Courtesy of Daryl McCullough

Daryl McCullough: The CEO who followed his passion for creativity and communication

Partner, family, friend, neighbor, colleague and citizen.

Those are the six words Citizen Relations Chief Executive Officer and Annenberg alumnus Daryl McCullough chooses to use when describing himself.

The key to his success? McCullough attributes this to resiliently following his two greatest passions: creativity and communication.

In a one sentence descriptor, McCullough defines his professional career: “As CEO of Citizen Relations, I am the global leader of a major marketing communications firm.”

McCullough received his undergraduate degree in a combined major of english and communication management in 1986 from Albright College. During this time, he was highly involved in theatre and the arts. McCullough credits these extracurricular activities as driving his passion to pursue a career that would engage his personal creativity. He advises USC Annenberg students to explore their passions while also exploring a practical track, stating that, “you will always find value in that.” McCullough also cites the various internships he held during this time to his success.

“The beauty of working internships [during my undergraduate career] allowed me to get exposure to aspects of the industry that I not only felt I was very good at, but also truly loved doing,” McCullough said. “Many undergraduate students see internships as a burden. My advice to [USC] Annenberg students is to instead view them as a gift. This exposure allows students to discover if they are truly passionate about that particular career field. In addition, it also makes students much stronger employees for jobs after they graduate.”

McCullough made the decision to move west in August of 1990 in order to further his academic education at USC. McCullough received his master’s degree in Communication Management from USC Annenberg in 1992. During this time, he simultaneously worked a full-time job at renowned entertainment agency Rogers & Cowan. While many may view this as a challenge, McCullough utilized the opportunity to apply his classroom skills to the workplace.

“I was able to use some of the things I was working on at the company as practical examples of things that I was studying on and reporting on for class,” McCullough said. “For example, I was working on a public education campaign focusing on innovation for the company while simultaneously taking the Diffusion of Innovation class with Dr. Everett Rogers. The combination of real world and classroom exposure made my degree pursuit especially fascinating.”

Citizen Relations came on McCullough’s radar in 1993, when he joined the company in an entry-level position. McCullough remained loyal to the company, and 22 years later, can now proudly call himself international CEO and chairman of the Citizen Relations agency.

Multiple awards and accolades for the agency and to McCullough personally reflect the success of his personal mantra to, “always view yourself as an intern.” Noteworthy awards that have included contribution by McCullough include the silver emblem for Best of Show by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report and P.R. Professional of the Year for McCullough by the Los Angeles chapter of PRSA.

Giving back to the university has remained equally important to McCullough.When he is not partaking in the world traveling required by his international job title, he can be found as a guest speaker in USC Annenberg classrooms. This past school year, he also was a featured lecturer for a USC Annenberg career night.

On his visits back, McCullough says the sight of the new Wallis Annenberg building makes him “brim with pride” for being an alumnus.

“Students have such a richer communication set of tools now, and the new media center is truly an icon of that,” McCullough said. “Being a USC alumnus is truly a source of pride for me, and I will be the first to toss up the ‘fight on!’ sign if someone mentions the university.”

The lessons McCullough were taught at the university played a significant contribution in shaping his professional outlook, both in the beginning of his career and today.

“USC really pushed me to look outwards at the industry in a different way,” McCullough said. “Even though I stayed on the P.R. path, I was constantly exposed to other industries I wouldn’t otherwise have seen, so I really value the comprehensiveness that Annenberg offered and how that molded my professional approach.”

McCullough currently lives with his partner in the Los Angeles area but makes frequent visits home to Pennsylvania to visit his family. He has written about his journey of coming to terms with his sexuality and his passion for equal rights in his “This I Believe” essay [quoted from below].

Today, as a 40-something public relations executive I’m reminded that some of my professional peers find it awkward that I’m openly gay. But to me, living and working in the closet simply wasn’t an option once I embraced who I am … My true good fortune today is finding myself surrounded by the kind of people who are open, liberal-minded, accepting and loving human beings … Equal rights, I believe, define the universal humanism we can all embrace, out loud and proud.