Inspiration from the road

By Monty Hagler


I found it on a recent trip to Canada for the Worldcom Public Relations Group global meeting.  A flicker came from the meeting itself, which was chock full of information, wisdom and best practices from leading public relations agencies throughout the world. A spark was generated from my final meeting as a Worldcom Global Board member, a responsibility that I greatly enjoyed and learned from. There was a glow during 2,500 miles of driving (with my fiancée Jane Nickles as my co-pilot) through gorgeous countryside along the old Canadian highway to explore Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. 

But the inspiration flame was lit while reading a book on the journey up and watching a band in an empty hotel bar on the way home. 

Flying Colors is a novel by my friend Chris Laney. He worked on it for years and years, rewriting and refining it amid rejections from publishers who all wanted something different. Something this. Something that. It is so easy for people to say no. It is so easy to give up. Chris never did. He took the feedback that made sense and he incorporated it, but he never lost sight of his vision for what he wanted his story to bring to readers. He pushed it forward and he got it published. 

When it debuted, Flying Colors was the #1 new release on Amazon in the Philosophy & Metaphysical category. It ranked among bestsellers like Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Mitch Albom’s Five People You Meet in Heaven. 

It’s an easy, fast read that will make you think about life’s possibilities and perhaps change how you view the world. I encourage everyone to buy a copy.

On our way home from Canada, we reentered the United States via Vermont. It was the final state I had not visited. Like the other 49, it did not disappoint. Expanses of green, rugged terrain, delicious local restaurants, a Great Lake and historic town squares. 

On a hot Friday night, The Chris Lyon Band set up to play in our hotel bar. Jane and I wandered in, ordered some drinks and sat down to listen. The band kicked in, playing mostly original songs rather than covers. They radiated passion and joy. We clapped, cheered and danced. We asked for more. For 2 hours, they played for us (literally, no one else showed up except for hotel staff). While I know the band would have loved a packed house, we could tell they were playing because they love music. Chris Lyon writes music because he has stories to tell, and emotions to capture. And he is going to get them out there. Find him on your favorite streaming music channel.  

Since our return to Greensboro, I’ve reflected on the commitment and focus that both Chris Laney and Chris Lyon have to pursue their passions. They’ve inspired me to recommit to my own professional and personal goals. I’m fortunate that I have a clear vision of what is important to me, the path I want to follow and what makes me happy. I may or may not be successful in all that I want to achieve. I know it will require hundreds (thousands) of hours, with two steps forward and hopefully only one step back along the way. It is better than sitting still.


It seems like a lifetime ago, but I was recently reminded that it has only been 11 years since I was deeply embedded in leadership positions with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). I was invited to attend the 2022 year-end meeting of the NC PRSA chapter in Raleigh, where I was recognized as a past president of the chapter. There were only a few familiar faces, and I definitely felt like one of the oldest rats in the barn.

When I started my career at First Union Corporation fresh out of graduate school, I joined the Charlotte PRSA chapter. I immediately got to know a wide range of public relations professionals and was exposed to the myriad ways I could build a career. I served on committees to get experience outside of my comfort zone, and I continued to grow in the organization when I moved to Raleigh to learn the agency side of PR with Capital Strategies. Over the next few years, I served as chapter president, Southeast district chair, a member of the National Board Nominating Committee and National Bylaws Task Force and as a National Assembly Delegate. I made great friends across the country, earned my Accredited in Public Relations certification, traveled extensively for conferences and meetings and deepened my expertise in this profession. And then I quit PRSA.

The reason was simple. I had started my own agency and had the opportunity for RLF Communications to join Worldcom Public Relations Group, the oldest and largest partnership of independent public relations agencies in the world. We needed to focus our time, energy and money on getting all the value we could out of this organization, so I dove in headfirst. Doing that has paid enormous benefits for my own professional development and the growth of RLF Communications. I have made great friends around the world, traveled globally, deepened my expertise and served in leadership roles on the North America Region and Global boards.

As I drove back to Greensboro from the NC PRSA meeting last week, I thought about the different chapters we all have in our lives both personally and professionally. How we can be deeply embedded in projects and people, and then, as those experiences run their course, we take on new challenges and opportunities. The key is to respect and remember what was once important in our lives and helped shape who we have become. PRSA played that role for me. Worldcom continues to play that role for me.

Now it comes full circle. While I am not going to dive back into the PRSA deep-end, I do want RLF team members to get involved for the professional development and networking opportunities that exist. We’re also going to explore ways our agency can help the NC PRSA chapter extend its programming to the Triad region of North Carolina.

Many people know that my favorite novel is “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren. It has been more than 40 years since I first read “how life is strange and changeful, and the crystal is in the steel at the point of fracture, and the toad bears a jewel in its forehead, and the meaning of moments passes like the breeze that scarcely ruffles the leaf of the willow.”


Worldcom Releases Special Report on War in Ukraine Influence on CEOs

Worldcom, a global network of PR agencies of which RLF is a member, recently released an updated Worldcom Confidence Index report analyzing how the War in Ukraine is shifting global CEOs’ conversations on social media. Below is a press release discussing the top 5 topics CEOs were engaged in from Feb-May 2022.


The War In Ukraine WCI Report Highlights The Top Five Issues Where Stakeholders Expect Leaders To Be Taking Both Immediate And Sustained Action

NEW YORK (June 21st, 2022) – In a special topic tracking report from the Worldcom Confidence Index (WCI) of what CEOs are saying about the impact of the War in Ukraine, The Worldcom Public Relations Group (Worldcom) has identified five main topical issues that global CEOs and CMOs are talking about. In the period between February and May 2022, the top five topics are: The massive displacement of people and refugee flows; the impact on energy prices; the impact on food security; making the issues of hunger and poverty worse; causing divisions among people and countries.

Human cost of the war receives sustained attention, but global food security became the number one topic in May

Unsurprisingly, the most talked about issue at the beginning of the conflict was the massive displacement of people and refugees fleeing Ukraine. This topic had the biggest engagement from global CEOs and CMOs between February and March[i], out of the top five topics discovered. The Ukraine war has caused the worst refugee crisis since World War II, which could lead to a significant increase in human trafficking and child protection crisis. However, by May concern over global food security and the impact that would have on their people and their business, had become the top issue.

The Ukraine war is disrupting supply chains and has caused the price of oil and gas to skyrocket. This topic received the second biggest engagement from global CEOs and CMOs between February and May, out of the top five topics. The cost of energy has obvious implications for the cost of ongoing operations but has significant implications for the way organisations operate too. For example, companies that were returning to office-based working, might have to rethink their strategy to relieve pressure on the rising cost of living.

Todor Janev, chairman of The Worldcom Public Relations Group (Worldcom), said: “Leaders need to develop a clear strategy for protecting their brands from the impact of the war. Stakeholders expect immediate action to minimise the impact of increases in fuel and food prices. The WCI data shows that they also expect leaders to take action on policies which will have longer term implications. This includes increasing the pace at which they embrace ESG policies and demonstrate that their business believes in profit with a purpose. Communicating clearly, consistently, and transparently on these topics will be essential to building stakeholder trust and belief.”

Todd Lynch, managing director of Worldcom, said: “Many business leaders have been quick to show support for the people of Ukraine and make meaningful decisions about their business ties to Russia. But the results of this special tracking report, by the Worldcom Confidence Index, show that the focus is now switching to issues that have both immediate and sustained implications on operations, employees and their customers/key stakeholders. Brands with an international or global footprint need to identify how these five topics change in priority from one country to the next and then make sure they are communicating their positions/actions effectively and frequently to their key stakeholders.”

View the special War in Ukraine Topic Tracking Report and the Video summary.


The Worldcom Confidence Index is the world’s most extensive monthly study of what the C Suite is talking about. And it is the only global study that shows the change in confidence and engagement across a range of important business topics. This extensive data is now available via an interactive online portal and can be filtered by geography, industry, and role. You can explore the latest Worldcom Confidence Index data here. Our Worldcom partners in 115 cities are ready to provide even more local context. Contact Todd Lynch to start the discussion.

About the Worldcom Confidence Index

The Worldcom Confidence Index (WCI) is the first AI-driven ‘living’ global market research, tracking the topics that over 80,000 CEOs and CMOs are commenting on online. The AI-fuelled tracker is updated monthly and is drawn from an active sample of over 100,000 C-Suite executives. It tracks data for two roles, six regions, 42 countries and 11 industry sectors. It identifies the levels of engagement with business topics and how much the level of confidence for each topic has changed. It is the first global study of this type to use AI supported data capture. The longitudinal analysis employed by ASI, the research company providing the data for the WCI, enables Worldcom to look back in time and make direct comparisons for levels engagement and confidence.

About The Worldcom Public Relations Group 

The Worldcom Public Relations Group is the world’s leading partnership of independently owned public relations firms, with 143 offices employing some 2,000 staff in 115 cities across six continents. In total, Worldcom partners reported combined revenue of US$350+ million last year from 3,034 clients. Established in 1988, the group was formed so that the strongest, most capable independent firms could deliver immediate impact and sustained value through the intelligent use of communications – wherever in the world a client needs support. Partners serve national, international, and multinational clients, while retaining the flexibility and client-service focus inherent in independent agencies. Through Worldcom, clients have on-demand access to in-depth communications expertise from professionals who understand the language, culture, and customs of the geographic areas in which they operate.


Connect with Worldcom PR Group on Facebook and LinkedIn

Learn more about Worldcom at or call Todd Lynch at 1-800-955-9675.


New Perspective on “Global Reach, Local Knowledge”

By Monty Hagler

Sitting in a conference room high above the crowded streets of San Jose, Costa Rica, among a group of public relations agency CEOs, I witnessed the Worldcom Public Relations Group tagline in action.  Partners from Mexico, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and other Latin American nations passionately discussed how to help clients in their respective countries succeed by understanding the communication, political, economic and cultural nuances that so often trip up companies.

I attended the Worldcom LATAM Regional meeting for several reasons – to represent the North American region and Global Board, to meet new partners who have joined the world’s largest and oldest partnership of independent PR agencies and, most importantly, to learn how RLF can better support clients as they evaluate expansion into Latin American markets.

Just as colleagues at work are more than images on a Zoom screen, Worldcom holds in-person meetings for the express purpose of ensuring we do not look at our partners as simply dots on a map. In an emerging, Covid-fragile world, we are starving for interactions that are not defined by a screen, text or call. While the work world is definitely a better place with the freedom and flexibility technology provides, there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions, casual conversations over coffee or meals, spontaneous brainstorms, subtle mentoring and a host of other ways we build trust, confidence and bonds with our colleagues and clients. That’s particularly valuable for younger workers. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on studies in which Generation Z workers love the flexibility of working remotely, but their levels of stress, loneliness and anxiety from never meeting their colleagues and working in isolation are incredibly high.

The LATAM meeting was organized by local partner Agencia Interamericana de Comunicación. They did an excellent job blending presentations from current partners with outside speakers. One presentation detailed the impact of COVID-19 on educational access in Latin America. Virtual learning in countries with significantly less than 50 percent of the population having broadband accessibility will have a dramatic, negative, long-term impact on the poor and vulnerable. We’re hearing a similar story in the United States as well; there will be societal consequences for reducing in-person learning to young people who need education the most for emotional development, social mobility and stability.

Presentations also detailed the dramatic shift in consumption patterns. Almost overnight, and in almost every corner of the world, people shifted from consuming services to consuming goods. Since we could not go out to restaurants, entertainment or take trips, we invested more in home makeovers, automobiles, new technology and other consumer goods.

In effect, there is a hurricane sweeping through companies and organizations, driven by the dynamics of health (COVID-19 and all its permutations), logistics (supply chain distributions), production (slowdown of manufacturing due to labor and materials), technology (lack of semi-conductor chips), energy (sharply higher costs) and commodities (rising costs driven by rising demand for corn, wheat, soy, beef and grain).

Challenging times bring out the best and worst in leadership teams and amplify the impact of their decisions. Consumer goods companies that reacted too slowly to the demand or were still overly dependent on brick-and-mortar retail to drive sales, lost market share and leadership positions. Companies that moved much too aggressively and stretched themselves too thin (think Peloton) have suffered similar fates.

Clear, consistent, transparent communications remain at the heart of how companies navigate complex challenges. It is much more than marketing, advertising or promotions with customer. Short and long-term success is dependent upon connecting with the internal and external audiences that matter most – employees, vendors, suppliers, regulators, legislators, investors, analysts, media and community partners – and ensuring all parties understand and have input, on the who, what, why and how of a company’s decisions. Because those decisions carry ripple effects for everyone associated with an organization, not just the executive suite.

Everywhere in Costa Rica one sees the slogan Pura Vida. It means “Pure Life” or “Simple Life,” and it reflects a desired way of living. For many people and organizations, it is easier said than done in these trying times. Our partners in Latin American described challenging economic conditions in their countries and all the steps they have taken to protect their employees and others who depend on them. I am honored to be their partner.

Worldcom Public Relations Group Installs New Global Board and Regional Committees

RLF Communications CEO Monty Hagler has been named to a second term as chairman of the Americas Committee of Worldcom Public Relations Group, the leading global partnership of public relations firms, with 143 offices in 115 cities across six continents.

Read More here

International Connectivity in the Age of COVID

by Monty Hagler

One of the defining traditions of being a partner in the Worldcom Public Relations Group is gathering every spring with more than 100 other agency leaders to share best practices, collaborate on projects and jointly fund research projects such as the Worldcom Confidence Index, which deploys artificial intelligence to analyze sentiments from 54,000 global CEOs and CMOs.

Worldcom Zoom call

As with all other traditions over the past year, the 2020 Worldcom meeting scheduled in Malaysia was cancelled and our recent 2021 global meeting was held virtually. Partners logged onto Zoom from nearly every time zone and there was robust discussion on important initiatives as we reconnected with old friends and welcomed new partners.

RLF Communications joined Worldcom in 2010 because of a compelling need to help our clients understand local markets in other parts of the globe and access a broader variety of resources to accomplish their business objectives. Those needs have only increased over the past decade as we become an even more global society. I’m currently serving on the Global board and as chair of the Americas region which stretches from Chile to Canada. I learn something new in every conversation, every interaction I have with my partners, and that makes me a better counselor and strategic advisor to my team and clients.

The annual meeting and regional meetings in the fall are important because Worldcom is made up of more than dots on a global map. We know, trust and value our partners. I’ve met with virtually every agency head, and spent time getting to know them and what they represent. I count on them to respond when I reach out. And they know they can count on me.

Because of the pandemic, one of the biggest shifts taking place is discussion about physical offices and remote working. Virtually every large company in the US has kept employees home for nearly a year, and many of them have no plans to bring staff back to the office for at least another six months. Many studies, such as a recent McKinsey white paper, are showing that for highly skilled professionals that utilize technology, there will likely be a permanent shift in how, where and when we reengage in office settings.

We cannot and should not try to put the remote workplace genie back in the bottle, but I believe there are significant drawbacks to moving to an all-virtual workforce in industries where in-person collaboration, cooperation and trust are the glue that holds the work together. The longer we create distance between teams, the more cracks are going to appear in the system. We found that to be true at RLF after 3 months working remotely, which is why I made the decision to bring everyone back to the office in June. We social distance in meetings, we wear masks when sitting close, we have glass panels between workstations, and we sit in separate rooms for client calls. But we are together to brainstorm, debate, laugh, plan, encourage, proofread and engage. It makes a world of difference. It makes us better for our clients and each other.

One of my favorite Harvard Business Review articles by Alan Webber back in 1993 drilled the point that in a knowledge economy, the most important work is conversation. Something important is lost when conversation only happens at a distance, no matter how easy it is to meet virtually through Zoom, Teams, Meets, Slacks and other such platforms.

For my part, I look forward to reconnecting – face-to-face — with my Worldcom partners when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

RLF marks 10th Anniversary with The Worldcom Group

By Monty Hagler

This year marks RLF’s 10th anniversary in Worldcom Public Relations Group, the largest and oldest partnership of independent agencies in the world. I had the pleasure of serving on the Global Group board for several years and am now returning to a leadership position as board chair for the Americas’ Region, which is comprised of nearly 50 agencies stretching 5,350 miles from Santiago, Chile, to Toronto, Canada.

Worldcom has been an invaluable resource for RLF on multiple fronts. Our clients have access to local expertise, knowledge and contacts in virtually every region of the world. Our team has access to best practices, case studies, practice groups and knowledge sharing on nearly every issue we encounter. And I have access to thoughtful, experienced and insightful agency leaders who have become dear friends and mentors.

One of the requirements of Worldcom membership is face-to-face interactions with other agency leaders. We gather twice a year — a global meeting in the spring and regional meetings in the fall – to conduct business, hear from a diverse range of speakers and share ideas. Amazing meals, alcoholic beverages and impromptu exploration of our host cities are also part of the bonding experience. As a result, I know and trust leaders at more than 100 communications and PR agencies throughout the world.

When we reach out to partners on behalf of our clients or our own needs, they respond. They take ownership. They produce results. That is not achieved by luck or randomness. The vetting process for potential new Worldcom partners is rigorous, and once partners are in, there is a formal peer review process every two and a half years to ensure partners continue to meet the highest quality standards. I’m proud to say that RLF has scored exceedingly well in our 4 peer reviews over the past decade and benefitted tremendously from this practice of having partners review our operations and offer advice on how RLF can become an even better agency.

Although we did not hold our global meeting in Malaysia this past April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (nor will we gather in Philadelphia this fall for the Americas region meeting), our partnership is stronger than ever. We have been holding bi-weekly webinars for agency leaders to share insights and knowledge on rapidly changing topics such as COVID-19 communications, the global economic shutdown and the widening impact of the Black Lives Matter protest movement. We are getting real-time insights that we can incorporate into our counsel and work with clients.

I’m proud to be a Worldcom partner and look forward to my time as Americas board chair. #WorldcomStrong

The Bookshelf – The World Is Flat

img_5284By Monty Hagler
(Part of a continuing series on the books that made the journey to RLF’s new office space)
Think of The World Is Flat as business science fiction, circa 2005. Many of the concepts author Thomas Friedman chronicles were still in their emerging phases – the ease in which anyone could outsource research work to India, the blinding speed of digital communication connections, the seamless process of pulling into a McDonalds drive-thru and having your order taken by someone a thousand miles away.
If I recall correctly, I read The World Is Flat about the same time I got my first mobile phone with a camera that allowed you to easily snap a picture and then email it. I don’t believe texting and instant messaging from the phone were options, but on my laptop there was this new tool called Google to look up things without a staff of researchers and assistants tracking down information. And as someone who is paid to look things up and track things down, it was a wake-up call that I’d better up my game.
Continue reading “The Bookshelf – The World Is Flat”

Learning and Leaving From Brussels

By Monty Hagler
Let’s start with the end.
There are remarkably few reminders of the March terror attacks in Brussels until you depart for the recently reopened airport three hours in advance of the flight home, laden with Belgian chocolates. Traffic jams and merges into a single lane on the approach, allowing soldiers at multiple check points to peer into vehicles as they slowly move forward. Taxis drop passengers 400 yards from the terminal. Hundreds of people drag their bags towards the base of the parking deck. Then up you climb, circling the spiraling car ramp in loops that make you breathe like the 30-minute mark in spin class.
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