It’s the first day of spring! The weather doesn’t seem like it wants to change, but it’s always important to remember that change will come and warmer days are ahead. Enjoy the Culloton Strategies team blog of the month!

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis


Dennis Culloton,  President and CEO 

Without change, I would likely be unemployable.  Things change all the time.  Fortunately, I’ve learned from these moments how to adapt, overcome and communicate. All of us at the firm have.  As strategists and counselors we can help clients manage change.

One day in 1998, while I was the chief spokesman for O’Hare International Airport, an American Airlines passenger jet crash landed off a runway during a missed landing. The plane landed in the mud like a lawn jart. Global warming weather patterns created an unusually warm winter.  Had there not been climate change, and mud in February, there would have been fatalities. Instead, there were no major injuries.

It was a foggy day.  First responders later said one of the passengers was found standing on the side of the runway, thinking it was a road, trying to hail a ride home. Talk about a change in travel plans.

It is these sorts of experiences in managing change and chaos that helped me start my own firm in 2010—to assemble a team with a dedicated commitment to being the go-to counselors to help our clients manage and overcome crisis, change and challenge and achieve success.  If not for that leap—or change— the unique and talented team of professionals with whom I have the pleasure to work would never have been assembled.


Manny Ozaeta, Account Supervisor

Change means different things to different people. For those who are routine-driven it can be catastrophic, for others, it is a chance to start anew, to transform and reinvent. I believe in the latter, but whether you accept or repel change, here is some food for thought:


  • *A change will do you good.
  • *The only thing constant is change.
  • *Do you have any spare change?
  • *We are the change we have been waiting for.
  • *Change or Die.
  • *A change is gonna come.


Pick one, run with it.


Julia Schatz, Account Executive

Graduating from college in 2011 was not an ideal time to enter the “real world.”  Not only was it a tough job market, I really wasn’t even sure what it was I wanted to do. Well, what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger…and more appreciative.

My first post-grad job was working as part of an internal marketing team for a restaurant group. Working on the client side before working in an agency was an educational experience. With a marketing team of only four people, I wore many different hats. My role included marketing, public relations, event planning and promotion, social media management, photography, customer relations, design, etc. I consider myself very lucky to have been exposed to so many different roles so early in my career. I learned a great deal in a short amount of time including both my strengths and weaknesses as well as what I did and did not like doing (which I believe is equally important to know). Although I am still young and still constantly learning, this experience led me to pursue a career in public relations. Every experience, no matter how young you may be, helps shape who you are and I am grateful to have had all the opportunities that brought me to where I am today.


Tracey Mendrek, Executive Vice President 

One of the hardest things about change is that it happens when you least expect it.  Felt the most when a client engagement comes to an end, it comes with all the normal baggage of change.  Either the legislation has been passed, the battle has been won (or lost) or budget cuts preclude public relations, but either way it is a change.  Moving on is hard, but where a void is created comes the opportunity for new engagements, new battles and chances to erase the board and start over.


Jodie Shpritz Kaplan, Vice President of Media Relations and Branding

While it was a difficult decision, switching from TV Reporter to public relations (a.k.a. The Dark Side) was one of the best decisions I made.  I saw the market changing and evolving and I knew I needed to change and evolve with it.  This meant leaving television, which I was truly passionate about, and switching to the other side.  When I made this decision I was scared and skeptical, but over the years I have come to realize it was the perfect change for my career.  My television background has provided me with the essential skills to communicate effectively, provide media training for my clients and most importantly have the foresight to know what the media will be looking for as stories develop.  While I had a big learning curve in my first year as a publicist, ultimately it was a decision that helped get me to where I am today.


Patrick Skarr, Account Supervisor

You’re told by those annoying inspirational posters that change is inevitable, but I’ve learned when you’re in the PR business, you end up on the front lines for your clients. After all, who needs PR if nothing is changing? This past year I’ve had the opportunity to help some of our clients through transitions and other major changes. Some were planned for a while and others were more spontaneous happenings. Changing who you work with always introduces a new dynamic and involves getting used to new habits, style and manner of interacting.

Learning how to react and offer dispassionate advice during a time of quick or great change, is probably one of the biggest changes I’ve had to work on in my PR career. I’ve learned that every issue and client requires you to think objectively, develop a plan and execute it to the best of your abilities.

That said, my sarcastic inner teenager is crying out and I’m obligated to note that the biggest change I’ve had to adjust to was leaving my beloved standing desk behind. After more than four years as a steady work companion, I really miss “Old Standy,” but have gotten used to the table and chairs here at the office.


Ashleigh Johnston, Account Executive

Sometimes, work priorities for a client change. I have first-hand experience, and in my case, the change worried me. I really enjoyed what I was doing for this particular client, and the new scope of work was unknown, out of my comfort zone and a departure from the type of work I had grown to love. Nonetheless, it’s been a challenge learning new things and changing my frame of mind but you have to roll with the punches. It’s a client near and dear to my heart and despite the change in work, I still love it and am embracing the change as part of a larger learning experience. Client work is always changing, whether it’s a new project, things have slowed down or a new direction entirely but the true test of your professionalism is learning to work with the change and not fight it.


Nancy Pender, Vice President


Some call those famous words a maxim, I consider them my mantra. I recall them when I’m faced with life changing events that aren’t so easy to digest.  Remembering that change is inevitable, and truly what makes life a “box of chocolates”, is a great coping mechanism.  I may be preaching to the choir here, but sometimes we need reminding. And guess what, those tough times are never really as bad as they seemed when you look back.  You adjust, you grow, you explore new opportunities and conquer new challenges. Change- bring it on, what a great test of our mettle.


Angela Benander, Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Responsibility

The biggest professional change I ever made was leaving my nine-year career on Capitol Hill for the private sector. Not only did I change fields, I moved from Washington, DC (which has been rightly compared to a one-shop town or even a very large high school) to Chicago, where life is a little more well-rounded. My favorite thing about making that leap is taking the strategies and tactics that I used every day in national politics and applying them to conflicts or crises in the corporate and non-profit world. Sometimes our clients are in desperate need of a new perspective, and I feel well-equipped to supply it for them.


Steve Flaherty, Intern

I have always tried to prevent change.  As an eighth grader, I waited until the night before the high school entrance exams to officially decide where I wanted to go to high school.  Four years later, I waited until May of my senior year of high school to make a college choice.

 Once again, change is coming in my life.  The difference is that this time the changes are a bit more drastic.  Instead of deciding what neighborhood of Chicago I want to go to high school, it is now what city do I want to live in.  Instead of deciding between college majors, it is now jobs.  The advantage that I have now is that I have learned from my past decisions.  I have learned that hard work and passion are two characteristics that will guide me through any change that life throws my way.  So as I begin the next major change of my life, I enter it excited and prepared for whatever it holds.


CeCe Marizu, Account Executive

Trading in a swimsuit, cap and goggles for a desk, Twitter and business cards has been a work in progress toward piecing together my life’s puzzle.  I loved swimming, I hated swimming, and then I loved it some more.  In the end, I loved swimming with all my heart and realized it was a chunk of the puzzle that was finally complete.

When I finished my collegiate career I was terrified of the next step.  I spent over half my life as a swimmer and when it was finally over I realized I had to change and figure out what I wanted to fall in love with all over again.

What has the biggest change in my life taught me? The change has taught me that it’s okay to ask the questions of where your heart lies and what gives you a sense of purpose.  Swimming taught me that not every day would be easy, but every day there was something to accomplish.  As I keep testing the new waters I know that loving what you do takes time and practice and that if you truly love what you do even the bad days add pieces to the beautiful puzzle of life.