David McCulloch, Senior Director, Corporate Communications, Cisco Systems
President, PRSA Silicon Valley 2013
How did you get your start in the PR profession?
After graduating in 1994 with a degree in mathematics and management studies and two internships in finance, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to become an accountant! So, I spent the summer traveling around Europe, and the Fall applying to every vaguely interesting marketing job I could find. Eventually a small PR & marketing boutique called Taylor Alden gave me a shot, and a career was born!
Who/what has influenced you professionally?
Pitching new business has shaped my career more than any individual mentor has. Win or lose, there is no more pure a consultancy experience than constructing a communications strategy for, and a relationship with, a prospective client that you’d barely heard of two weeks earlier. Pitching new business sharpens your analytical, creative, strategic, presentation and relationship development skills like nothing else can.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader in PR?
I regularly make decisions that have the potential to impact Cisco’s valuation by billions of dollars. A badly handled crisis or a well-worded product introduction can make all the difference.
What skill do you most value in a PR professional?
Curiosity! For me, the ability to do great PR is borne of the ability to ask great questions.
What quality do the best PR professionals possess?
Where do great ideas come from in PR?
A deep and complete understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve, coupled with a no-holds-barred approach to brainstorming, with people who have nothing to lose by getting the answers wrong! Follow that with a ruthless prioritization of ideas based on what can realistically be done well, and you’re done.
What’s the greatest story you’ve told?
I once drew the attention of every major prime time broadcast news outlet in the UK to the subject of janitorial service providers. I worked with my client the Cleaning and Support Services Association on a study to assess the value of the cleaning services segment of the economy. Fortunately, the study revealed some big numbers, and the media simply couldn’t get enough of the “UK’s £10Bn Secret Industry!”
About David McCulloch
David co-leads the worldwide PR function at Cisco. He started his PR career in the construction industry and the first press release he ever wrote was about a fleet of delivery trucks. He fled the building trade in 1997 and joined high-tech PR agency Text 100 in London. During a decade in Europe and the USA, he led business development for Text 100 worldwide, and provided counsel to leading technology companies including Cisco, IBM, Xerox and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2008, his favorite client plucked him out of agency life, and he’s been happily leading PR at in-house at Cisco ever since.