Now With Dentsu, Elise Mitchell Builds Brands from Broadway to the Ozarks

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

Dentsu Network CEO Tim Andree and Elise Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell Communications and now an executive team member of the Dentsu Network, quickly found common ground. (Photo by Ryan Miller)

From the window of her downtown Fayetteville office, Elise Mitchell can catch a glimpse of the scenic beauty of the Ozarks. What she sees from her new office in New York City is a much more metropolitan scene.

As different as both locales are, the view from both is identical for Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell Communications and now an executive team member of the Dentsu Network. Wherever Mitchell is working these days she can see what Dentsu Network President and CEO Tim Andree describes as “green field to build.”

Mitchell sold Mitchell Communications to Dentsu Network in December and is being asked to help the global company build its worldwide public relations brand, while maintaining the local firm and its impressive client roster (Wal-Mart, Tyson, J.B. Hunt, Southwestern Energy and others). Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but regardless of dollar figures, it is viewed as a big move in the industry.

Dentsu Inc., founded in Japan 112 years ago as an advertising agency, is parent company of Dentsu Network. Only recently has Dentsu made a serious venture into public relations, and the Mitchell Communications acquisition — not to mention the acquisition of Mitchell herself — is seen as significant.

While Dentsu America had its own in-house communications department, it couldn’t match the public relations reputation or expertise that Mitchell Communications offers. Dentsu hopes to grow its global operations from the Ozarks, adding to a network of PR firms in 29 countries on five continents.

Already Mitchell has developed a plan for expanding Dentsu’s reach. She is working to tweak her ideas for the company and has a blueprint for the next month, year and five years. This includes evaluating other firms for Dentsu to acquire or partner with as it carries out Andree’s vision for creating a global PR titan.

Implementing that vision, creating something from a fresh slate is what Andree refers to when he mentions seeing a green field. Mitchell sees the blank slate and also has another description for her new situation.

“It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle that I have no idea what the picture looks like, but every day and every conversation I can drop one more piece into place and the picture becomes clear,” Mitchell said. “You have to be patient. That’s what being strategic is. You gather all the information that you think you need and then [know] how to act on it, where the priorities are and where the early wins are.”

Love at First Meet

There have been plenty of wins for Mitchell and Mitchell Communications over the years.

Mitchell’s success story in growing her company is well documented. She began Mitchell Communications from her home 17 years ago and has since built the firm into a darling of the public relations industry.

In the early days the company was built primarily on a network of freelance “project” employees across the country. Mitchell would make regular Sunday calls to check in with her stable of workers and see how much time — if any — they could devote to projects that week.



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