to come out to meet with him at the main offices. He said he would introduce me to the top brass at AT&T, including then Chairman Charley Brown, who started at AT&T climbing telephone poles and had climbed clear to the top of corporate America.
Excited, as I had no clients yet, I drove to Bedminster to meet with the top people at AT&T in Advertising and PR and they said they would like to retain me to book Charley Brown on all the top network shows to discuss AT&T’s future after divestiture.
They asked what fee I would like and I blurted out something ridiculous in six figures and they said that would be fine and asked if I could start right away.
So that’s how TransMedia Group landed its first customer, a whale of a client, the largest company in America at the time, which was soon to be diced and sliced, but my job would be to help the company weather the storm and put the best face possible on the situation, which I proceeded to do.
After I did a pretty good job on the divestiture story, the company assigned me other divisions to publicize, including international calling and the new AT&T Cell Phone, which at that time was the size of a brick.
Today if you go to our website at www.transmediagroup.com, you’ll see under client references this endorsement from AT&T:
“Smartest thing I ever did was to retain TransMedia for public relations.” Signed: Herb Lennon, Director of Public Relations, AT&T.
About Thomas J Madden:
Tom Madden is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, one of the world’s leading independent PR firms serving clients worldwide since 1981. He has held top executive positions at ABC and NBC,where he was Vice President, Assistant to the President, then Fred Silverman. For his exploits in broadcasting and PR, he has been profiled in Time Magazine, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Speeches he wrote have been reprinted in The New York Times and Vital Speeches of the Day. Among awards he has received are a “Bronze Anvil” from The Public Relations Society of America. He is the author of SPIN MAN and King of the Condo. email: TMadden@transmediagroup.com 561-750-9800 Ext: 211
Tags: battle creek, breakfast cereal, cereal companies, conglomerates, fred silverman, gratitude, kellogg company, lamothe, nbc, New York Times, next morning, oligopoly, palace hotel, private jet, sixth floor, skating rink, speeches, speechwriter, thomas j madden, wunderkind