Mark McNeely Honored as the Nashville Emerging Leader 2016 Impact Award Winner

Mark McNeely Honored as the Nashville Emerging Leader 2016 Impact Award Winner

By David Fox

MP&F’s founding partner, Mark McNeely, was recently presented with the Nashville Emerging Leader 2016 Impact Award by YP Nashville and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. The award honors a top Nashville leader who has made a significant impact on guiding and mentoring young professionals in the community.

Since MP&F’s doors opened in 1987, hundreds of PR pros and interns have contributed to the company’s success. Mark has invested in the professional development of each and every one of them.

Mark also supports communications students through his relationships with universities across the state and continued support of communications scholarships. In 2015, he was honored with the University of Tennessee’s Donald G. Hileman Alumni Award for contributions to the university and supporting the future growth of the field of communication and information.

Looking at the senior ranks at MP&F, nine out of 15 (including a partner) began their careers at MP&F and have grown with the company. This type of longevity is typically unheard-of in agencies.

I encourage you to read a column Mark penned recently for The Tennessean about this award by clicking here.

MP&F’s staff and our 500-plus alumni speak to the work that Mark has done to nurture young PR professionals in Nashville. Here are some comments from a few MP&F alumni:

You would be hard-pressed to find a PR professional in Nashville that wasn’t mentored at some point by Mark. The hallmarks of his training – those opportunities to understand and create respect between PR professionals and media – are more important in today’s environment than ever. I’ll never forget his wise advice on the first day I worked for him: “Read the paper every day, and don’t call a reporter until you’ve read a few of his/her stories.” They are staples that I still live by – 17 years after working for him – and I have also passed along to the next generation of the PR workforce.

Mark has not just been a beloved boss, but truly a mentor to so many in the PR community in Tennessee. It’s rare to see someone as established as he take the time and dedication to train today’s professionals. It speaks to his love of the profession and firm belief in investing in people.

Andrea Arnold
Senior VP, Public Affairs
Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

I first visited the offices of McNeely Pigott & Fox as a senior in college. The moment I stepped off the elevator, I wanted to be an “MP&Fer,” and fortunately, that dream became reality. My three years working with and learning from some of the best public relations professionals in the business – Mark McNeely chief among them – laid the foundation for everything I’ve done in my career and my community since. Mark founded more than just a PR firm when he started McNeely and Associates all those years ago. He started a family that is now hundreds strong, with each of us having been able to learn, grow and win (and sometimes lose) in a fun and supportive environment. Each subsequent step in my career has been informed and improved by what I learned at MP&F. I can’t imagine that I would be where (or who) I am today without that experience.

Joe Burchfield
Assistant Vice President
Government Affairs and Communications
Tennessee Hospital Association

If you look across the communications industry in Nashville, you see a couple of things: first, a whole lot of successful people who developed their skills at McNeely Pigott & Fox; and second, a universally high regard for Mark McNeely.

From a personal perspective, Mark gave me an opportunity to use what I’d learned in journalism school to earn a living in my hometown. There weren’t any jobs available for news reporters when I came out of college, and it was a random suggestion that led me to MP&F. My experience there exceeded all expectations, including opportunities to learn, grow, be exposed to a ton of different sectors, and to soak up knowledge and experience from the company’s senior staff, Mark being chief among them.

He cares first about his people, and you see that evidenced by the tenure of the majority of his staff. When I left to do corporate communications, he knew I was making a mistake but that the experience would be valuable. And when I started my own company, he encouraged me, even sent me business, and has remained a steadfast friend when he could have seen me as someone who jumped his ship to become a competitor. I value our relationship because he’s a great friend, leader and mentor, and he’s made a nearly immeasurable impact on the community.

Jay Sheridan
Sheridan PR

MP&F has really become the ‘Family Tree’ of the PR community – its alums are in dozens of firms and companies doing high-level work, or have started their own businesses, or have gone into other fields and become successful professionals and key members at all levels in the Nashville community. A key reason for this is Mark McNeely and his commitment to making sure work is team-based and collaborative, where people can learn from one another. It often begins with the real-world training new associates undertake when they start at MP&F, continues on a monthly basis with fresh professional development programs, and in daily practice when MP&Fers interact with their colleagues, media and clients and learn what it takes to communicate effectively and build good business practices.

Mark is as loyal and helpful as any business owner I’ve known – he wants his people to be successful, whether that’s at MP&F or elsewhere – and has been a mentor to so many people. I certainly owe much of my career to what I learned from him and while at MP&F.

Chad Schmidt
Sheridan PR

I think and talk often about the one-of-a-kind culture at MP&F. It starts and ends with its wonderful people, but the partners set the tone, and Mark McNeely deserves to be recognized for building and maintaining the kind of company he would have envisioned if he were looking for a place to work. He often said that was his ultimate goal. It is a selfless one.

From a professional standpoint, we can all appreciate the initiative it took for Mark to step out and form his own consultancy after a career in journalism and political campaigning, and how much he has accomplished in heading what is now one of the largest independent PR firms in the Southeast. It’s still an awesome inspiration to those of us who are fortunate enough to have his name on our resumes.

Mark’s impact goes far beyond his firm’s success. He is an exceptional mentor, almost like a father figure to the hungry young professionals who start their careers at MP&F. He has helped some of Nashville’s best and brightest communications professionals develop into leaders at MP&F and many other organizations. He would be visibly disappointed every time someone left the firm for another job. As I’ve grown in my own life and career, I’ve understood more why. The principles that were drilled into me at MP&F follow me wherever I go; for that I am grateful.

Mark McNeely is a legendary figure in Nashville’s business community whose connectivity, strategic vision, business acumen and genuine concern for others has had immeasurable effects on his employees, colleagues and friends.

Dave Chaney
Director of Communications
Tennessee Medical Association

I do not know of an individual more deserving of an Impact Award than Mark McNeely. Mark’s belief in me and his willingness to provide space to grow and develop in the communications profession undoubtedly served as the catalyst for my career. Mark successfully developed a culture at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations that offers professionals more than just a job. Rather, he becomes a mentor, recognizing young talent yet always challenging new employees to try harder and achieve greater heights. Even now, Mark’s early belief in me is the inspiration that I draw upon to do better and accomplish more than I thought was possible. Without question, Mark and MP&F helped shape the communications professional that I am today and placed me on the path to success.

Krinda Hie
Communications Manager
Oak Hill School