Inside Atlanta PR

Claudia Patton Developing Talent – and Tastes – around the World for Edelman

When Claudia Patton was named Chief Talent Officer (CTO) five months ago for Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, she figured she would be spending a lot of time helping its many U.S.-based employees expand their global horizons. So she had to smile when she was in London recently and met with a PR professional from their Shanghai office who was preparing to spend 18 months in Atlanta as part of Edelman’s “Fellow” program.

“I think she might have been a little intimidated when she connected with our Atlanta team via Skype video,” Claudia said Monday, back in her Atlanta office. “There she was in Shanghai and she looks into the screen and sees 80 Edelman employees staring back at her. She asked what it would be like when she moves here in May, so each of us took a turn telling her what we would partner with her on. She took it very seriously, so when I saw her in London, she had a detailed list of questions she wanted to know more about, including ‘hot dog at The Varsity.’

“That’s not something you can really explain,” Claudia said. “You just have to experience it.”

Claudia Patton

Claudia began her professional experience as a teacher in the DeKalb County Schools, later entering the music business before teaching a commercial music course at Georgia State. Being an entrepreneur by nature, she started a small PR firm on the side with a hospitality focus. The Headline Group eventually grew to $3 million in revenue and captured Richard Edelman’s attention when he was looking to grow his fledgling Atlanta office.

She not only grew the combined office from the 14th largest firm in Atlanta to the largest, she was soon appointed the Southeast leader for the New York-based PR firm. She says the teaching background really helps her understand how to help each individual employee grow his or her international perspective to meet the increasingly global client base.

“You have to listen first,” she says. “Then you can pick up how each person learns.”

No longer responsible for a profit & loss ledger, Claudia is charged with ensuring the firm has a global mindset, “developing growth plans for each of our employees whether they are sitting at their desks or working in a global client’s office.”
Her world now is filled with developing career paths, building computer training programs with graphics and video, ensuring everyone is sharing knowledge and cultural insights and organizing the Fellows program, which immerses employees in a totally different culture for 18 months at a time.

“Already I’ve found when leaders are repatriated into their original offices, there is a big difference in their mindset and their passion about their clients. It is supercharging the company for our next generation. Everyone has to understand each other culturally as well as from a business perspective. We are planning who we are going to be years from now.”

It’s required a little cultural change for Claudia as well. She wakes up a couple of hours earlier each morning to be on the phone with Europe and then late at night she’s talking to Asia.

“It’s cut into my exercise time,” she said. “But I can get back to that soon enough. Right now, it’s all very exciting.”

– Chris Schroder

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