When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Wear White Socks with Black Shoes

I was attending a dinner in Toronto late last year with several Canadian banking clients when one asked me about my job interview at DKC. The bankers are old friends with whom I have worked for many years; so I let the group in on the fact that my interview at DKC – 18 years ago – was one of the odder experiences in my life.

As I detailed to the group, my interviewer – a legend in the public relations business who had formed the company six months prior – orchestrated an interrogatory session that culminated in one basic question and an instruction.

The question – which I got half right – was what day and what time I would hold a press conference”¦.? The instruction was not to wear white socks with black shoes.

I did ok in the interview but I never could figure out where the directive about the socks and shoes came from. I was wearing neither white socks nor black shoes; moreover, I wasn’t likely to combine the two since my mother had instilled in me that the combination was a fashion staple of guys who ran out of clothes, old men who couldn’t see, and priests.

One of the other Canadian bankers thought this story was hilarious and oddly coincidental because that very day his boss had described 2009 as ”the year they had to wear white socks with black shoes.” ”When the traditional way doesn’t work,” he said, ”try something else.”

Amid the toughest economic environment most of us have experienced in our lifetime, DKC found itself with two options in 2009: retrench, take a loss and let it blow over, or ”try something else”¦. wear white socks with black shoes.”

We opted for the latter, investing in two new practice areas: DKC Government Affairs, a full-service government relations practice based in Albany, New York and DKC Connect, a digital unit, that provides a full spectrum of online services, including: social networking strategy and implementation, search engine optimization, web design and the construction of digital applications.

Over the course of just several months, both became instrumental in the growth of our overall business. DKC Government Affairs became a critical partner to a wide range of companies including: Delta Air Lines, Time Warner Cable, Con Edison and Madison Square Garden. DKC Connect was brought in to provide digital communications services on behalf of such major brands and organizations as New Balance, Paul Frank, Topps, the New York Business Council and the Carlton Hotel. DKC Connect gained national notoriety for creating and spearheading a social networking campaign supporting Atari’s Star Trek game.

I credit these two new revenue streams – along with the tremendous work across DKC’s core agency groups – as drivers behind DKC’s solid performance in 2009. While many businesses posted double-digit declines last year, DKC showed only a modest decrease in top-line revenue and a bottom-line return identical to that of prior years.

Launching new businesses in 2009 has enabled DKC to expand our core business in 2010. As the first quarter comes to a close, DKC is off to a great start with some wonderful new accounts including: Yahoo!; Versace; Country Time Lemonade and Tassimo on behalf of Kraft; Hornitos and Sauza tequila on behalf of global spirits giant, Jim Beam; Harrah’s Resorts & Entertainment; Versus; the Washington Wizards; and Ken Burns’ PBS series ”Baseball.”

I recently lost a bet to that same group of Canadian bankers over the USA-Canada Olympic Gold Medal game. They tried to get me to wear white socks and black shoes for a day. Figuring I already did, I opted to wear a Team Canada jersey.

Posted by: Sean Cassidy, President