Pat Feary • Written October 2012
Pat Fearey, APR is chairman and CEO of The Fearey Group. Founded in 1981, it is one of the largest and oldest independently owned, full-service public relations, social media and public affairs firms in the Pacific Northwest.
With more than 40 years of experience, Pat is widely recognized as one of the top professionals in the country. She has worked with some of our region’s highest profile companies and organizations, including Vulcan Real Estate, Weyerhaeuser Real Estate, Tiffany & Co., Tully’s Coffee, Swedish Health Services and Safeway.
In addition to actively helping shape the planning and strategic direction for each client, she works behind the scenes, building mutually beneficial, strategic alliances between client executives and charitable organizations, the media, and business, civic and community leaders.
Pat has served on the boards of organizations such as PONCHO (Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations), the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Seattle Rotary, and the Public Relations Global Network. In 2005, the Puget Sound Business Journal named her one of the area’s 20 most influential women, and in 2007, the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
To be honest, talking about myself is not something I’m comfortable with. Even in high school, I was much more interested in being the director of the school play, rather than its star—I just prefer to be behind-the-scenes.
That said, I’ll give it a go. Here’s what I’ve learned over my years working in public relations:
A strong work ethic is critical to success. (My version of Warhol’s “15 minutes.” It’s much less glamorous.)
I’m originally from Memphis, Tennessee and my father was a successful cotton broker. In the south at that time, a daughter was expected to finish high school—maybe go on to attend college if she was especially feisty—and then get married and raise kids. Having a career was not part of the plan for a southern girl.
In my entire life, I only defied my father once. I was home from college for the summer and at the breakfast table, as he was reading the newspaper, I informed him that I was going to get a summer job. He didn’t look up from the paper and he didn’t say a word. I continued to eat my breakfast in silence and when I finished, I stood up to leave the table. He then set down the paper and said, “Over my dead body.”
But, putting his mortality at risk, I got a job anyway as a bank page. When I came home to tell him what I had done, he said, “If this is what you want to do then you are going to arrive at work 15 minutes before everyone else. You are going to take a lunch break that is 15 minutes shorter than everyone else’s and you are going to stay 15 minutes longer at the end of the work day. AND you are going to run faster than every other page there.”
And so I did. My father’s work ethic has influenced everything I’ve done since.
Get back on that horse.
When I was a teenager I competed in horseback riding, but at 15 years of age, I suffered a terrible fall and my horse landed on top of me, crushing my pelvis. For a while it wasn’t known if I would ever walk again, much less ride.
But I did—one year later I became the Junior World Riding Champion. (The competitive horseback riding field’s view of the world, at that time, was not as broad as it is today, as the only countries competing were the U.S. and Canada.)
Not everything is as it seems on the surface.
My first job out of college was working for the William Esty Advertising Co., in New York City. They hired me to work on the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company account. I thought they hired me for my copious talents. Turns out, it was for my southern accent.
Traditions—and PR agencies—have to begin somewhere.
I moved to Seattle with my husband and family in the 1960s. I did some freelance writing to begin with but my first “real” job in the city was with the Seattle Center. (Not a bad place to start.) At the center, I created and promoted hundreds of events—including the then-fledgling Folklife Festival—and took the festival schedule from six months to one year, paving the way for the center’s year-round Festal Cultural Festival.
I left the Seattle Center for the Southland Corporation, the parent company of 7-Eleven. It was a crisis a day—robberies, employee issues, shoplifting—you name it. While there, I created a franchisee program for the Northwest which became a model for the corporation nationally and is still used today.
Wanting to spend more time with my family and less time on the road, I left Southland and began freelancing, opening an office on Queen Anne in 1981. As I got more and more work, I added employees. One day I looked up from my desk, realized I had a team of five staff members and said, “Hey guys, I think we’re an agency.”
Initially, my firm was an affiliate agency with Edelman Public Relations until Edelman decided to disband the network. Undaunted, 10 of us got together to found our own group—the Phoenix network—which has evolved into the Public Relations Global Network, or PRGN. Today, it includes 44 independent public relations firms in 80 markets and on six continents.
Life is like a piano.
What you get out of it, depends on how you play it. (Tom Lehrer) When I first started out, one of my clients was a trade association. To promote the organization, we arranged for speaking engagements with area service groups. I accompanied the client to one meeting, but at that time (which was in the early 1980s) women were not allowed to join or attend the meetings of that particular service group. When we arrived at the luncheon, I was told to sit by the piano in the corner, while the men enjoyed their meals and listened to the speaker (who, by the way, I had brought). At the end of the meeting, they had their traditional sing-a-long. And what was the song the piano player decided to play as I sat next to him? “I want a gal just like the gal who married dear old dad.”
Fast forward to 2012, and I own one of the largest and oldest independently (and woman-) owned public relations firms in the region. I’m still working. I still love what I do. And I’m not sure they’d sing the same tune today.