Since 1977, I’ve seen the PR industry radically change.
witnessed peaks and valleys, but the five key changes that stand out
to me over the last three decades are:
The speed of news: Information circulation is
10 times faster or more than what it was when I started in the business. We
depend on email and phone communication and don’t have time to rely on
mail or FedEx, which has brought both good and bad to the field.
We are a “now now now” culture, and are expected to react as such. We
used to have a 24 hour news cycle, now it’s up to the minute. News
cycles can shift hourly. The PR industry is 24/7, and emails are expected
to be answered in real time. These types of demanding hours and
requests result in multitasking professionals driven to understand,
develop and fit into the news landscape. Attention spans, especially
those of managers, are decreased to those of a gnat.
Journalists used to have time to sit and fact check their stories
with multiple sources. Now, with online outlets working at accelerated
speeds, accountability and ability to back up research is compromised
due to strict deadlines, even with the internet at their fingertips.
The media landscape: You would be hard pressed to find too many people under 30 years old who read the print edition of a
newspaper every morning. No matter how many other forms of news I’m able
to digest, sitting and holding a newspaper is still one of the most
important forms of news delivery.
Real reporting and many reputations have been built within that
medium. That’s where I got my start, and most of the decision-makers
still rely on print as their primary source of news, followed very
closely by Web and social media channels. Many of our clients still
prefer print over online, and most will always consider it a bigger “win”
to land that print placement. No matter our preference of how we
consume the news, we have to be open-minded and include all forms in our
practice of PR.
The art of communication: The upper hand is with those who can combine new communication techniques with the human touch of yesterday.
Looking to email as the first form of communication is like eating a
candy bar when you really need a full meal. Effective communication is,
first and foremost, about establishing a human connection. Email makes
that really hard. Face-to-face interaction is best, followed by a
telephone call, then email and other electronic media.
I started my PR career out of a telephone booth in Westminster,
Calif. Now, I own two cell phones, two iPads and one computer; I’m able
to handle five times the work, but am working five times as hard.
Increased accessibility means we’re now expected to be available at all
hours, so there’s more opportunity to have less time of our own.
Personal vs. private time: We’re better and smarter
than we were 30 years ago, but being more effective has come at the
expense of our private and family time. Taking a call on vacation used
to be a punishable offense. Now, no matter where you are, it’s mostly
expected you can be reached. Working on vacation is par for the course.
If you’re going to get into PR, the best thing you can have is an
understanding family and spouse. Today we’re working at the speed of
life, times two.
Stepping out of the office for a business lunch is largely a thing of
the past. No one has time to sit down and get to know the person across
the table. If you can’t implement a quick 45-second pitch over the
phone, you can’t win. I encourage my staff to take a minute, step away
from the computer and breathe, eat and come back to the office
Executives want to make the most of their time out of the office, but
it’s a challenge to find the time. Technology has made face-to-face
trips across the country a lesser-known commodity. Vdeo
conferencing comes at the cost of meeting fewer people and seeing less
of the world. In exchange, executives have more time at home and can
maximize results from their home base.
Staying put: Societal trends tell us employees’
longevity is now between 2-3 years versus 10-15 years, like it used to
be. Workers have an “every man for themselves” mentality but it comes at
the expense of trust with the current employer.
Firms used to live and breathe through key rainmakers at their
agency. Over the years, I’ve learned that our firm thrives when clients
are represented by an ensemble cast. Everyone must have the building
blocks and fundamental skills for the business, but also be given enough
freedom to shine on their own. This hybrid of what used to be, and what
is now, is much more inclusive.
I sincerely hope it never comes to the commoditization of PR. We are
redefining things that happen and building reputations with different
outlets and opinions. In the past, it used to be that in PR "time is money," now for guys like me, who have been in the business for years, money is time.
I am excited to see this generation grow into their own as I watch a
beautiful sunset from my backyard, as I am on my cell phone.
Joseph Molina is the founder of JMPR. A version of this article originally appeared on the JMPR blog.