My first agency job was at Carl Byoir and like many people in those days, I ended up in the PR business through the news business.
I had moved to New York City in 1974 after graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern to start law school at New York University. While I was attending law school, my first love was still journalism and I began working part-time at WINS, the all-news station.
After law school, I passed the bar exam but much to my parents’ dismay, accepted a full-time job at WINS as a writer and special events producer.
Sharlach Returns to Byoir Creative Post - Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, May 22, 1985 (enlarge)
I was only there a few months when a recruiter called me to see if I might be interested in a job in the TV-Radio-Film (pre-video) Department at Carl Byoir & Associates, then one of the three largest agencies (long-since subsumed under Hill + Knowlton). After he patiently explained what a PR firm did, I went for an interview and in August 1977 began my first agency job there some 41 years ago.
I shifted over to account work a couple of years later and then left Byoir, went to Burson-Marsteller and then back to Byoir before landing at Rowland Worldwide which was the newly-minted Saatchi & Saatchi global PR brand in 1988. That’s where I was executive VP of international and asked to make my first trip to Latin America in 1991 to assemble the Saatchi Latin America affiliate network into a cohesive team.
I returned with a presentation recommending a regional headquarters in Miami where it seemed most of the clients were setting up regional operations. Saatchi decided against it but in 1993 I left my job and moved to Miami to do it myself.
First thing I did was spend what was a huge amount of money for me at the time (I think $750 but I believe Jack O'Dwyer gave me a good deal and also great placement) for a full-page ad in the next O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms.
And that’s how the people from Discovery Networks came to know about JeffreyGroup in early 1994 when they were first expanding into Latin America.
From a $5,000-a-month retainer Discovery grew to more than 10 times that size over the 12 years we worked together. For those first dozen years of JeffreyGroup, they were our largest account and spurred us to open our own offices in the biggest markets of Latin America.
Today, with nearly 200 full-time staff in seven wholly-owned offices, we’re still the only agency which focuses exclusively on serving multinational clients and brands in this part of the world such as Airbus, Amazon, American Airlines, Bayer, GE, PepsiCo and Samsung in Latin America.
To this day, I believe it was that full-page ad in O’Dwyer’s that led to this success and also glad to say that my parents have finally come around as well and gotten over their disappointment that I didn’t practice law!
Jeffrey Sharlach founded the JeffreyGroup in Miami in 1993. He serves as its chairman and is based in New York City.