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Alumni Spotlight: Brian Mattes

Brian in Cape Town, South America.

In celebrating our 50th anniversary of Temple PRSSA we have been taking time to look back on how far we have come as a chapter as well as what we have accomplished. We recently interviewed Brian Mattes, a former chapter president, who joined Temple PRSSA in 1975. Brian is now retired in a beautiful part of Mexico but served as Principal of Government Relations for Vanguard, helping them grow from $7 billion in assets in 1984 to a $5 trillion global investment company today. He credits the beginning of his 40-year career in communications with the Temple PRSSA chapter. We are excited to share his story and his advice to present PRSSA members so they can learn from a pro how to get the most out of their PRSSA experience.

Brian explained how an admirable faculty member of his, Dr. Lee Carl, introduced him to

public relations and former PRSSA leaders, Alan Jackson and Barbara Barr, got him involved in the chapter. Brian’s goals included learning more about the public relations practice while being able to connect with professionals in the region. He became the newsletter editor and would actively attend monthly meetings with PR professionals in the city as well as national conferences.

His most memorable experience was participating in the PRSSA bicentennial celebration in 1976, where PRSSA chapters across the country competed to create PR campaigns to promote the event. The team included about 5 members from the chapter who divided up the workload. After a few weeks of hard work, they presented their idea in front of leading regional PR professionals. Although they didn’t make it to the national round, another chapter who used some of their elements did go on to win the national award. Since Brain worked at an audio laboratory on campus for one of Temple’s radio stations, he used his talents to help put together a narration for their entry in the competition with music and visual.

Brian with the pyramids In Egypt.

After graduation, Brian worked at a small company in New Jersey where he had previously interned. After a few years he wanted to do something bigger in Philadelphia, so he contacted some of his old professors from Temple. This connection helped him land a job at what was the largest bank in Philadelphia at the time. He worked long days and late nights but it paid off because he became the youngest officer the bank ever had. He met one of the board of directors who was also who was the chairman and CEO of Vanguard which was a mutual fund company in Philly’s western suburbs. The CEO was looking to develop an internal PR function. He asked Brian to take the job, at first he declined but after time finally agreed. At the time Vanguard was about a quarter the size of the bank, however, Brian describes it as the best decision of his life because it led to a great career and a variety of amazing opportunities that turned into accomplishments.

Brian had a number of great experiences while at Vanguard. He took Vanguard’s PR function which at first consisted of him and expanded it to an international operation with excellent media relations in Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada. Brian also gained positive coverage for his company in big publications like Forbes, Money, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and feature stories in Fortune, Business Week and other international publications. Early in Brian’s career he made the gutsy decision during the stock market crash of 1987 to put vanguard on the forefront of many stories and conducted a major outreach effort. With the teams new motto (Accessibility, Credibility and Quotability) they went from one or two inbound calls a week to dozens of calls every day from reporters around the world. Brian eventually went on to also lead the government relations of Vanguard, starting an office in DC providing communications to members of Congress, their staff and agencies like SEC, Department of Labor, and the Treasury Department.

Brian outside of his home in Ajijic, Mexico on Lake Chapala.

Brian really emphasized how much Temple and the PRSSA chapter began his success journey. Through meeting professional and networking while in PRSSA and staying close with professors he was able to obtain his first big job that led to many wonderful opportunities. Brian said if he could go back and tell himself anything it would be to reassure himself on his skills that became very important later on in his career. He explained the three skills as:

  1. Be a great writer: Being an extraordinary writer not only gives you a competitive advantage in the job market but also helps with professional advancement.

  2. Always have a curiosity for knowledge: Whether in your professional or matters that affect your industry, never stop learning.

  3. Think strategically, not tactically. Go beyond being just a PR practitioner but a strategic communications officer who can provide strategic communication counsel.

This blog post was written by Emma McClain, Director of Fundraising.

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