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Rick Looser: Stories Worth Telling

Posted: April 2, 2014 2:20 p.m.
by Molly Moore.

“Everyone wants to be told a story,” Rick Looser, president and COO of The Cirlot (See-low) Agency said. The Cirlot Agency is a multimillion-dollar, international marketing, public relations and corporate communications firm headquartered in Jackson, Miss.

“Whether you’re telling a story about a dragon or a knight in shining armor or about a merger of a Fortune 100 company, the challenge is to tell an interesting and compelling story because there are thousands told every day that aren’t,” Looser said.

Looser is considered one of the nation’s top public relations professionals. He is in the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and has received a multitude of national awards, including The Gold Quill Award, which is comparable to an Oscar in the PR world. Despite his distinguished background, Looser said there is nothing he takes more delight in than being a storyteller.

Considering his self-described profession of storytelling, I think it is seemingly appropriate to tell a story about Looser — a story that he often shares himself.

In 1987, Looser was at an American Advertising Federation Conference in Baton Rouge, La. when he walked up to a young woman that he described as “the prettiest girl in the room of more than 200 people” and asked a photographer to take a picture of him and the young woman that he had never met before. The woman’s name was Liza Cirlot. Looser told her that he wanted a picture of the night they met to show their children. They have now been married for 26 years.

Looser said that his move to introduce himself to his wife at the AAF Conference in 1987 was one of the best PR jobs that he has ever done, and I might add that his list of great PR work is quite long.

Looser’s wife started The Cirlot Agency in 1984 with a $78 tax return check. Its history from the time of its foundation to now representing accounts from some of the world’s largest privately held corporations is nothing less than a success story, but it is not an ordinary story of success. When told by Looser, it is an “interesting and compelling” success story.

“Every company has a great story to tell,” Mary Hampton Nicholas, PR strategist at The Cirlot Agency, said. “Storytelling is something that is innate in Rick both personally and professionally. He knows when to give descriptive details and when to pull the heartstrings.”

Having phenomenal stories classifies Looser among the elite of the PR industry. Being different than other elites is what places him in a category of his own.

Looser does not speak with hyperbole-filled language that is so often used. He will not tell you that he chose public relations from a early age and had his life planned out from the time he stepped foot in his first class at The University of Alabama. Instead, he admits that he chose the profession because it did not require a math course.

When asked what the most rewarding part of his job was, Looser said, “As a professional, it’s rewarding to meet our clients’ needs, but as a business owner, I’ll tell you that the most rewarding part of my job is to see my employees get married, have kids, buy a house and to make their lives better. It’s rewarding to see them share good times.”

This answer is what makes Looser different. While providing strategic solutions for his clients is the reason for his company’s existence, it is refreshing to hear an answer that goes beyond just doing his job well and is different from the ordinary response that you would expect to hear. He does not give textbook answers, and he does not let typical procedure get in the way of good ideas.

“Not giving a textbook answer is what makes him such a great leader and makes learning from him so effective, because he will come back at you and question why you think what you do,” Nicholas said.

Looser questions everything and does things that other people do not.

“It is important to be willing to do the things that other people aren’t willing to do,” Looser said. He also said to be the hardest worker that you can possibly be. This rings especially true when seeking a job, but also throughout your career.

“When looking for a job, everyone is searching online and sending out résumés,” Looser said. Doing what everyone else does is not the way he operates. “What makes you different is following up with a phone call, sending a thank-you note and asking for a mock interview just to get the experience.”

So what is the lesson to be learned from Looser? Tell an interesting, compelling story. Be different, work hard and know that a thank-you note never hurts.

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