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Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 15, 2000. All rights reserved.

Women & Business: A Spin Doctor

Some women hit the glass ceiling repeatedly. Others

never experience it all. The latter has largely been true for Liz

Thomas, a publicist and founder of Thomas/Boyd Communications in

Trenton who was groomed in public relations during the 1980s as an

assistant to Governor Tom Kean. "All I knew was how to work

long and hard and how to do a good job, and for that I was rewarded

quite nicely," says Thomas, now one of New Jersey’s accomplished

spin doctors.

With her partner, Pam Boyd, Thomas handles PR for prominent

firms such as RCN and Merrill Lynch and has been the imagination

behind

"Dimes for the Dome," an initiative to raise money to put

the gold back on the Trenton capitol dome, and the triumphant return

of the U.S.S New Jersey. She speaks on "Women and Business:

Opportunities

and Obstacles," on Wednesday, March 22, at 8:15 a.m. at the Mercer

Chamber meeting at the Greenacres Club. Joining her is Susanne

Svizeny, president of First Union Bank, and Janet Lasley,

owner of Lasley Construction Inc. Call 609-393-4143. Cost: $20.

Opportunity — rather than obstacle — is the word Thomas says

best describes her own professional journey. "The world was opened

up to me just in terms of the sheer number of people I met in the

government," she says. A graduate of Moravian College, Class of

1981, Thomas moved back to her home town of Nutley after graduation

and landed a job as low woman on the totem pole, a secretary, on

Kean’s

campaign a mere few weeks before he won the governor’s seat.

In those days, says Thomas, people still used the word

"mentorship."

"He (Kean) asked me what I knew about politics," she recalls,

"and I said nothing. He said, `Do you want to learn?’ I said of

course." Soon after, Thomas was working in the press office, and

eventually slid over to a position as deputy director of New Jersey

Travel Tourism, where she got her feet wet on crisis communications

following the beach closing crisis.

She left in 1989 to found a private PR firm with Thomas Healey

and Paul Wolcott in 1989. For a first-time entrepreneur, the

stakes were high. "I quit my job at the state without a client

and we decided we would put a certain amount of money into a pot and

see how long it took us to get our first client," she says. As

it happened, her first client turned out to be Bell Atlantic Mobile.

It is an ability to build relationships — not necessarily sharp

business strategies — that Thomas credits to most of her current

accomplishments. "I had an office on West State Street for roughly

eight years and I spent days and nights there, and it’s where I

probably

built the strongest relationships," she says. "I’m a big

believer

in Trenton and it’s an area that I know very well."

"So much of our business is driven by the news and you don’t have

much time for a learning curve," she adds. "You have to become

educated on a variety of subjects in a very short time — new

technology,

new product announcements, and that world is changing every day. It’s

been a business that’s run by instinct as opposed to a definite

business

plan. It’s a business that has taken me in directions that I never

would have expected."

Like doing PR for RCN, which recently hired the firm to handle its

search for a new home, or Merrill Lynch, which is building a 3.5

million

square foot office campus in Hopewell.

Small businesses can dance with the big corporations, says Thomas.

"Bell Atlantic has been a client of mine for nine years,"

she says. "In any consulting business you can be here today and

gone tomorrow. I think often times you are called into do a job and

you do it and then you both move on. We’ve been fortunate to have

people stick around."


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