Paula Larson, Former Vice President, The Hoffman Agency U.S.

When Lou asked me to contribute some thoughts about the 20th anniversary of Hoffman AP, I told him I was truly honored because being involved at the beginning meant so much to me, not to mention providing an opportunity to hone my global communications chops. Moreover, it was such a stroke of progressive genius on Lou’s part, since (at the time) North American agencies either co-affiliated with overseas third-party PR firms to execute PR overseas locally (hence the NA and AP teams likely never met), or transplanted Americans headed up teams in major Asia metros, putting the proverbial American stamp on things and not truly embracing the adaptation of global programs on a regional level, (i.e., thinking globally, acting locally).

With this said, I had been to Europe many times. I even lived in the UK. Yet, during Hoffman’s initial sojourn to Asia I never set foot on terra firma.

So, how did Hoffman pioneering new global communications programming in Asia have such a huge impact on me if I never experienced Asian culture first-hand?   

As Lou would say, there’s beauty in simplicity.

You see, while Hoffman opened brick-and-mortars in Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong, Lou also brought the incredibly talented local folks from these offices to San Jose as part of Hoffman’s Building Bridges program geared to enrich deeper, richer and better connections among the AP and NA teams. The Building Bridges itineraries were robust and meticulously detailed with a fine-tooth comb (so very Lou!), including field trips with our fabulous AP colleagues to many Bay Area tourist destinations and the like, and of course, built around doing A+ client work.

More importantly (and, relative to cultivating my experience as a global communications strategist), I found Building Bridges as the prime conduit to really understanding the nuances of my AP colleagues’ working and personal lives — and what cultural things they had to deal with in order to set clients up for success. In this vein, the sharing of professional and personal information was totally invaluable relative to being able to effectively counsel clients expanding NA footprints to all shores. We subsequently generated some amazing, highly results-oriented global communications programs for several fabulous global clients — work that still brings a smile to my face.

Yet, what makes me proudest is that as we communicated and shared ideas constantly — working our tails off in the process — we all got to know one another on a very intrinsic and human level (another nod to Hoffman’s first-rate Building Bridges program). Interrelated — and, again, fills me with great pride — I’m very happy to say many of my former Hoffman AP colleagues are still good friends of mine.

Thus, Lou’s original vision — to hire local, switched-on, highly capable and super-talented outbound communications pros throughout Asia and have these terrific individuals spend some time in NA and vice versa — is a point in my life and career that will always be very special.

In closing, my heartfelt appreciation and congratulations to Lou and to the entire Hoffman AP crew, former and current contributors alike! I hope the next 20 years bring you all great fortune and enduring friendships as the first 20 brought me!