by Charlotte Berg, ’22
The PRSSA Group, comprised of students interested in a career in public relations (PR), gained valuable industry insight from Cole Buergi, vice president of business development at Leonard & Finco Public Relations during a presentation and Q & A session on campus on Tuesday, April 5.
Buergi graduated from UW-Green Bay in 1996 with a degree in communications. During his time at the university, he reinstituted the Green Bay chapter of Public Relations Society of America and also served as an editor for the Fourth Estate, the university’s student-run newspaper at that time.
Communication students attending the event learned what PR life is like working at a PR agency. They also learn about some of the exciting projects Buergi has been involved in, his favorite projects and his greatest challenges. Below are just a few of the items he shared with the group.
Was there a class or professor at UWGB that helped you figure out your career path?
“I had the pleasure of having a number of excellent professors lead the courses I was taking. Two, in particular, stand out, Tim Meyer and Phil Clampitt. They both provided the knowledge and guidance for me to choose this path. Their courses were challenging yet engaging to keep my interest which let me know that I was on the right career path. Tim is now retired, and I still maintain contact with him via social media. Phil continues to teach, and it is fun to see the shock in the comm student’s faces today when I tell them that, yes, I had him as a professor too. It creates an almost cult-like bond knowing we faced the same professor.”
How did you get your position at L & F?
“During my junior year at UWGB, in 1995, I landed a PR/communications internship at On Broadway, Inc., downtown Green Bay’s Main Street Program. Charlie Leonard, the Leonard half of Leonard & Finco, served on the board for On Broadway, Inc. and he provided oversight of my PR work to promote On Broadway. He liked my work style and dedication and hired me as an intern at L&F. In a relatively short time, I went from intern to part-time employee and then to a full-time employee. Over the years, as my experience and skills sharpened, I was provided greater opportunities within L&F.”
What are your primary responsibilities as Vice President?
“My full title is Vice President of Business Development and I have a dual role at L&F. I provide strategic communications plan development and implementation for many of our clients. I’m also responsible for engaging and onboarding new clients.”
What are the skills you have because of your position?
“Strong writing skills are a must-have in PR. It’s not something that I was very good at in high school but improved upon greatly in college. However, once I joined L&F, the company placed a strong emphasis on writing, and I worked diligently at it and improved significantly. Time management and meeting deadlines are some other skills that I honed.”
What challenging situations have you dealt with from a PR standpoint?
“Crisis management is about a third of L&F business and I’ve worked directly on a variety of crisis situations including workplace fatalities, shootings, natural gas explosions, company embezzlements, layoffs, and food recalls just to name a few. An especially challenging crisis was with one company that experienced two, separate workplace fatalities in less than a year. These two incidents were tragic and had a profound impact on their co-workers. It was vital to assist the company’s leadership with crafting messaging for employees and developing statements for the media. It also led to a significant and lengthy investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) generating periodic coverage more than a year later as OSHA released its findings for each individual situation in relatively close succession.”
Buergi and the team at Leonard & Finco help clients with crisis management, social media strategy, branding, media relations, and more.
PRSSA’s next speaker event is a health communication panel on Tuesday, April 19.