PR Innovator Of The Year: Innovator Reflects on Agency Life, Community Commitment

Doug Dome Dome Communications Doug Dome's role as an "innovator" began long before PR NEWS honored his achievements. Dome is a veteran of corporate communications, having served in PR roles at Marshall Field's, Chicago's Fairmont hotel and MCI. After completing his master's in marketing and international business at Northwestern, he moved to the agency world as VP and director of communications for Foote, Cone & Belding, one of Chicago's top ad agencies. "I started to do ad hoc PR there, and the agency saw it as a potential profit center," Dome says. The company offered him the opportunity to start a client PR unit. "I didn't think I would have the flexibility to create an agency that truly reflected how I felt about client service or creativity." He left the ad agency, and in 1997, Dome Communications was born with two employees. Despite a depressed economy, that agency is booming today, with about 70 employees in Chicago. In 2001, Dome drove 60 percent growth for the agency. He attributes the agency's success to new higher standards among corporate clients, who are looking for the kind of creativity and flexibility a firm like his can provide. "Everything is rooted in doing what's right for the client. We've built a structure that allows for that." Dome clients include ConAgra, Kraft, Hyatt and Keebler. While the client may come first, Dome makes employees a top priority. "I know of few other industries where employees have such a laborious role," he says. "It's very hands-on, sometimes glamorous, but you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves." Dome provides a range of perks from the more traditional - an annual award for the most creative team and individual - to the quirky - staff meetings include an actual soapbox where employees stand to air their grievances. Dome staffers are also given "Dome Days" (floating summer holidays) and a week of paid leave in addition to their vacation in which to participate in organized community service. Service to the community is another area in which Dome himself has excelled for years, bringing PR expertise to local Chicago children's charities, where he has raised contributions to the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls by 150 percent and helped raise awareness about pediatric brain tumors. What's next? Dome is looking to the future and new ways to grow Dome Communications without outgrowing its values. "The challenge for us will be to manage our growth in a way that we don't compromise or sacrifice our culture, our creativity, or our personalized client service." (Dome: 312/467-0760)

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