Former ABC Editor David Rubinger jumped to PR, then corporate and now has his own firm.
A number of Atlanta journalists migrated into PR later in their career, but you may be able to count on one hand – perhaps one digit – former editors of the Atlanta Business Chronicle who now work in public relations. Meet David Rubinger, who actually worked on all three sides part of the communication spectrum: journalism, PR and corporate.
“I still think the most fun I’ve had in my career was my time at the ABC,” David told us last week. “It was perfect for someone like me who was new to Atlanta. Anita Sharpe was editor and Ed Baker, the publisher, introduced me to this city in a way a young person at age 24 would never normally get coming to this city.”
The next stop for David was Ketchum, to which he was recruited by Jane Shivers to run the media relations department. “It was a very difficult decision to leave,” David said. “I valued the time at ABC, but with two children (four now) and looking for further professional growth, I wanted to try something different. The opportunity was right: The Internet boom was starting, Ketchum was growing quickly and I ran media relations. I don’t know if that could happen today, given economic realities for large PR agencies, but at the time they were willing to use my experience at the ABC to win new clients.”
An additional benefit: David got to “work on accounts such as Equifax and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, help implement new programs and learn the agency business without the extreme pressures of being 90 percent billable right away.”
The benefit paid dividends five years later in 2003 when Equifax CEO Tom Chapman recruited David to “go corporate” and head up the corporate communications department. That assignment opened his eyes to a totally new perspective.
“Until you are inside corporate, you don’t realize the complexities of getting all the various constituencies on the same page,” David said. “There are so many voices in a large corporation that you need to align,from the CEO to the board of directors to legal to marketing to human resources to finance. Getting everyone aligned can be a very difficult task and it doesn’t happen until you understand the pressures each of them face to work together as a team. And being a public company made it even more complicated.”
All of which gave him a good perspective when he started Rubinger Inc. in July 2008.
“When you run your own shop, you really learn to understand the client on personal and professional level … to know how they like to work with a consultant of any type,” David said. “I equate it to dating: Understanding what a partner wants, not stepping on toes, giving each other mutual respect, getting to know the client more than a weekly status call. You have to understand their needs. It takes time … sometimes it’s six months before a client and consultant get on the same page. If you know that, it pays off for the long term and it’s much more gratifying over a long relationship.”
David grew up in Manhattan, “devouring the New York Times each morning.” He was involved in the college paper at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, worked an internship at McGraw-Hill’s Electronics Magazine, leading to his first job at McGraw Hill’s online real-time news pilot program. He moved to Atlanta with his wife Hedy, a partner with Arnall Golden Gregory. “I like to say I’m a ‘Damn Yankee’ who became a ‘good old boy!’ ”
He began what he calls his “decade-long MBA program at the ABC,” first as banking/finance writer, then the real estate beat, then managing editor and finally editor for three years, leaving in 1998.
“Your sole goal as a journalist is to get the story and when you don’t get cooperation from a business entity, as a journalist, you don’t understand,” he said. “When you move to corporate, you understand the dynamics involved with legal, marketing, etc.”
At Rubinger, David and his five contract professionals serve clients such as State Bank Financial Corporation, Vocalocity, Heery International and Half-Off Depot.
“As a small firm practitioner, real success is when you are a true partner with the client,” he said. “I do whatever I can do to help them succeed as a business. It’s so much more than getting your client a news clip … it’s being their counselor in ways PR practitioners 50 years ago never would have dreamed. I love what I do now, capitalizing on a 23-year rolodex, helping solve issues, promoting brands, using my best thinking to solve clients’ problems.”
– Chris Schroder