THE WOMAN FROM AUGUSTA
By Karin Tanabe, for Bisnow on Business
What do PR maven Gloria Dittus, Senator Blanche Lincoln, and Senator Mary Landrieu have in common? “We all started out in DC answering the phone,” Dittus tells us. Gloria came to DC in 1978 where she worked for then Senator Don Stewart. “And I can still answer the phone better than anyone!” she declares in her great Augusta, Georgia drawl.
Café Milano was the site earlier this month for board members of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, members of the Museum’s Business and Professional Council, and longtime Friends of Gloria to fête her selection as the 2008 Enterprising Woman of Washington. Dittus will receive the award, presented biennially by the BPWC, in March.
Dittus, above center, with Belle Brooks O’Brien and Museum co-founder Wilhelmina Holladay. “My grandma said that you are never above anything and that you have to work longer and harder than anyone else,” said Dittus. Seems like you should always heed your grandmother’s advice: Dittus Communications just got a big award for its work with client Shell and their Coming Home campaign in New Orleans.
“Hurricane Katrina forced us to evacuate,” explains Ben Dillon of Shell Exploration. “We decided to go back to New Orleans but wanted to return in a smart way, in a way that would support the community. I said, we’re going with Gloria.”
Confidence and Gloria Dittus seem to go together like P and R. “I started Dittus in 1993 in my kitchen with a leased Mac computer because I couldn’t afford to buy one, Gloria tells us. My first client was the Alabama Power Company. They faxed me a two-year contract and said they were not too sure what I was going to do for them but that they had a lot of faith in me and wanted to be my first client. They remain a client today. My second client was the Business Software Alliance and my third was Kraft Foods. Both are still clients.”
“I’ve always tried to be involved in charitable, professional, and arts organizations,” Dittus says. “The BPWC is a great opportunity for women business leaders to expand their networks, which helps you to be well-rounded and not a one-note Sally.” Dittus, who sits on the boards of Wolf Trap and The National Press Foundation, among others, is anything but that. Gloria Dittus’ company has gone a long way since those days in the kitchen. It was acquired by FD, a strategic business and financial communications consultant in 2005, and then by Baltimore-based FTI Consulting in 2006. “It’s great to be part of a publicly traded company with a big presence in Washington,” she says.
Another woman with a significant presence in Washington is Diane Casey-Landry, President of America's Community Bankers and 2006 Enterprising Woman of Washington award recipient, above right, with Managed Funds Association’s Lisa McGreevy.
Museum Director Judy Larson, left, with Brock Capital Management’s Angela Brock. Though still of strong southern roots, Dittus is practically a DC local now. “My grandmother always said to hang out with the smart kids because it’s bound to rub off, and that’s what it’s like being in Washington. Doing PR in DC is different than in any other city. You don’t spend your day selling soap, but get to work on issues that impact everyone’s lives.” Not to mention clinking glasses and partying among interesting friends.
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