If you think Heide Harrell impressed the Public Relations Society of America with her diligence, you’re probably right.
When she heard a column was coming on her nomination to join the PRSA’s national board, she sent a pre-interview summary, arrived early for coffee with a reporter and followed up with three emails offering further details of interest.
We’ll get to those, but first let’s make clear that Harrell didn’t self-promote. She didn’t have to. Denver Peacock, Natalie Ghidotti and other friends in the Little Rock PR world got the word out.
Harrell directs marketing and business development for the Rose Law Firm, at 199 years old the oldest business of any kind in Arkansas. A big part of Harrell’s job these days is preparing for the firm’s bicentennial birthday bash in November, and the surrounding promotional work.
“It’s very exciting,” she said over a cold brew at Nexus downtown. “We’re the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi, and the third oldest in the country.”
The Rose firm’s only continuously practicing elders nationwide are Rawle & Henderson LLP, formed in Philadelphia in 1783, and Howard Kohn Sprague & FitzGerald of Hartford, Connecticut, born in 1786.
The Rose firm dates its founding to 1820, 16 years before statehood. The “Partnership in the Practice of Law” between Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley, signed Nov. 1, 1820, hangs in the firm’s boardroom.
Harrell’s job at the venerable white-shoe firm, whose first female partner was Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a far cry from her previous agency work at Little Rock’s Stone Ward and Mangan Holcomb Partners. “Your whole client list is just one firm. Attorneys have different specialties and practices, but you’re not simultaneously doing work for a pest control company, a public institution and a university. You can put all your energy into the firm as a whole.”
Not that she can’t multitask.
While helping Rose Law Firm attorneys expand professional networks, extend leadership training and advertise their legal acumen, Harrell is also shaping what’s next at PRSA. A former president of the Little Rock chapter and chair of the Southwest District, which includes 15 chapters in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, Harrell has invested years of work in the organization.
Little Rock’s chapter has one of the PRSA’s highest percentages of members with Accreditation in Public Relations, the organization’s badge of competence, diligence, ethics and client service. “The Arkansas chapter has the third-highest percentage of professionals holding the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in the nation,” Harrell said. “Out of 110 chapters, we are No. 3. That is awesome!”
If ratified as expected by members, Harrell will be only the second Arkansan on the national board of directors since the PRSA was formed in 1948. Jim McCall, the retired former PR director for AT&T in Little Rock and once executive director of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, served on the PRSA national board from 2002-04. Harrell noted that “OldPRguy” is part of McCall’s email address.
“Being slated to serve on the National Board of PRSA is definitely one of the highlights of my career,” said Harrell, who has a bachelor’s from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and a master’s from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, not to mention a pair of basset hounds, Lucy and Charlie. “The outpouring of support from the local PR community has been humbling to say the least. It’s really a big deal.”
Ghidotti, CEO of Ghidotti Communications of Little Rock and another Arkansan on the national PRSA scene, predicted that Harrell will “do a fantastic job.” Ghidotti, who was recently honored as the Little Rock Rotary Club’s Rotarian of the Year, serves on the board of the PRSA Counselors Academy, a professional development program “designed by agency leaders for agency leaders” that held its spring conference in May in St. Petersburg, Florida. “It’s good to have a friend and another Arkansan involved at the national level.”