Speech: Matthew Harrington, 2019 Agency Honoree

Lisa Sepulveda: Hi everyone. I’m Lisa Sepulveda and I’m the chief client officer at Edelman. Matt Harrington is our president and global Operating Officer, and he has been at Edelman for nearly 35 years. That deserves an award, doesn’t it? I’ve had the great privilege of working with Matt for the past three decades. I could spend the next couple of minutes outlining Matt’s many professional accomplishments, his tireless dedication to our clients, his ongoing impact on the industry, where he wrote the first code of ethics for a PR firm. His life is a dedicated husband and father of two amazing daughters, who are making their impact in media and nonprofit worlds and now a proud grandfather. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about what Matt has meant to me in my career.

For as long as I can remember, Matt has always been the ultimate mentor. He’s there when I need guidance. He’s never judgmental, always kind, fair and firm. Even under pressure, he always remains calm and brings out the best in his colleagues and he does it all with optimism and his trademark dry sense of humor. I’ve learned so much from him, but if you were to ask Matt for his list of lessons, he would look at you sideways. Matt doesn’t have a list. That’s just who he is. He’s a one of a kind mentor. He mentors when no one’s looking. So I’ve put together my own list, I call it the five mentoring mantras of Matt. Mantra one, educate yourself, be a perpetual student of the media and the world around you. Matt is incredibly well read. Every day, he devours the FT, the times in the journal, and that’s all before 8:00 AM and that’s after it’s gone for a run listening to NPR. He sets the learning bar we all strive to reach.

Mantra two, always arrive at the solution. Even if it doesn’t fly, it’s better to show up with an idea for pushing things forward instead of complaining why things aren’t working. Mantra three, be a thoughtful responder. When you get a call or an email that riles you up, wait before answering, take a walk, cool down, go home and sleep on it. For a really excitable person like myself, this has spared me many hours of grief. Mantra four, lift people up. When you’re leading others, it’s easy to point out mistakes and flaws. Matt showed me the positive encouragement brings out the best in everyone, every time. Mantra five and probably the most important of all, listen. Ours is a business of talk, but Matt taught me that by listening, you can get to the heart of the problem and the solution faster and better. In these in so many other ways, Matt not only taught me, he inspired me to become a mentor myself. I’ve carried his lessons and use them to help others advance. On behalf of all of them, we thank you, Matt, for all you’ve done for all of us.

Everyone at Edelman is so happy and proud that Matt’s being honored here tonight. So I’ll end by introducing our CEO Richard Edelman who couldn’t be with us but sent this video message.

Richard Edelman: It’s indeed fitting that Matt Harrington gets the award tonight at the Plank Center. Betsy Plank worked as my father’s first COO. She was a genius at organization and in fact made Edelman grow significantly in the ’60s. Matt Harrington has been a mentor to so many at Edelman and also to clients. I’m thinking of people such as Deirdre Latour who is a GE now at Pearson. Also, Lisa Sepulveda, Christine Boyden and so many others at Edelman have benefited from his wisdom, his dignity and his complete commitment as a professional to excellence for every client. So Matthew, tonight we salute you and thank you for all you’ve done to grow Edelman and its people.

Matthew Harrington: Wow. Good evening, everyone. Thank you, Lisa, for your very kind words. I will ask you later for the five mantras for Matt. I’m grateful beyond words that you’re here this evening. We’ve had a long journey of partnership together and it’s both friendship partnership, and as I see it, mutual mentorship, because I’ve learned as much from you as hopefully I’ve been able to share with you. I want to thank the Plank Center for this recognition and incredible honor. I’m particularly pleased to be amongst the company of the individuals being honored this evening, so my congratulations to all of you as well. And I’m grateful to colleagues and family who at this point really are the same thing for being with me this evening.

I take particular pleasure in the fact as Richard just mentioned that Betsy Plank and I have Edelman in common, although it was a common entry point for both of us in our PR careers. I’ve just happened to stay at Edelman a bit longer. Betsy was a part of the firm’s start and a very important one as Richard said in the ’60s is both Executive Vice President and Treasurer wearing multiple hats. But I think she left a lasting impression because I suspect that she left mentorship in the water cooler at Edelman, because when I joined Edelman, I benefited from numerous mentors over the course of my career, and I’ve been seeking to pay that back ever since. And perhaps most especially, I want to acknowledge Richard, who took a shot on a newly minted graduate of Denison University and gave me an opportunity to enter this wonderful profession. And it’s that opportunity that I was thinking about this afternoon when I met with the 50, promising young people who want to join our industry, and my hope that each of them find mentors to bring them forward into our career.

I’ve always been honored when somebody asks me to be a mentor. I think if it isn’t as both honor, but also I have a very selfish reaction to it, because I’m also really recognized that I’m going to learn a lot and that the experience will be mutually beneficial, and that I’ll be better as a result of the experience. As a son of a journalist, I’ve always also thought of the mentor relationship is not too dissimilar from that of editor and reporter. The great American writer Flannery O’Connor, wrote a friend about the relationship she had with a literary critic and mentor and wrote, “It would have done your heart good to see all the marks on the copy. Everything commented upon. Doodles, exclamation points, cheers and growls. That sums up mentorship pretty well for me, sleeves rolled up, cheers and growls, all with the objective to help a person achieve their goals. So, thank you again for this honor.