Why Ward

Think about it.  Everything you’ve ever achieved in your business, you’ve done as a result of your communication about it. Growth goals, new market penetration, process improvements, safety performance, product innovation — you name it — you listened to what was happening in your environment, and you said the right things to the right people to cause a new result.  You caused it through your conversations.

Over the years since our founding in 1990, many clients just like you have turned to Ward to help their management teams cause a new result.   And quite often, it becomes quickly evident that insufficient communication with internal and/or external audiences lies at the root of missed opportunities to achieve an important company goal.

Fortunately, with the right strategy, a new direction can be forged with surprisingly swift momentum.

What can Ward cause for you?

Welcome into The World of Ward

The Ward Four

Every business issue is a communication issue at its core. Regardless of the need that brings a client to choose our Public Relations and Marketing Communications Firm, we begin with a process we call The Ward Four to:

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  • understand the client’s goal;
  • determine who can help or hinder their ability to achieve the goal;
  • decide which actions are needed by those influencers; and
  • identify what’s preventing them from taking the desired action now.

With these findings, we plan and execute successful public relations, marketing and communications campaigns and long-term programs that help meet our clients’ objectives.

How does it work for our clients?  Well, we ask them why they keep us as their firm and why they have the confidence to recommend us, and…

Clients Say:

  • Because you get Results.
  • Your people have Experience.
  • Your team provides Expertise we don’t have (and don’t want to carry the overhead for) in-house.
  • You not only have Relationships in the community and with the media who cover us, you value long-term relationships the way we do in our business.
  • You take Responsibility for managing the project. We don’t have to ask because you’re on top of it.
  • With your help, our company has earned Recognition in the marketplace and our work as a team has earned the Recognition of our management.
  • You Respect our need for a hassle-free experience, our rights as the client, and our people’s time and accountabilities.
  • You meant it when you said “there’s a Ward Way to do everything.” Your business Processes prevent surprises, keep our work on schedule and within budget, and make it easy to approve your invoices.

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A Ward Way to do Everything

Among the many advantages of having been in business for more than two decades is clarity about what clients expect and need in service delivery.  We know firsthand that clients simply want a seamless experience and sensible practices and procedures that support the team’s ability to produce results. From the initial letter of agreement, through the tried-and-true retainer activity management tools and results reports, clients appreciate how well the business of their account is run.

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People

A Public Relations and Marketing Communications Firm is only as good as its people because that’s who the client works with daily.  Since great firms require great people, Ward strictly adheres to an A-player-only hiring philosophy. The outcome?  Great work for great clients, and great passion doing it.

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Account Teams

  • people-chart2Well-rounded professionals in teams
  • people-chart1Custom, creative solutions

Given the way businesses operate in today’s work-from-anywhere, with-anyone, at-any-time culture, Ward assembles its client teams in a modern, progressive organizational structure.  We long ago abandoned the hierarchical, top-down, command-and-control org charts that hinder results in even the largest corporations.  Nimble and easily adapted to change as client needs change, our teams are organized to provide a dedicated point person, or Team Lead, to support each client initiative and a senior level Client Advocate who represents and ensures the client perspective is always resonating in the work being produced.  Further, client’s can always rely on their senior Team Lead or Client Advocate for advice, excellent writing on a tight deadline, knowledge of relationships with targeted media, or prudent budget management.

Beyond the Team Lead and Client Advocate, other members of each client’s team vary by the specific work needed or projects undertaken to ensure a custom fit each time.  What we can promise is the agency shies away from an abundance of junior staffers.  So, whether you need marketing support, website development, graphic design, SEO, PR, social media or any other service, you will have high caliber team members to provide quality counsel client’s deserve.

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Leadership

Deborah Ward Buks, APRPresident

Deborah-BuksPassionate about her clients’ causes, Deborah Buks brings some 30 years of experience to bear for clients, which range from energy and petrochemical companies to real estate, manufacturing and professional services, to name a few.

She has worked in a variety of industries to further client goals through creative communications techniques, and her training in accounting enables her to complement clients’ bottom-line business sense.

Before opening Ward in 1990, Deborah’s experience included tenure as a vice president in the Houston office of Hill and Knowlton.  There, she handled proactive marketing communications programs, crisis situations such as Marathon’s hydrofluoric acid leak and Texaco’s Pennzoil fight, the State of Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration for then-Governor Mark White’s office, consumer and retail clients such as Burger King and Johnson & Johnson, healthcare clients including Texas Children’s Hospital and HCA Hospitals, travel clients such as United Airlines and Braniff Airlines and government and non-profit/associations including Immigration & Naturalization Service, Houston ISD, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Port of Corpus Christi.

She also managed the public relations division of one of Houston’s leading creative advertising agencies, where she led corporate identification programs, special event management, employee training, video production and media relations campaigns for a variety of clients, including Auchan Hypermarket, Safeway, Igloo Production Corp., Kentucky Fried Chicken, Houston Chronicle, Market Square Park, Dow Hydrocarbons, Triten Corporation, Tapco International, and Reed Tool Company.

At Burson-Marsteller, she represented consumer brands including Coca-Cola, Burger King, and AstroWorld/WaterWorld, healthcare clients such as Smith Laboratories, Inc. and Mainland Center Hospital, real estate clients like Bass Brothers Entities as well as energy clients Gulf Oil Company and Union Carbide during its Bhopal nuclear disaster.

She began her career at Vollmer Public Relations, now the Houston office of Edelman, where Deborah handled successful programs for local, national and international clients including Doubletree Hotels, Minute Maid, Seven Up, First City Bank, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Allied Bancshares, Al Lum Properties and Malibu Grand Prix.

Her firm’s work has received hundreds of professional honors from the International Association of Business Communicators, Public Relations Society of America, American Marketing Association, Women in Communications Inc., American Advertising Federation, Society for Technical Communications, and the Houston Advertising Federation. In 2013, Ward earned the city’s most coveted public relations award, The PRSA Houston Grand Excalibur for its “Culture of Accountability” employee communications program for the North American division of one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world.

Deborah is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and a member of that organization’s Counselors’ Academy.  An honors graduate of The University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Public Relations, she has also taught technical writing at the University of Houston and has conducted numerous seminars on public speaking, creativity and effective public relations.

With gratitude for the quality of life she and her family enjoy, Deborah serves on the boards of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse and Congregation Beth Israel in Houston.  Her prior board service and pro bono efforts include work for MD Anderson Cancer Center, KUHT-TV, The Shlenker School, Sarcoma Foundation of America and SARC, which facilitates research for Sarcoma, a rare cancer of which she is a survivor. Her most rewarding volunteer work has been as Den Leader for her son’s Cub Scout den and as a parent volunteer for the Lanier Middle School orchestras.

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Lynn Hancock, APR Senior Vice President

lynn-hancockLynn Hancock, APR, is a seasoned public relations/communications professional with more than 25 years of experience working with major corporations, their executives and key staff to increase awareness of significant projects and events and manage reputation and industry issues both regionally and nationally.

Prior to joining forces with Ward, Lynn served as Principal of Booker/Hancock and Associates, LLC, a Houston-based public relations/marketing firm representing a wide array of local, national, and international clients  including industrial and retail companies, law firms and other professional service groups, financial and health care institutions, government entities, economic development agencies and not-for-profit organizations. She has managed complex energy transportation and multi-jurisdictional projects implementing strategic public and community relations programs for companies such as TransCanada, leading the Gulf Coast Stakeholder Relations team for TransCanada’s Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion crude oil pipeline.  That portion of the highly visible and controversial pipeline project has been built and became operational in early 2014.  Her other clients have  included Exxon Mobil Corporation, H-E-B Grocery Company, Schlumberger, Waste Management of Texas, FKP Architects and the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.

Early in her career she served as public relations director and general manager for the Houston office of a Texas real estate advertising agency and in the Public Affairs department of an electric utility.

Lynn is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a die-hard Longhorn fan.  An active volunteer with the American Cancer Society, she recently received the Society’s prestigious St. George National Award for her distinguished service.  She is immediate past chairman of the Board of Directors of the High Plains Division of the Society and served as a member of the merger team of the Texas Division (Texas and Hawaii), playing a key role in the merger with the Heartland Division (Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska) to form the new High Plains Division.

An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, Lynn chaired the 1996 Excalibur Awards program.  She is past president of the board of the Houston Youth Symphony, former chairman of the Advisory Board of the Friends of CanCare and a former member of CanCare of Houston’s board of directors. Additionally, she is a former member of the Board of Directors for the YWCA of Houston and chaired that organization’s 2002 Outstanding Women’s Luncheon.  She is also a former member of the Executive Women for Education Committee for Project GRAD/Houston, the Houston Area Parkinson Society Guild and the Press Club of Houston.

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Alisha WadeVice President

Alisha-WadeMost people are simply in awe of Alisha’s project management prowess.   Beyond organizational skills, and an extraordinary inherent relationship with integrity — making and keeping promises – Alisha has a keen knack for eyeing and attracting talent onto client multi-disciplinary teams.

Alisha leverages her 20-plus years of experience to produce provocative results – whether in marketing, communications or event management.  An award winning marketer, Alisha is laser-focused to meet strategic goals.  She is experienced managing mid-size to large-scale projects from conceptual phase to completion with attention to detail and contingency planning.  Alisha has a talent for delegating work to utilize team strengths and maximize performance, is an effective communicator who builds strong and lasting relationships and is collaborative and adept at creating cohesive teams amongst various disciplines.  Further, she is skilled at developing and maintaining budgets while identifying areas for optimization and reduction.

Alisha comes to Ward from First Service Credit Union where she was the Vice President of Marketing and a member of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) for five years.  In her role, Alisha managed the service-oriented company brand and all facets of marketing/advertising (including compliance and legal disclosures), promotions, special events, community relations and website and microsite design/management for the Corporate Office as well as 14 branches.  Under her guidance, the department won over 40 credit union-industry marketing awards.  Alisha also wrote and edited all internal and external corporate communications, including merger communications.  As a member of the ELT, Alisha was instrumental in leading and evaluating processes that reduced credit union expenses, increased fee income, led the Process Improvement Team and she served as project manager for many critical inter-departmental projects.  During Alisha’s tenure, the credit union grew from a $120 million credit union to a $300 million credit union as well as saw positive and continued growth in community memberships, checking accounts, and real estate and auto loans.

Prior to being promoted to Vice President, Alisha served as the Business Development Manager at First Service and was the first hire in the newly created Marketing/Business Development Department in the then 68-year history of the company.  She co-managed a company name change, rebrand of image and collateral and assisted in transitioning the credit union into the community.  Alisha also directed the company in their first ever community advertising campaigns, community development programs and networking and business development activities.  She also recruited new Corporate Partner companies for the credit union and maintained relationships and grew business and increased member and product penetration from existing Corporate Partners.

Alisha was the Assistant Director of Marketing at Katy Mills before joining the First Service team and assisted in the grand opening of the 1.3 million sq. ft. shopping center.  She also worked on the grand openings of Opry Mills (TN), Arundel Mills (MD) and Colorado Mills.  She spent four years at Katy Mills working on all aspects of marketing, advertising, public relations, merchant relations, corporate sponsorships, special events and customer service.  Before Katy Mills, she was the Marketing Director for a subprime mortgage company (2-years) and prior to that was the Assistant Sports Information Director for Marshall University (4-years).  Alisha also worked in community development for a local Bank One West Virginia branch and then moved upward to Marketing Coordinator for Bank One West Virginia Corporation.

Alisha has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and a Master’s Degree in Administration both from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

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Molly LeCronierVice President

Molly LeCronier

Molly LeCronier brings more than 15 years of industry-agnostic marketing, public relations and social media experience to the Ward team.  With Ward for more than four years, she is a passionate media relations maven and manages strategic, award-winning communications programming for clients under her purview in the energy practice. Simply, Molly loves and respects the practice of working with journalists, and has a talent to secure impactful media coverage results.

Specific to the energy sector, Molly’s experience includes:

  • developing media relations strategies for start-up and Fortune 500 high energy companies resulting in numerous placements with top-tier business and industry publications such as: American Oil & Gas Reporter, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Drilling Contractor, E&P, Houston Business Journal, Houston Chronicle, Inspectioneering Journal, Offshore, Offshore Engineer, Oil & Gas Investor, Oil & Gas Journal, POWER, Power Engineering, Reuters, RigZone, Solar Builder, Wind Systems and World Oil…to name a few
  • writing several technical articles published for the trade press
  • planning and facilitating company media days and press conferences
  • organizing speaker bureaus and presentation messaging platforms
  • speechwriting for C-suite executives
  • training various industry executives on how to prepare for and facilitate media interviews
  • devising and managing social media outreach and engagement initiatives

Prior to her tenure with Ward, Molly was a Senior Vice President with Hill & Knowlton, then the world’s largest public affairs firm, overseeing the Digital practice in Los Angeles, CA.  Her role was to provide strategic counsel and training to all the firm’s clients and sectors on how to best integrate the exciting new world of digital communications into their current public relations or marketing efforts.  As a result, Molly worked with key name brand clients across the country such as: eBay, Ford, Gap, HP, Motorola, P&G and Yahoo! on how to properly use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

She also served as a client account lead on H&K’s HP account.  Molly’s work on HP included the management of the company’s executive communications practice based in Palo Alto, California, where she was the catalyst to strategizing and landing vital speaking opportunities to drive business objective awareness for the HP C-Suite including past CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd.

Molly’s previous experience also included tenure at Weber Shandwick and Ruder-Finn Public Relations where she worked on leading international brands in the technology and consumer marketplace.

Molly is a proud Spartan graduate of Michigan State University where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is also an active member of the Junior League and dedicated to volunteering in her community to better the lives of women and children through various leadership enrichment activities and events.

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Gwen Hambrick Vice President Administration

Gwen HambrickIt’s said in the agency business that “the front of house wins the business, and the back of the house proceeds to swiftly lose it.”

With the firm since its founding, Gwen’s sole mission is to ensure the back of the house is one of the primary reasons clients become clients for the life of the firm.

Her accountability is for everything non-billable to a client, including support systems that allow talented teams the freedom to concentrate their work on the client’s business.  Accounting, reporting and tracking, a comfortable and productive work environment, technology that enhances results….all functions for which the team appreciates Gwen’s leadership and excellence.

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Mission

Ward’s mission is to provide creative solutions for successful communication, so that an organization and its audiences operate in mutually beneficial relationships.  In doing so, the employees of Ward achieve professional gratification balanced by a financially secure quality of life.

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Respect-at-Work Culture

We live and work by a strong cultural mantra, simply stated as “Respect at Work.”  We hold ourselves accountable for ensuring respect is actively at work in the workplace, with respect defined as “having one’s needs and opinions honored.” The result?  A consistently positive experience by everyone involved.

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Client-for-Life Philosophy

We approach our client relationships with the goal of creating a client for the life of the firm. This long-term view guides our short-term decision-making about client service, responsiveness, fair billing practices and the like, which results in tenured clients either in active or inactive client status.  The client-for-life philosophy allows us to be flexible in how we work with clients – whether project or retainer, periodically or continuously.

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Managed for Joy

Realizing the preciousness of life, our firm founder insists we first and foremost manage our business for our joy.  This simple practice requires we only accept assignments we believe we can hit out of the park, hire people on our team we admire, trust and enjoy, and work only for clients we’re excited to represent.  The result of this choice?  True team, operating in an environment where the best of the best have the space and freedom to excel, with sustainable profits that allow us to grow and provide ever-better client resources and service.

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Our Story

In Houston, Texas in 1990, when a weak economy spurred corporate clients to terminate their agencies and lay off their communications staff, we saw an opportunity to position our new firm – then Ward Creative Communications - as clients’ outsourced corporate communications department.  In what we fondly recall as “the euphoric stage” of the business, Ward grew quickly and steadily, and gained a reputation for producing award-winning results with a strong commitment to  — and execution of –client service.

Then came the real work – stretching beyond our craft to build a sustainable business replete with systems for quality control, human resources, financial stewardship, project management, and the like.

Founded and led by an agency brat whose career comprised a local PR firm, two publicly-traded multinational public relations firms and the Houston PR division of a Young & Rubicam ad agency, Ward was created to be the best of those experiences and the antithesis of the aspects some people fear and loathe about agencies – the dreaded sweat shops for employees and the terrifying runaway budgets for clients.  Through trial and error, we refined processes we have come to call The Ward Way to Do Everything, from estimating and reporting, to staff allocation and budget management.  The Ward Way ensures clients experience responsiveness and accountability so the team is free to focus keenly on the client work, without administrative distraction.

At Ward, each client’s team is led by what we call The Client Advocate, who acts as the client’s in-house representative viewing every choice to ensure it’s in the client’s best interest.  Our goal is to have a Client for Life, through thick and thin, and we’ve found when we take care of the client by putting their interests first, our firm performs well on every front.

After the turn of the century, our now more mature firm had demonstrated its consistent ability to perform.  We adopted a strict A-player-only hiring practice and became highly selective about the clients we represented, opting to fulfill our mission – to do what we love without sacrificing our quality of life or personal financial security – over growth for growth’s sake.

The firm’s client roster boasts an almost perfect balance of publicly traded international brands and privately-held Houston-area growth companies.  More than half the firm’s clients are North American divisions of foreign-based companies.

Additionally, we are often called upon to serve as a Houston presence for regional and international public relations agencies that need local expertise and relationships, but lack a Houston or industry-sector presence.  Some of these joint-agency projects develop through our global partnership in Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s largest network of leading independently owned public relations firms, which boasts 140 partners operating in more than 111 cities on six continents – more than any wholly owned multi-national firm.

Depending on the client situation, the firm has conducted proactive public relations initiatives internationally, throughout the US, across Texas, and in the highly diverse Houston area, often in niche populations.

Many of our team members have been with the firm for more than a decade, or have rejoined our team after other adventures. Today, by numerous rankings, Ward ranks as one of the city’s leading, most highly acclaimed independently owned public relations firms.

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Contributors

As an extension of our professional goals, we pursue personal goals. We do business with people we like and respect, and work for causes we believe in. We support excellence, authenticity and integrity in the communications field, and are committed to leaving the world a little better than we found it.

Over the years, we have contributed our time and talents to the YMCA of Greater Houston, The Shlenker School, Congregation Beth Israel, Sarcoma Foundation of America, SARC: Sarcoma Alliance for Research Collaboration, PRSA Foundation, Friends of Hermann Park, MD Anderson Cancer Center and numerous professional associations to further these non-profit organization goals.

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Ward Scholarship

In addition to serving our community with pro bono projects, in honor of our 20th anniversary, Ward endowed a scholarship to The University of Texas Moody College of Communication for a deserving student with financial need. In keeping with the value Ward places on authenticity in communication, scholarship applicants are required to write an essay on the subject :

Authenticity is a prerequisite to effective communication. Communications professionals often are perceived as spin-doctors – the antithesis of authentic communication. Give examples from recent or significant news when authenticity was clearly missing. How did the event unfold? What could have been different if communication had been more authentic between the parties involved and media? How would authenticity improve the world?

We are deeply moved and honored to be part of the history, and futures of these talented young people, our recipients of the Ward Scholarship:

  • Lucas Doyle 2012-2013Scholarship Lucas Doyle
  • Cassandra Jaramillo 2013-2014Scholarship Cassandra Jaramillo
  • Michael Allen Donaldson 2014-2015Scholarship Michael Allen Donaldson
  • Samantha Grasso 2015-2016Scholarship Samantha Grasso
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