Public Relations Guidelines

How Best to Pitch Your Client

It has been our experience that many public relations people often need help advancing their client with respect to Chief Executive’s editorial needs. (See CEO Profiles and Bylined articles below.) In order to consider a company’s CEO we require a few basic facts such as:

  • What are its lines of business?
  • What are its annual revenues?
  • Where is it based?
  • What is the background of its leader and how is he/she different from others in the industry ?

Below is a background summary of a company and its CEO sent by an unusually proficient public relations person who anticipated everything we might ask. It is terse, to the point and relies on facts. No turgid language. No embellished descriptions. All key facts and financial highlights are covered. The CEO bio is adequately summarized. (The “Topics of Interest” section at the end is not at all necessary, but lends a nice touch.)

Because it is the perfect pitch, we reproduce below in its entirety, as a guide to others.



About Syngenta

Syngenta AG (NYSE: SYT) is a world-leading agribusiness that is involved in the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of a range of products designed to improve crop yields and food quality. In addition, Syngenta is a leader in “Professional Products,” through the development of products for markets such as Lawn and Garden, Professional Pest Management, Vector Control and Public Health. Syngenta is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland and was formed by Novartis and AstraZeneca in November 2000 through an agreement to spin off and merge the Novartis crop protection and seeds businesses with the Zeneca agrochemicals business to create a dedicated agribusiness company.

Key Facts

Chairman Martin Taylor
CEO Michael Mack
Headquarters Basel, Switzerland
  • Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides for crop protection
  • Field crops, vegetables and flower seeds
  • Seed care products
  • Turf, garden, home care and public health products
Main R&D sites Stein, Switzerland
Jealott’s Hill, UK
Research Triangle Park, NC, USA
Goa, India
Main production sites Monthey and Kaisten, Switzerland
Grangemouth and Huddersfield, UK
Greens Bayou, TX, Omaha, NE, and
St. Gabriel, LA, USA
Aigues-Vives and St. Pierre-la-Garenne, France
Nantong, China
Goa, India
Paulinia, Brazil
Stock exchange listings Swiss Stock Exchange (SYNN)
New York Stock Exchange (SYT)
Employees over 24,000 in more than 90 countries
2008 Sales $ 11,624 million
– by product line1
Crop Protection $ 9,231 million
Seeds $ 2,442 million
– by region1
Europe, Africa andMiddle East $ 4,291 million
NAFTA $ 3,672 million
Latin America $ 2,253 million
Asia Pacific $ 1,457 million
Earnings per share 20082 $ 16.26
R&D investments 2008 $ 969 million

1. including $ 73 million of intersegment-sales and excluding $ 24 million of Business Development sales
2. excluding restructuring and impairment

Current Financial Information

*(From 11/12/2009)


Michael Mack

Chief Executive Officer, Director and member of the Chairman’s Committee and the Corporate Responsibility Committee.

Michael Mack was Chief Operating Officer of Seeds (2004–2007) and Head of Crop Protection, NAFTA Region (2002–2004) for Syngenta. Prior to this, he was President of the Global Paper Division of Imerys SA, a French mining and pigments concern, from the time of its merger in 1999 with English China Clays Ltd., where he was Executive Vice President, Americas and Pacific Region, in addition to being an Executive Director of the Board. From 1987 to 1996 he held various roles with Mead Corporation.

Michael Mack is also Chairman of the Board of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce.

He has a degree in economics from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, studied at the University of Strasbourg, and has an MBA from Harvard University.

Topics of Interest

Addressing the twin challenges of rising food prices and food shortages will require concerted action on the part of world leaders, but large agriculture technology companies like Syngenta, of Basel, Switzerland, also have an important role to play, according to Mike Mack, CEO.

1. Organic farming is not the solution. Agricultural technology is.

2. Sustainable agriculture is an important part of the solution to feeding the world.

3. Contrary to popular belief, the diversion of corn and other grains to the production of ethanol and other biofuels is not a primary reason for the increase in food prices and food shortages.

4. As a European-based company, Syngenta experiences daily the wide disapproval of gene technology’s role in food development.

5. The impact of climate change on agriculture creates real challenges to the goal of feeding a growing world population.

6. The importance of freer world trade to the success of reaching the goal of abundant food is not well understood.


Profiles of CEOs

All profiles of CEOs that appear in CEO Chronicles including CEO Watch, require in-person interviews. In order to get the full measure of a business leader we need to meet and spend time talking with them directly. Generally, most CEOs pass through NYC with sufficient frequency that this is not a problem with executives based elsewhere. Generally we look for CEOs, who are game-changers or those who have addressed a particularly difficult competitive challenge in a way that might be instructive to other CEOs. For our sense of what we look for, refer to published Chronicles and CEO Watch. In all cases, we will require the background material outlined above.

Bylined articles

We publish articles every week online on issues of interest to CEOs. You should review the editorial guidelines as posted on our web site, which call for detailed examples and the use of empirical evidence to support an author’s arguments.

In our print publication, we almost never publish unsolicited articles. Interested writers are far better served by first reviewing the editorial guidelines before submitting a well-developed proposal that sets out the premise of the article, why it is relevant to CEOs and what sources or experience the author will draw on to support the thesis presented.

The first priority for outside contributed articles, whether for print or online, is “does this help a CEO become more effective in his/her job?” This is the prime directive. Occasionally there are other important elements to consider, such as whether the article offers unique insights or information that is particularly useful to know or adds to a body of knowledge that helps a busy CEO in less direct ways.

We value experiences, particularly experiences that may not have been successful for the CEO as these inform others how to overcome challenges. A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, once told us that any CEO worth his salt, should have had numerous “instructive failures”—situations that weren’t immediately successful but made the person a wiser, better leader. A.G. pointed to 11 significant “failures” he experienced at P&G. None were fatal, but badly handled, any one of them might have prevented him from becoming CEO.

We prefer the specific and concrete to the vague. For example, when someone tells us that a given company or CEO is “leading” this is almost never supported by any facts or evidence. Hence, the term has no meaning. If a firm has dominant market share or is the most profitable, for example, then demonstrate the case with hard facts rather than descriptors.