PR is Still PR Despite the Changes

As I write this initial blog entry from my desk at iMedia Public Relations  in Princeton, New Jersey, I’m struck by the fact that what I’m doing would have been considered revolutionary when I started out in this industry.

My public relations career started in 1983 when I served as a media relations intern with the New York Yankees. Back then, the way the media relations director, Ken Nigro, communicated with the beat writers covering the team was simple. He picked up the phone and reached out to them.   Of course, like the team does now, there was no shortage of reporters, television crews and radio reporters covering the team on a daily basis.  However, if there was breaking news on a day when there was no game at Yankee Stadium, the only way to contact all of the media in the New York metropolitan area was for us interns to get on the phone and call them.  Now,  hundreds of reporters can instantly be reached by email, text, IM and cell phone.

What hasn’t changed over the past 26 years is that you still must reach out to media and communicate your message. Back then we did not have a computer, cell phone or even fax machine.  Now, we can reach editors at a moment’s notice and track their movements via Twitter.  I used to laugh when  Nigro, who now runs the Red Sox fantasy camp, used to duck George Steinbrenner’s phone calls, moving from one clubhouse to another. I was on the receiving end of a tantrum by the Boss many a time when his call got bounced back to the media relations office after being forwarded to where Nigro was supposed to be.  That was when Steinbrenner was still Steinbrenner. I only can imagine what it would have been like for his pr men back then if George could have had access to the technology we have today!

As a public relations executive in this new media era, we are now blessed with numerous tools to reach media.  However, where many agencies fail clients today is that they embrace the technology available and forget that this is still a relationship business.  While it’s easier to reach media, you still need to communicate with them.  Whatever the platform, good pr is still achieved the same way it has for generations.  Build solid relationships with the media. 

This is especially vital for young account executives just entering the business.  It’s only natural that a generation that grew up with social media makes it their tool of choice.  This is fine if it achieves one of the communications objectives for a client program.  However, even in a social media space, it is imperative that these young pr professionals engage the bloggers or reporters they are targeting and foster a solid working relationship.  Just firing off an email does not do the trick. Building a relationship does.

Tom Cosentino

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