By John Lonsdorf, President, R&J Public Relations
One of the great modern-day philosophers, Ferris Bueller twice said (at the beginning and at the end of the iconic 1986 movie, so it must be important), “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
The same can be said generally about all businesses. But in particular, the Public Relations business has moved incredibly fast.
When I started R&J back in 1986, the same year that Ferris gave us his great advice about life, I had an IBM Selectric typewriter on my desk, and the only Gekko we ever heard from was Gordon, who was telling us (convincingly) that “greed is good.” We didn’t even have a fax machine; they were just then gaining widespread utilization. Back in that time, our role as public relations practitioners was clear and simple: to get publicity – and lots of it – for our clients. We did this by writing lots and lots of press releases (and mailing – yes mailing – them out to the media, usually with 5” X 7” glossy photo prints), establishing personal relationships with journalists (and there were a lot more of those covering much narrower “beats” back then), and pitching like crazy. It was a great business – fun and rewarding in so many ways.
But a funny thing happened along the way. Life moved pretty fast.
Business changed, and with that change, came the need for a far greater degree of strategic, forward-looking business counsel and strategic thinking. To accommodate these business needs, the public relations industry also underwent tremendous change. And the transformation of our business and our industry that was necessary to stay ahead of our clients’ needs has been incredible – often happening at break-neck speed.
Today’s successful PR firm is far more than a publicity shop. Today, we often play a central role in brand development, market strategy and business-building for our clients. We’re called in at the beginning of discussions on positioning, market strategy and brand personality. We consult on the ins-and-outs, and the potential ramifications of every communication tactic – both traditional and in social media. We prepare, and when needed, execute crisis management plans. In short, we are important counselors and marketing partners for our clients, and not simply “publicists” (although publicity is still a very important deliverable for many of our clients).
Firms like ours welcome this never-ending change. We thrive on it, and look forward to engaging with new media channels and outlets, and new techniques. It’s actually become fun to learn how to express a full marketing thought in 140 characters or less! And I am very fortunate to have surrounded myself with a lot of smart, curious and insightful people, who don’t hesitate to remind me how fast things change, and how if we aren’t riding the wave, then we risk being swallowed up by it.
Yes, Ferris had it right: Life does, indeed, move pretty fast. We are happy to have evolved along the way, and to have helped our clients through many of these changes. We continue to look ahead for the next inevitable round of changes.
Finally, to many of our clients who’ve been along with us for much of this incredible ride, as Ferris would say, Danke Schön!