Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Geoff Livingston, founder of Tenacity5 Media. Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeupbyPatti D NelsonandJanice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Geoff, please provide us a short bio.
I founded Tenacity5 Media, a marketing consultancy serving companies and nonprofits, and have worked at other agencies. But, I’m also a former journalist and continue to write – I’ve authored four books, including my first novel in 2013. I also co-authored “Marketing in the Round” and wrote the social media primer “Welcome to the Fifth Estate”. And, I’m an avid photographer.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I’ve been a part of many professional memberships, but find myself wavering on them, depending on what’s happening business wise. I joined PRSA-NCC because of this interview. I had been promising to do that for a while, and this made me realize I had not. Greater Washington Board of Trade marketing events are also fantastic, but Tenacity5 is too small to join at this time. In addition, I also have two board commitments – Triblio, a content automation start-up; and Interactive Donor, a consumer-donation platform.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Being a dad is my all-time delight. I am very proud of my daughter Soleil, even though she’s three (and 3/4).
Many people know I sold my company, Livingston Communications, in 2009, but they don’t know that I sold it to keep a few people employed rather than folding it and doing something else. If I was selfish, I would have done the latter. Instead, I kept the team in play. That was a no brainer for me.
Also, I wrote a few books, and that was a lifelong dream. And then I moved to my real dream, which is working on fiction. My fifth book and second novel will come out at the end of the year, and my third novel is under contract. This amazes me!
Finally, I’ve worked with several really well-known people over the years.
Who were your personal role models?
My dad, Thomas Livingston, the former managing editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and my mom, Jacqueline Bigar, the astrologer with the largest national syndication footprint – including The Washington Post – are both role models in communications. The apple did not fall far from the tree.
In addition, there’s Thomas Hardy, because he mastered three different media forms: the novel, plays and poetry. It’s very hard to transcend form. And, David Ogilvy because he always got it, and never lost his focus on the customer, rules be damned. His words still ring true decades later.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
One of David Ogilvy’s maxims has been really helpful: Always have a client where you do the actual work. It keeps you fresh. Whatever I’m getting into businesswise, I make sure I have done it myself. This is one of the big reasons I am actively experimenting and growing as a photographer. If the Internet is really going visual, then I better understand how to communicate that way. And, my dad always told me to cut the fat. The tighter, more active and more concise you can be with your communications, the better. Yet, he hates Twitter. Nevertheless, the advice has been incredibly useful, more so with each year.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Remain flexible, and don’t wait for the business world to change around you. It changes every day. If you cling to your skillset and refuse to evolve, then you will make yourself irrelevant in five years. No trend has lasted more than five years in my mind. Email has changed. Faxes are gone. Let’s not even talk about print’s dwindling state. Broadcast TV is now just a download away. The web is mobile. Even Facebook and Twitter have greatly changed by becoming more advertising centric.
Find ways to remain creative. Work often requires flashes of creativity with long stretches of what I would call administrative execution. You have to keep your creative spirit alive if you are going to draw on it to make communication programs stand out.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for your organization?
Dress for the client. If you don’t have a client or a formal meeting, wear a T-shirt or whatever you want. D.C. is too conservative on this front, in my opinion.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
Basically, Nordstrom and tee shirts from Banana Republic.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I like photography quite a bit, although I’m only semi-pro, I’ve learned a great deal by practicing communication through a second medium. More than anything, photography lets me express my love for the many beautiful things in this world – from D.C. itself, to the people in it, to the many places I go. Like fiction writing, photography is a fantastic creative outlet.