Another Year of Lessons

As you read this, I’m most likely playing poker at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas, winding down another year that saw me work way too much and play too little. I’m sure you feel the same way, so I hope you’re getting some well-deserved time off. Looking back, 2004 wasn’t an unusual year for PR, but there were some interesting developments.

Blogging was embraced by many in the PR world this year, as numerous PR people launched blogs and, more importantly, began utilizing blogs as another medium to get a message out. Companies small and large proved that blogging can help shape public perception and that when used effectively, a blog can be an important information outlet and brand-extender. If your firm hasn’t figured out how to use blogs to your advantage by now, you’re behind the curve.

While PR disasters hitting the actual PR industry are certainly nothing new, Fleishman-Hillard took the cake this year and racked up enough bad ink to make even Microsoft blush. There were PR industry disasters in England and in various countries in Asia and Africa. The U.S. PR industry has a decent handle on how to deal with its own trash, but as PR begins to define itself in areas where the government and media traditionally worked hand-in-hand, there are going to be a lot of growing pains.

The media’s fascination with PR scandals took an interesting turn this year, as the media itself was in the bullseye. What the media, however, once again failed to do was look at the real human impact of PR scandals. This, curiously, is a positive for those dealing with PR scandals because the media continues to overlook the big picture in many cases – and too often concentrates on the most obvious impact of whatever it is that created the PR problem in the first place. Laziness continues to rule the media, and this makes a PR person’s job easier.

One of the less positive aspects of the business I noticed this year was how PR continued to intersect too closely with advertising and marketing. In speaking with PR people this year, I found many upset, or even bewildered, by clients who wanted services that don’t fit the traditional bill. As technology continues to change the way we live our lives, it’s inevitable that our jobs will change, too. But what does this mean for an industry that traditionally has been about human interaction and relationships? Those who can combine the new with the old will help redefine the PR industry, hopefully for the better.

However the year went for you, I hope 2005 finds you happy, healthy, safe and prosperous.

PR Fuel Follow-Up

Back in June, I wrote about how a friend of mine asked me to help develop a corporate PR training program. He had just been promoted to a management position at a big company, and he was dealing with breaking in three new PR hires and three new PR interns. I checked in with him last week.

“After a few bumps along the road, the training program worked out perfectly. The three people we hired have become important assets, and I think the three interns we had came away with a great experience. One of our interns has stayed on, and we plan to hire her when she graduates in the spring.”

I asked my friend what the most important takeaway from the experience was.

“Be completely honest with people,” he said. “Tell them exactly what you expect, and tell them to not be afraid to ask questions. I learned that a lot of mistakes we had been making in the past only occurred because people never asked questions. Once I figured this out, it made me a more patient manager, and a better PR person.

Can PR Be Quantified?

It wasn’t the best PR year I’ve ever had, but it was a good one.

I only did one television interview, but I did do seven or eight radio interviews. No feature stories this year, but I got the lead mention in a PR Week story, and the news that I’d left my job as a newspaper columnist got me a considerable amount of mentions in trade publications. I also racked up at least a half-dozen “expert quotes,” did a few speaking engagements, and was mentioned in at least a dozen articles (by name or by column title).

Where I fared best, oddly, was behind the scenes. I was able to “plant” about a dozen stories in the mainstream media that helped promote my personal or professional views. I also had about a half-dozen letters to the editor printed in various publications (hey, thanks for the free column space!). I can’t forget blogs – gotta love them blogs! I got a nice amount of links into the PR Fuel blog and a decent amount of mentions. I still have to work on getting more blog ink though. Oh, and I got two mentions in books published this year – never a bad thing!

Despite all of this, I still have to ask the big question: Can I quantify the press I got?

There really is no easy answer, and one reason is because most of the press I got this year was not geared at generating revenue directly. That will change in 2005 as I take an aggressive PR posture on behalf of my employer. The proof will then be in the pudding, or the press, I guess.

Looking towards 2005, my personal PR goals are to land at least one expert quote per month for me, and at least one per month for someone else at my company. I want to try to score at least 15 total speaking opportunities and land at least two feature articles in newspapers or magazines. And, not to be forgotten, I’m aiming to get someone from my company on television at least once every six weeks.

Hmm, that’s a lot on my plate in addition to my normal job duties. Maybe I should hire a PR person?

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

Comments are closed.