It’s easy to lead when everything is going well. The true test of leadership happens when the inevitable fate of best laid plans comes calling — when the careful strategy isn’t panning out and pivoting has become less a reaction and more of an approach. Of course, you don’t want too many of those moments, but they’re the ones that show you what you’re made of, the ones that prepare you to better weather the next storm.
This was not an easy year. We work in a deeply interconnected industry, and each setback introduces an avalanche of new challenges. In a time when business was tough, decisions tougher, news often bleak, and every solution accompanied by another problem to solve, it would be understandable — expected, even — to harden our hearts and focus inward. And yet time and time again this year I found myself opening up, seeking solidarity in shared struggles. I spoke to staff about the emotional toll of ongoing global conflicts, I spoke with my leadership team to air concerns about meeting the business difficulties of the moment, I spoke with fellow CEOs that I’m lucky to call friends about the challenges facing our entire industry.
And I found in each of these conversations a bit of peace, and a bit of strength, too. I think so often resilience is conflated with overcoming a challenge, with ultimately finding success. But sometimes, most times, resilience is finding new ways to keep going. The PAN ethos is that We Move — no matter what comes our way — and if nothing else, 2023 was a study in moving together.
So I wanted to spend a bit of time looking back at all of it: the highs, the lows, the big wins, the near misses, the moments of relief and the ones of disappointment. All of it makes us who we are.
In the face of economic turmoil and divisive trends, plenty of brands and agencies alike spread themselves thin, gambling with a fly-by-night approach. As we always have, PAN doubled down on our roots and on the things we do best. We made strategic hires and investments to deepen our expertise in key verticals including healthcare, supply chain, e-commerce and cybersecurity. At the same time, our data-driven approach allowed us to meet the historic moment for AI, integrating our legacy experience in the space with new and emerging opportunities.
Of course, all the data in the world is no good without the right people to utilize it. Our people are true experts in their industries — and if they don’t know a market they make it their business to learn it. Our commitment to deep expertise and a culture of ongoing education elevates us beyond tactical consultants to be true strategic partners for our clients.
Integrated marketing and public relations is a funny business. There’s always another opportunity around the corner, but at the same time, each one we don’t seize belongs to the competition. Our wins mean much more because they’re carefully chosen and hard won.
In 2023 we were excited to welcome to the PAN family nearly 30 new clients across the B2B technology and healthcare landscape. We saw our client partners both new and familiar victorious in a number of different awards efforts including the Bulldog PR Awards, PR Daily Media Relations Awards, and the PRCA Awards.
Sometimes, most times, resilience is finding new ways to keep going. The PAN ethos is that We Move — no matter what comes our way — and if nothing else, 2023 was a study in moving together.
And we kept a bit of the shine for ourselves, too, winning awards from outlets like PR Daily, PR News and PR Moment. In May, our leadership team was honored to accept the award for Technology Agency of the Year from PRovoke Media, beating out a field of top tier firms who do remarkable work every day. This was a huge group effort to submit and advocate for, a well-deserved win for our staff and incredible recognition of the exceptional work we deliver even when the going is tough.
Of course, the challenges of our day to day are easier to manage when we have one another.
Mentorship and teaching have always been priorities for me in my own career, and it’s been a privilege for nearly thirty years now to bring those efforts to PAN. Building a diverse, supportive community is not an extracurricular to our IM and PR work — it’s at the core of everything we do, defining our culture and reflecting our values.
In 2023 we launched our PANpov series, an employee-led storytelling initiative that celebrates the unique life experiences of our people and the diversity of perspective that they bring to our work as a result. To date, those stories have been read on our site nearly 2,000 times. I learn something new each time one is published and sit in awe that we have such committed, genuine people at this firm.
This year we also continued our work in developing a new generation of diverse PR professionals. We built on existing partnerships with three HBCUs — North Carolina Central University, Dillard University and North Carolina A&T — to share our guest lecture series on the world of IM and PR. Students also participated in panel discussions that offered practical tips and real-world examples to help them bridge the gap between education and career. I’m thrilled that two students from the fall semester have been hired at PAN.
Our business is one of ripple effects — no setback happens in a vacuum, and no success does either. Even in our web of connections, of clients and partners, mentors and students, competitors and friends, we’re a proudly independent organization, empowered to make our own choices and plans in accordance with our vision and values.
Through the good times and the challenges this year and across so many others, we’ve been fortunate to always have one another to lean on for support. As 2023 ends and we look ahead to a new calendar year of opportunities, I am so grateful for the kindness and compassion that our team has fostered in our organization and in our community.
From our leadership team (I say it often: the best in the industry) to our newest hires, PAN would not be what it is today without all of you. Your commitment and yes, your resilience, helped us accomplish greatness in 2023 and has us poised for a terrific year in 2024.
Peace, kindness and prosperity to all in the new year.