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Elizabeth Vargas, Harold Ford and the Latest on The Matrix Awards

Lunch At MichaelsI was joined today by Liz Kaplow, president and CEO of the eponymous marketing communications firm she started in 1991. Kaplow’s client list is full of industry leaders, including Target, Unilever, Timex, CVS and Laura Mercier. I’ve known Liz forever and seen her in this very dining room presiding over many a power lunch — the last time with Microsoft executives who were meeting with her to talk about the latest technological innovations from Skype, another client. We chatted briefly that day and realizing we’d never had a proper sit down, decided then and there to make a date. So here we are. In preparing for our lunch, I did a quick read through of Kaplow’s website and was blown away by the awards and accolades that Liz and her team have collected recently. The New York Observer ranked Kaplow No. 13 on their inaugural PR Power List last year. Kaplow’s “Branded Journalism” program with Skype was named one of the top global PR campaigns of 2013 by The Holmes Report (which also named Kaplow Consumer Agency of the Year in 2011). And to think all this started because, Liz told me, “I wanted to have more flexibility to be with my kids” when her two daughters were growing up.

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz opened her own agency in 1991 with the costume jewelry company Monet as her first client and quickly added to that list with forward-thinking strategic planning. By the mid-90s, Kaplow ventured into the technology sector with iVillage as a client. “We didn’t have the technical background, but we understood women and how to reach that consumer — we won the business while we were in the room doing the pitch.” Over the past two decades, Liz has become one of the most respected women in PR and is known for her approach in developing and executing marketing and public relations campaigns across all platforms that connect her clients’ brands with consumers through, as she likes to say, “the art of storytelling.” As she explained it: “Every brand has a different story to tell and today they want to tell it through all different platforms.” With that as a guiding principal, Kaplow has focused on integrating social media and emerging technologies with well-established media platforms to ensure clients’ get the maximum impact from their PR campaigns. “PR has to be much more holistic today,” she told me. “Traditional print media is still very, very important as a third party and ‘earned’ versus ‘paid’ media. Clients say the power of influence comes in very different ways. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Every client needs a customized approach.”

Liz’s passion for her work is matched by her desire to advocate for other women in media and as president of New York Women in Communications she does all that and more. (Where does she find the time?) Presently, she’s overseeing the preparations for the organization’s marquee event, The Matrix Awards, which will be held on April 28 at the Waldorf Astoria. Every year the event sells out and draws the A-list from television and all facets of media. This year’s honorees are Wendy Clark, SVP of Global Sparkling Brand Center at The Coca-Cola Company; Queen Latifah; Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker; ”Nightline” co-anchor Cynthia McFaddenDyllan McGee, founder and executive producer of MAKERS, who will receive her award from Gloria Steinem; Google’s VP of global accounts and global agencies Eileen Naughton; and Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of The Apollo Theater. The host and additional presenters will be announced prior to the event.

Her mission as NYWICI president, is two-fold, she said. “It’s about the advancement of women at every stage of their careers” and to stay current “with the changing landscape” of the communications industry. “There is no other organization where women can find like-minded woman whether they are just starting out or seasoned professionals. We need mentoring at every stage of our careers.” NYWICI also does a tremendous amount of work with college-age women, giving them access to some of the city’s most well-known and successful women through a variety of programs. Once they graduate and enter the industry, there are networking evenings, such as the Young Professionals Happy Hour (the next one is scheduled for March 24). I was very interested to hear about one of Liz’s latest initiatives, NYWICI’s inter-generational panels, a relatively new way the organization is offering mentoring to its members by bringing diverse groups of women together to talk about issues that affect careers regardless of age or position. “And one of the best things about it as that these women get to share experiences and ideas and learn from each other,” she said. The next one, scheduled for May 29, will focus on negotiating skills. Something everyone could use a little help with these days. See you there!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Penske Media Vice Chair Gerry Byrne, presiding over an overflowing crowd: celebrity hairstylist Louis Licari; HLN’s EVP Albie Hecht; Equinox’s CEO Harvey Spevak; PR maven Norah Lawlor; VH1′s Faye Stein and Stephanie WernerWWD‘s Lisa LockwoodRent The Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss; Katie O’Reilly of Macy’s, who gets the award for the day’s most interesting job title — VP of Millennial Marketing; BBC America’s Valerie Bruce; and Penske Media Corporation’s managing director of consumer advertising, Michelle Fine-Smith.

2. HeadButler.com’s Jesse Kornbluth with Paige Peterson

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong with yet another fabulous visitor from the University of Texas at Austin — I’m still reeling from all that fascinating lunch I had a few weeks ago with the gang from the Ransom Center. This time, Joe bought along Don Carleton, executive director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, which houses the papers of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Andy Rooney, among many other journalists and photojournalists as well as one of the country’s largest newspaper collections.

4. Attorney Alan Grubman and a fellow I didn’t recognize. The early birds were the first to arrive in the dining room today and were out the door before things shifted into high gear.

5. TV Guide‘s Jack Kliger and book seller Glenn Horowitz

6. PR maven Maury Rogoff and Fox 5 News’ Rosanna Scotto

7. Liz Kaplow and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Rikki Klieman. I stopped by their table for a chat and the conversation turned to — what else? — the endless winter. “I wouldn’t normally go, but I’m ready to go to Florida,” Rikki told me. Can we come?

9. Joan Jakobson

11. Mickey Ateyeh with designer Carlos Falchi

12. Harold Ford with two serious-looking “suits.”

14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew

15. Discovery ID’s Henry Schlieff

16. Social swan Becca Thrash

17. ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas, looking fit and fabulous. Elizabeth dashed into the dining with her coat still on, but stopped long enough to get a hug from some pals on her way to meet UTA’s Jay Sures

18. PR princess Lisa Linden, lobbyist Suri Kasirer and author Wednesday Martin

20. Andrew Stein (in jeans!)

21. Barry Frey

22. Producer Beverly Camhe

23. Judith Agisim with Fern Mallis

27. Vogue‘s Hildy Kuryk with Barbaralee Diamonstein Spielvogel

29. Aliya Salai

81. Brett Schenck

Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.

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