Mike Neumeier literally walked into the world of PR – almost by accident
Mike Neumeier literally walked through an open door into a PR career. He just as easily could have stepped into advertising.
“I walked into the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida after transferring in my junior year and asked a very scary looking professor, ‘Where is the PR/Advertising department?’ He looked at me like I was stupid, gave me a scowl and said, ‘Which one? They are two different departments?’ There was a sign over a door behind him that said Public Relations, so I quickly said, ‘PR!’ He said, ‘It’s right there’ and turned around and walked away. I walked into the PR department – I’d like to say it was out of my love for writing or something, but it was out of fear I walk into PR – and I never walked out!
After college, Mike worked in the University of Florida Health Science Center and pursued a master’s degree in PR, when a job offer at Mercer University in Macon came through. “I left without finishing my master’s, though I was close. I couldn’t pass it up the job opportunity. Still today my mother and mother-in-law never let me live it down that I didn’t finish my degree.”
After two years as director of news services, handling media relations, alumni communications, writing articles for a university research magazine and handling special events, Mike knew he didn’t want to go the academic route. Despite rubbing shoulders with former U.S. Attorney Griffin Bell and other well-known Mercer alums, Mike found himself spending all his weekends in Atlanta.
“I used my contacts in PRSA (he had been national president of PRSSA in college) and applied to a bunch of jobs, sent out a lot of letters and landed a job at Duffey Communications. Technology was on the upswing, and I became part of a group who understood it and were successful in building a book of business.”
He stayed there for about five years until he was recruited to be a vice president at “an even more creative” agency named Abovo, where he grew the PR department from 10 to 30 people, while the agency grew to 90 people. Then, following the dot-bomb and 9-11, “there came an ugly time when we did the best we could as a management team to keep the firm afloat, it was like landing a jumbo jet with no controls, gearing down to 14 people over about two years. During that time I worked to find a lot of talented individuals’ jobs.”
Again through PRSA contacts, Mike became director of media and analyst relations at web hosting provider Interland before starting his own firm in March 2004. In August 2005, he “partnered up with two others – one who is killer in creative service and one who is excellent at strategic marketing, I’m PR and we are all interdisciplinary – and building Arketi been a true work of love for all three of us.”
Today, Arketi is a high-tech business-to-business public relations and digital marketing firm that has 17 professionals and serve clients such as Cbeyond, divisions of Xerox and Knowlagent. Mike served as president of the Georgia Chapter of PRSA in 2009, is on the board of directors for the Technology Association of Georgia, and on the national executive committee of the Counselors Academy of PRSA. He and his wife Kelly set up an annual Leadership Award, awarding a $1,000 scholarship to a PRSSA Georgia or Florida student leader.
“PR has gotten more strategic and more respected in organizations. Today executives know what it is and know they need it. We still to some extent struggle with measurement, but I don’t get too hung up on that. There are many ways to measure, but essentially we help them think through and get through to the market place. We sometimes act as the conscience of organizations.
“Over time, I’ve come to realize the strength of the written word – my partners say, ‘if you need a killer executive quote, Mike is the guy to go to.’ Day in and day out, as PR professionals, we put words in executives’ mouths and with that comes real responsibility. We can’t take lightly how to craft those words and think through the implications, nor should we. I have a renewed appreciation for excellent writing because in today’s 24 by 7 world driven by texts, tweets and emails the art of the written word is an endangered species..”
– Chris Schroder