After Duncan Williams got handed his “communicator of the year” award at this month’s Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America luncheon, he did something in keeping with the nature of the honor.
He told a story.
It’s not a well-known fact about the president of Memphis-based investment firm Duncan-Williams Inc., but Williams said he actually majored in marketing in college.
It’s a fact that shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, to anyone who knows him. It’s true he heads up a full-service brokerage and investment banking firm that serves retail and institutional organizations around the world. But Williams also spends a significant amount of his time on marketing and communicating, instead of just on finance.
“When you have a company with over 200 employees in 14 cities, if you don’t communicate, the company will fail,” Williams said. “But communication is more than that. How does your customer know they can trust you? How do they know you’re always looking out for them?”
His answer to that question was, customers look at what you say and also what you do.
Last year saw Williams step up his and his company’s marketing of its brand and of the city at large, not to mention of arts organizations and other local civic assets.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr. presented the PRSA award to Williams Wednesday, Jan. 9, in a ceremony at the University Club. The award is traditionally given to an individual for gaining public awareness for an event or effort benefiting either the city of Memphis or a local civic or philanthropic organization.
“One of the things about my job I enjoy the most is doing things like this,” Luttrell said before turning the mic over to Williams. “Talking about people who’ve made a difference. Citizens in our community who through their passion and commitment to all that’s good, they’ve committed themselves to the betterment and progress of Memphis.”
For Williams and his investment firm, that philosophy is unmistakable in the new tagline the company unveiled earlier this year: “Do well.”
If our customers do well, Williams explained, the company will do well. But his company also can take steps to help the city at large “do well.”
Duncan-Williams helps promote and sponsor several prominent civic and arts programs and initiatives in Memphis. They include the Indie Memphis Film Festival, the Live at the Garden concert series and the dragon boat races Downtown.
The firm is making a point of sponsoring and being involved with things not usually associated with a typical financial firm, which might instead sponsor something like a golf tournament.
“We believe in having fun and doing things different than most financial firms,” Williams said at the PRSA event.
Luttrell himself lent his image to one of Duncan-Williams’ most recent efforts – a social media campaign promoting the latest Live at the Garden concert season. That campaign involved a series of humorous videos promoting each individual concert, and Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. appeared in one of them.
Williams spent a lot of 2012 flying around the country visiting and opening new offices. When he’s not doing that, he’s also a vocal cheerleader for the city, working closely with groups like the Greater Memphis Chamber.
Nancy Coffee, president and CEO of the New Memphis Institute, also praised Williams at the event. She described him as “one of the most powerful ambassadors for our community I’ve ever known.”
“The financial services industry can be pretty formal, maybe stodgy, sometimes rule-bound,” Coffee said. “Duncan brings this creative, youthful energy, this willingness to take risks in everything he does.”