Board Member Spotlight: William F. Doescher
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Board Member Spotlight: William F. Doescher
A Legend in Our Midst
By Helen Shelton
William F. Doescher is a man for all seasons. With a career that spans more than 50 years, Bill (as he is known to everyone!) has truly blazed a trail and set a path for so many to follow. As a man of vision and faith, Bill attributes his success to his upbringing and to an unwavering commitment to learning - while always striving towards excellence.
Bill is a long-time supporter of PRSA-NY. He will complete his most recent commitment to PRSA-NY - three years as president-elect, president and immediate past president on December 31, 2017. He has also held official positions with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, The American Cancer Society and the Easter Seals Society. Still quite active in the PR industry, Bill continues to serve an array of clients through Doescher Group, Ltd., for which he is President and CEO. A proud graduate of Colgate University, Bill holds a Master’s degree from Syracuse University – now the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is a regular guest lecturer at high schools and colleges, sharing wisdom and offering guidance to students by encouraging them to “never give up on your dream.”
We recently sat down with Bill to discuss his career and to gain insights on what it takes to be a successful PR practitioner. Here are “Doescher Lessons”:
- You must be a good writer to be successful in PR (or any career).
- Never give-up on your dream.
- Always make yourself stand out to achieve your goal; self-promotion is your other job.
- Always adhere to a personal ethics policy.
- Don’t be afraid to be creative - but be smart about it.
- Never burn your bridges.
- Understand what the CEO expects.
- Take advantage of the opportunities when they arise.
- Be sure to network with friends, industry associates, and others, and find a mentor or two or three. (Note: Bill’s mentors have included Harold Burson, Chester Burger, Joseph T. Nolan and Fraser Seitel).
- Make a plan to give back to society—it’s extremely important and can definitely help your career.
Bill credits Art Stevens of the Stevens Group and a past president of PRSA-NY with inspiring him to return to the New York chapter in an active role. “I started taking PRSA courses and attending PRSA-NY events almost from the moment I arrived in New York City and at Chase Manhattan in 1961,” Bill says. “But it was Art who pushed me to become more active these last few years,” he continues. “I joined committees, attended special events and educational meetings such as ‘Meet the Media,’ and then was elected, in sequence, Vice President-Membership, Treasurer, President-elect, President, and Immediate Past President.” He is currently the PRSA liaison to the United Nations.
Bill received the John W. Hill Award at the 2014 PRSA-NY Big Apple event. The award is PRSA-NY’s premier award in public relations. Named for the founder of one of the world’s preeminent public relations firms, the award is presented for leadership in the development of the practice of public relations and demonstration of the highest standards of integrity. Bill also received the Philip Dorf Award by PRSA-NY in 2009 for outstanding leadership in guiding and inspiring the careers of young public relations professionals.
While president of the PRSA Foundation in 2002-2003, Bill directed and managed 11 communications career academies around the U.S. under the Foundation umbrella, that among other things, attracted the brightest and best minorities. Through Bill’s and others urging, support for those academies came from American Airlines, AT&T, JP Morgan Chase, Nike, Pepsi Cola Company, Prudential, Rockefeller Foundation, Sears and Visa and PR professionals in the markets the academies served.
He was also a member of the PR Coalition in 2006-2007 that brought together leaders in the industry to discuss, among other things, diversity and organize a private sector summit on public diplomacy in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State.
“The affiliation with PRSA-NY has been most rewarding and extremely educational for me, and the friendships and networking opportunities have been the best any one can find anywhere,” Bill says. “The highlights for me have been many, but I have especially enjoyed being a judge for the Big Apple Awards, the individual award chapter winners and the 15 Under 35 winners.”
“Over the years,” Bill adds, “I have been involved with other PR-related organizations, but PRSA-NY has provided me with the best return on my personal investment.” Speaking of his 56-year career, Bill adds, “It’s been a wonderful ride and I’m not stopping now.”
That “ride” began at the Chase Manhattan Bank in 1961 when Bill joined the bank’s public relations department in New York City as an editor and press relations associate. “One of the reasons for selecting Chase Manhattan over four other offers back then was that I wanted to have a chance to work for David Rockefeller and it happened,” Bill says.
His last stop in the corporate world was as Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, where he was employed for 22 years and worked for seven chief executive officers (corporate and divisional).
At D&B, Bill was responsible for internal and external communications, government affairs, economic analysis and the Dun & Bradstreet Foundation. He also was responsible for brand management and the global coordination and development of advertising, public relations and marketing communications for D&B in North America, Europe, Asia/ Pacific and Latin America.
Bill also had oversight responsibility for communications at Moody’s Investors Service and Reuben H. Donnelley, then companies of Dun & Bradstreet. In addition to his corporate responsibilities, he served as publisher of D&B Reports, a magazine for small business management, from 1978 to 1994.
Early in his career, Bill was a sportswriter at The Evening Press in Binghamton, N.Y., covering a farm team of the New York Yankees, high school and college sports, before returning to the academic world “because I finally knew what I wanted to do. It was public relations and I haven’t turned back.”
A career advertisement back then by New York Life in a Newsweek magazine was the clincher. It said if you want to go into public relations, you should have a bachelor’s degree with a major in economics from a solid liberal arts college, have worked on a radio or a television station or on a newspaper, and had obtained a master’s degree in public relations. “I had two out of three, so I went for the third one,” Bill says.
When asked what comes next, Bill replies, simply, “Stay tuned.”