Pop culture know-how strengthens traditional PR skills

Despite the fact that I am our resident "old guy" at the ripe age of 43, I think my staff would probably agree that I am our master of "bad TV."

Despite the fact that I am our resident “old guy” at the ripe age of 43, I think my staff would probably agree that I am our master of “bad TV.” Name a goofy network or cable reality show, drama, or comedy, and in all likelihood, I probably watch it.

It's not that I necessarily enjoy all these shows, but I think it's important as PR people that we are tapped into the zeitgeist of what's going on in the world of today's pop culture. For the same reason, I also try to keep current on what's new in music, technology, and yes, even gossip.

I am also an avid reader; I have been my entire life. I'm the guy who walks through our library on a Friday night and takes about ten random magazines home for weekend reading. One of my consistent mantra's to people just starting in the business is “read, read, read.” As far as I am concerned, you can't read enough. Books, magazines, blogs; it doesn't really matter.

It is absolutely vital to stay current and topical. And when you read, try to be analytical and think like a PR person. Take a look at the reporter's name. Think about his or her respective style. Determine whether there's an interesting angle that jumps out at you. And try to store that in your databank (your brain). In doing so, you'll quickly build powerful knowledge without even realizing it.

Success on the agency side requires mastery of tangible skills, such as writing, effective and articulate communication, etc. But it's often intangibles, such as having a holistic grasp of what's going on in the world from a cultural perspective, and helping your clients either navigate -- or play into -- those occurrences that can really help differentiate.

Howard Solomon is managing director of Ruder-Finn/West

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