Interview Segments on Topic: Selecting a PR Career
Charlotte Otto began her career with Proctor and Gamble as a brand assistant for Prell Concentrate and has remained with P&G to become the first female corporate officer as Global External Relations Officer. She is responsible for a wide range of communication and public affairs activities from media relations and product publicity to government and community relations.
Charlotte Otto provides service and leadership to the Cincinnati area, serving as a Board Member of The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, as chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and past chair of Downtown Cincinnati. She recently was awarded the Arthur W. Page Society’s highest recognition, the Hall of Fame Award.
Interviewer: Well I know you graduated from Purdue University in 1976 and you started your career as a brand assistant for Prell Concentrate, and you’ve remained with Proctor and Gamble all these years. Thirty-one years. Can you talk a little bit about how you first landed at P & G and why you’ve remained with them for all these years?
Otto: Okay first I have to say I never would have imagined that I would be here 31 years after leaving Purdue University. I joined the company in 1976 and was among the first group of women that were hired in the marketing area. So from that standpoint I was a little bit of a novelty in the company. I was really grateful to have the opportunity to join P & G although I never really intended to stay. When I got my job offer I said you know I really only plan to be here a couple of years so if you want to take the offer back, I can understand that. I don’t want to invest in a short timer and they said well why don’t you let us worry about that. And here I am 31 years later. I’ve had two careers at P & G. The first 13 years in the marketing area and worked on a variety of brands. The Bounty paper towels are my favorite brand in the company. And then in 1989 I had kind of a seminal moment where I really had to think about what I was going to do when I grew up. And I decided I really didn’t want my boss’ job and when you grow up in marketing at P & G you are genetically defective if you do not want to be a general manger and I didn’t want to be a general manager. So my boss asked the obvious question well if you don’t want my job what is it that you do want to do? And honestly not having reflected on that any great depth I said well you know I really love doing corporate work and I really like working outside the company. And I love Proctor & Gamble so I want to stay but I just want to do something different. And about three months later my boss came back and said you know we have this great opportunity for you to move to public affairs. And I thought public affairs. You know have I been derailed or what is this all about? I knew that they did the company Christmas card but beyond that what is this all about? Then I went to my new boss’ office to learn about the new job and right away he said “now you need to understand we’re the garbage can of the company, people have problems they drop them off here.” And I thought oh this is really inspirational. This is what I want to spend the rest of my career doing but I really quickly learned that this was the perfect fit for me. Well I loved what I did in marketing. The work that I had the opportunity to do over the past 18 years has just been a perfect fit. Both in terms of communications but also the opportunity to interact with company stakeholders, to be a face of the company; to develop the organization. It’s just been it’s been a dream job that I didn’t even know existed even 13 after I’d been with the company for 13 years. I didn’t know that this work really existed. Now why have I stayed with Proctor & Gamble for 31 years? This is going to sound trite but I really value the company’s values. They are alive and they are really well aligned with mine so every single day I go to work knowing that there’s a degree of harmony between my values and my purpose in life and what the company does. So that’s just a great environment to work in. The people I work with are people I’d be friends with if I didn’t work with them. Now they are people I really like. You know every single day is interesting and fun and challenging, not that every day is easy. But every day there’s a new kind of challenge that I just love. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.