Defense Media Network

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Interview WIth Cirlot Founder and CEO Liza Cirlot Looser

Liza Cirlot Looser is the founder and CEO of  The Cirlot Agency, a full-service marketing, public relations and corporate communications firm headquartered in Jackson, Miss. Over the past 24 years, the firm has grown to be a multimillion dollar corporation that services accounts ranging from publicly traded companies to financial institutions and manufacturing corporations on a national and international basis. Liza is also a recent graduate of Harvard Business School.

Liza has expanded her studies to include several international business studies and special projects. Among these was a tour of China, sponsored by the Society of International Business Fellows. Liza was the only Mississippian selected to join this tour, the goal of which was not only to learn more about China and other parts of Asia, but to use the changes occurring in Asia to better understand changes underway in all parts of the world. She also facilitated meetings between Senator Trent Lott and several South American CEOs in an effort to encourage import/export trade between South America and Mississippi. In the late 1990s, Liza was also asked by NATO to help devise a communications plan regarding the Bosnian land mine crisis, and worked with Her Majesty’s Royal Engineers in England to facilitate the plan.

The Cirlot Agency affected the state of Mississippi and the nation significantly by leading a team of defense industry giants to what became one of the largest defense contracts ever awarded. Looser laid the roadmap for branding the DD(X) Gold Team, made up of Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing, that successfully won the $60 billion contract.



Defense Media Network: Cirlot has worked as a defense communications firm for almost 25 years. Who are some of your defense industry clients?

Liza Cirlot Looser: Over the past 25 years, we have worked with Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, NATO, L3 Vertex, ATK, Elbit Systems of America and, most recently, Bell Helicopter and AAI Textron. Through teaming arrangements, we have also worked with General Dynamics, United Defense, BAE, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and EADS.

Your agency covers the full spectrum – from the website to tradeshows to collateral materials. How has this strategy benefited both your agency and the clients you work with?

Through strategic branding, we, along with our client, identify the client’s true DNA and make sure this core value is pervasive throughout all communications avenues, which serves to differentiate and separate the client and its products from the competition.

From there, an integrated communications program is implemented to support the overall corporate brand, as well as individual business units or sectors across all platforms.

USS_Zumwalt (DDG 1000)

The Cirlot Group helped brand three major defense contractors and several subcontractors as a single mega-corporation, which became the winning team in the DDG 1000 competition. U.S. Navy photo

Please explain what your “Keep it Sold” campaign encompasses.

Everyone knows that a contract win is not a fully funded deal when it comes to new administrations and changing budget issues. Each program needs to continue to communicate its value and its benefits to the taxpayers concerning national security.

Cirlot’s corporate brand development has proven very effective. Can you talk a little about that?

It is a simple leveraging of 25 years of industry expertise and capabilities. It may look like an overnight success; however, our brand is over 25 years in the making.

The highest compliment we ever receive is when one of our clients looks at our work and says, “your agency really ‘gets it.’” That is truly our differentiating factor and what has helped build our corporate brand in the defense market.

What kind of efforts are involved with market intelligence/research? What type of benefits can the client reap?

Knowledge is power and customer feedback is priceless, especially with customer satisfaction, messaging and determining avenues for disseminating those messages to the correct audiences.

Where does crisis management fall into place? Can you cite an example for clarification?

A “crisis” sounds as if you can never be prepared for it. However, there are ways to be as prepared as possible for any given situation. For example, we have developed communications strategy and media relations on an international scale for crises and issues such as the USS Cole returning to port and again when she was put back to sea, union contract negotiations, hostage situations, the first 2008 Presidential debate and the aftermath of natural disasters.

Cirlot helped secure one of the largest defense contracts ever awarded – a $60 billion one – for the DDG 1000 program. Can you tell us a little bit about your successes with that?

We branded three primes – three, strong competing corporate brands – and several tier II suppliers as a single corporation … a mega corporation. Over a four-year competition, we brought these diverse companies representing various capabilities together to promote one unified force.

What are some of the agency’s highlight accomplishments?

Every successful endeavor, no matter how small, is a highlight. As long as the client’s goals were accomplished, we believe we have fulfilled our mission.

In your Case Study about the LNG terminal, how closely did you work with DHS, specifically the Coast Guard, if at all?

While we work with government agencies, in this case, we worked directly with Gulf LNG and no specific government agency.

Did the U.S. Navy or Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding request the development, and implementation, of the national media strategy for the USS Cole’s return to sea?

Northrop Grumman realized that the return of the USS Cole to service would be one of the biggest international stories ever to hit the media. As such, it was a story that didn’t need to be promoted, but rather an event that needed to be managed correctly. Our charge was to honor Northrop Grumman’s desire to make this a memorable event honoring those who sailed on the Cole and who worked so diligently to bring her back to sea.

Has Cirlot recently represented any veteran-owned businesses? Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses?

The Cirlot Agency specializes in B-to-B communications and while we have met with SBA Veterans Affairs, we have not yet had the opportunity to work with them.

The “Mississippi, Believe It!” campaign/case study appears to pre-date the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Was Cirlot involved in crisis management on behalf of the state? Have you since launched a new national public service campaign?

The “Mississippi Believe It!” Campaign was launched to dispel Mississippi stereotypes. In the past several years, the campaign has reached over 40 million people, helping to give people across the globe a different insight into Mississippi. In fact, there have been hundreds of thousands of visits to the website, www.mississippibelieveitcom.

As for the oil spill, we had numerous clients who suffered varying degrees of losses due to the Deepwater Horizon incident. We worked with these clients in a crisis management situation as the event occurred and continued to work with them to regain business opportunities they lost during that time.