Virgil ScudderVirgil Scudder

Virgil Scudder, SVP, Carl Byoir & Assocs., from 1977-86, heading its MediaCom unit, recalled Byoir as a firm with high morale staffed by many with media backgrounds.

Scudder’s remarks are as follows:

The Byoir I joined in late 1977 was an amazing agency.  If someone was seen working late, people headed for home would stop and ask if they could help--without demanding or expecting any billable hours for the assistance.

There were a lot of company-sponsored after-hours parties in headquarters and they, too, contributed to morale. Staff departures were so rare that anyone who left was thrown a party, even if that person was headed for a competitor's shop. At 5 p.m., they would turn the conference room into a bistro and dance hall with free food and drink.

The feeling of camaraderie and collaboration at Byoir resulted in a level of team spirit I have seen nowhere else. The talent level was off the charts.  Major media background was required and even with it, you generally had to take a writing test to get hired. 

There was a great emphasis on good writing with monthly and annual competitions that carried nice prizes. I won a down jacket one month for a proposal to a potential client. I got the award even though we didn't get the account. Imagine what that kind of thing did for morale!

Editors Liked Byoir Pitches

The people pitching the stories had "been there." We were told never to pitch a story that you would not have carried in your media days. So, when Byoir made a phone call, the journalist knew there was a worthwhile story being pitched.

I joined Byoir after NBC closed down its all news radio network and sent us newer hires packing.  Since they were union jobs, seniority determined who went and who stayed. My NBC starting date missed the cut by three months. 

I had no intention of going into PR, thinking of it as a step down, until my old boss at NBC, Alan Walden, persuaded me to talk to his wife, Carolyn Walden, a Byoir VP who headed the Radio-TV-Film Department. After 15 minutes with Carolyn, my life took a new and wonderful direction, launching a career that I continue part-time to this day. That woman could really sell!

The reason I would consider working for Byoir was the great respect I had for their writing and their professionalism when I worked at WINS. It was a class outfit. When Byoir called, I picked up the phone and listened.  When they sent a release, I read it and considered it.

H&K Was Different

Although I was at Hill & Knowlton for four years and they treated me very well, it was not a comparable place to work. The atmosphere was more corporate and, in contrast to CB&A, the building often cleared out at 5 p.m.  Creativity was the norm at CB&A but in less supply at H&K. Also, Carl Byoir was fun; H&K always felt like a job even though a good one. I left in 1990 to form my own firm, a move I have never regretted.

I started my own business in New York with my son Ken hoping to recreate the lively, upbeat attitude I had enjoyed at Byoir. I think we largely accomplished that. I closed the office and TV studio 22 years later, in 2012, thinking I might retire and certainly tired of going into an office every day.

I enjoy media training and client interaction so much that I continue offering it to this day, operating out of our winter residence in Miami Beach and our summer home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

A key feature of Byoir days that I’ve retained is this: work should be both productive and fun. I apply this to the training I still do. It should be fun for both the trainer and the client and the client should make significant progress in a single day.  That Byoir-based philosophy continues to serve all parties well. And, that’s why my retirement never fully came about.  Some day, maybe. Or maybe not.