By Polly Winograd Ikonen, director at LCI
My very first job out of college was at a start-up PR agency in New York City. I was employee #4 at Nike Communications. That was long before the term “start-up” was even a thing. I was a fresh-faced English major out of a small liberal arts college, who happened to speak French, so I was hired to work on a series of French accounts. The agency specialized in luxury lifestyle brands, as it still does decades later.
At the time, the fax machine had revolutionized cross-Atlantic communications, and FedEx was our pipeline for getting product and photos (remember transparencies?) from the client to our offices. Every six weeks or so, my boss’s mother-in-law turned our conference room into a mail house – it was a start-up, after all! We printed out pitch letters and press releases, stuffed them in press kits and mailed them out.
My, how times have changed. Or, have they? Returning to agency life 30 years later, I am delighted to discover that, in fact, the fundamentals of PR have changed very little. Sure, the pace has accelerated, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, which is now in everyone’s pocket 24/7. The news cycle is now minute-to-minute rather than daily. And social media provides both an echo chamber and a mega-watt amplifier for the smallest messaging stumble.
But really, the development process behind every smart, strategic PR campaign hasn’t changed at all:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is your key messaging?
- Which channels are the best for reaching and engaging them?
- What dynamic visuals (or other technological bells and whistles) do you have to enhance and convey the story you want to tell?
- With which reporters/broadcasters/bloggers is your story most likely to resonate?
- And have you built a trusting relationship with those journalists in order to secure your placement?
These questions must be applied to every PR campaign, with discipline and intelligence, regardless of the communications channel or content. If you skip any step, your PR campaign is fated to flounder, just as it has for decades. The principal difference now is that you flounder more rapidly and publicly than ever – something we would not have anticipated 30 years ago.
Do you agree? How do you think PR has changed – or not – in the past decades? Share your thoughts and reminiscences with us in the comments below or by tweeting us @LandisComm.