2015 in Review

2015 in Review

By Mark McNeely

Happy New Year. May 2016 be productive and rewarding.

Before it gets too far gone, though, I want to talk about 2015, a year like none I have ever experienced in my 28 years of PR agency work.

2015 was wrenching, heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Our partner Mike Pigott’s untimely passing in June was a historic low for our company. We lost not only a great practitioner, but a great person. There is not a day that has gone by since June 29 that I have not wanted to ask his advice or opinion on something related to our company, our clients or our community.

But 2015 was a year of epic successes, too. With Mike, one hard lesson I learned is that it is much too easy to take things for granted. I want to try to not take things for granted anymore.

So, if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to highlight some of the year’s other memorable achievements. I don’t think we should take them for granted.

We were named to The Tennessean’s “Top Workplaces” list for the third consecutive year.

We successfully kicked off a very successful Diversity Fellowship, and had a very impressive group of applicants and first “fellow.”

We received more industry awards than ever before, including a sweep of national awards like the Silver Anvil, the Sabre and Best of Show in PRSA’s local Parthenon Awards for our work in allowing the sale of wine in retail food stores. This effort was spearheaded by MP&F Partner Alice Chapman, who toiled on the issue for more than seven years. For those who don’t remember, July 1 this year is the effective date for food stores in 78 localities across the state to be able to sell wine. It was hard, but the results were nothing less than astonishing. Another big honor for Alice is that she recently was installed as a member of the executive committee of PRSA’s Counselors Academy.

Partner Andrew Maraniss saw his biography of Perry Wallace, the first African-American basketball player at Vanderbilt University and in the Southeastern conference, become an award-winning New York Times best-seller. The book was a longtime labor of love for Andrew, who worked on it for eight years before it was published by Vanderbilt Press a year ago this month. It has won the national Lillian Smith Book Award for top civil rights writings, and the venerated Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in the special recognition category. Andrew has spent countless hours touring the nation promoting the book (and, by extension, our brand). Andrew was selected to this year’s class of Leadership Nashville, another signal honor.

Partner Katy Varney, in addition to leading several of the largest client teams here, was instrumental in helping Nashville’s new mayor, Megan Barry, get elected in August. She served as the leader of a kitchen cabinet that actually did a lot of work in her kitchen. She personally hosted dozens of house parties where volunteers made phone calls to their friends urging their support. She also spearheaded the super successful inauguration ceremonies for Mayor Barry in September. Katy was named to the Nashville Business Journal’s 2015 List of the 100 Most Influential People in Nashville.

Partner Keith Miles, an accomplished singer-songwriter and photographer, showcased new musical offerings as well as myriad images from his cameras. He also continued his work on behalf of affordable housing in Nashville, all while managing many important client activities in his “day job.” Over the past three years, that has included the in-depth NashvilleNext long-range planning platform which helps anticipate meeting the infrastructure and societal needs of our rapidly growing community.

This year, Partner David Fox, in addition to leading our largest commercial, nongovernment client – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee – has carefully managed us through the fallout from the failure of the Amp into a strong, regionwide effort – working with MTA – to gain public input for a new transit system for Middle Tennessee. He also transitioned off the board of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, but has moved into a leadership position as the incoming board chairman for the Center for Nonprofit Management and has also joined the board of the Nashville Public Library Foundation.

MP&F partners
Photo courtesy of The Tennessean

As for me, I was extremely honored and humbled to receive the Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Tennessee College of Communications and Information. I was proud to be in the company of several corporate CEOs, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter and a professional football player by the name of Peyton Manning who won in the past.

Going back to the first of last year, we had no idea that our move to new space would be consummated so quickly. But in order for it to happen, we had to move fast. So the move has been somewhat unexpected, and has kept us all very busy. It is expensive, but we think it will be well worth it. We hope all of our friends can drop by and see our new space on the 30th floor of the Renaissance Hotel soon. Jan. 1, 2017, is less than a year away. On that day, MP&F will celebrate its 30th anniversary. We want to reach it stronger and more vibrant than ever. And we want all of you to be a part of it. Nashville has been hot, then red hot, and now it is white hot. We are in a great position to take advantage of that.

Every fall, MP&F has an off-site staff planning retreat dedicated to professional development, team building and strategic planning. Last month, we dedicated it to Mike Pigott, and among many other things we plan to do to keep Mike’s contributions to us, our clients and the community in mind, we kicked off a #Like Mike award to be given to someone here with the huge heart and generosity Mike for which was known.

This year, the award went to George Largay, our amazing former client and volunteer mentor whose wife tragically went missing on a hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail and whose remains were discovered recently in a wilderness just off the trail.

George and Mike epitomize the caring and sharing that have made this place great, allow for the many successes and propel us into the New Year.