In the fourth year of its Regional Forums, PRWeek is returning to cities it has previously visited, as well as adding a handful of new regions to the rotation. For each event, leading PR pros from a variety of agencies, corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations take part in a roundtable discussion about the issues affecting them and their peers.
PRWeek's Julia Hood, Gideon Fidelzeid, and Lisa LaMotta were in New York for this year's second Regional Forum. Click here for the pdf.
Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Recent scandals involving The New York Times and the New York Post illustrate how the New York media is unlike the press anywhere else, with so many prominent newspapers in one market and an almost vitriolic relationship among them. As New York-based PR pros, what unique challenges do you face in dealing with the media?
Jeff Graubard (The Graubard Group): My issue is with the gatekeepers. About 20 years ago, the people that were the gatekeepers for TV news were veterans that had been around for 15 to 20 years and knew the streets. Now, you deal with 25-year-old kids, just out of college, who don't really know what is and isn't news. It's frustrating trying to get past that first step. It comes down to the monopolies and the consolidation of media. That said, I don't think New York is all that different from anywhere else. If you have a good story, you can work it. As far as the competition, that's healthy.
Rob Flaherty (Ketchum): You notice the change in the competition in the past couple of years. There is more of a demand for the exclusive. If you offer a couple of outlets the one angle on a story and another angle to the other one, they used to both take that. Now, if it's The Wall Street Journal and the AP, they'll say forget it if it's going to the other one, certainly more often than they would in the past. It's a sign of the pressure that's on them to bring something new to the table because of all the new [media] formats. That option of offering multiple angles to all of them, on a level offering an exclusive to each, is under a lot of pressure to change.
Julia Hood (PRWeek): What does “exclusive” really mean in this day and age? Do people even care as much? It used to be that if it appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, no one had it until the next day.
Ricky Clemons (National Urban League): The exclusive is not as hot as it used to be. I just released our “State of Black America” report, which we have done since 1976. I was able to put that out in an embargoed effort through AP, USA Today, and some other outlets by saying, “Can you run with this at 5pm the day before?” We had some very good press the day it came out in USA Today. We had the AP piece run at 5 pm the day before and all of the radio and TV started to hit after that time.
Being a nonprofit, we can't offer exclusives, but we want to get some press. So I think the idea of the exclusive has died. When I was in baseball, the media comes to you. But when you are a nonprofit, you have to create media. I don't think New York is any different from any other town. I think by having national responsibilities, it makes working New York easier because you'll have to have something in New York City.
Matt Harrington (Edelman): That's part of the challenge I see for some of our national clients. They very much want a New York profile with media in the business sections, whether it be the Post or the Daily News. The media, in turn, want to cover their hometown companies, and it is a challenge sometimes for non-Tri-State companies to get the profile that they think they deserve in what they presume to be the national press because of the prominence of the New York media.
Billee Howard (Weber Shandwick): The New York media is – whether it's covering a local company or not – the key hub of shaping a client's corporate reputation on a globalized basis because that's where the financial media resides. So to the earlier point, I do think the exclusive has died a little bit in significance. But what has emerged is the need for customization. The reason for that is that the key attributes that drive corporate reputation now, whether it's innovation, financial transparency, or fiscal health, those are the different kinds of stories that the journalists here want to hear and they, ultimately, make the judgment on a client's overall stature. That's why, local issues or not, the New York media ultimately emerges as one of the most important in the world.
Jan Sneed (FCB Worldwide): I don't care where media is, the most influential factor is the Internet. Regardless of an exclusive or anything else, you have less time to prepare your story and I find that the media tends to be less accurate because they're trying to beat their competition on the Internet. I find that what's on the Internet is more significant than what's in print because, if you are in any kind of service business, your clients are not going back leafing through old issues of Ad Age or Newsweek. They are going on the Web, they are Googling you. If it's on the Internet, it lives forever.
Jeff Simmons (NYC Comptroller): What makes the exclusive more difficult is the constant blogging. In the political world, I can't easily hand out an exclusive because I can expect that one of the key political blogs will ruin that exclusive for a reporter. I have to have all my ducks in a row before I even start to sell an exclusive. The blogs will contain information that will turn a positive into a negative; not even the key post, but all of the responses that go up there that are not vetted thoroughly that swing a story in a different direction.
Flaherty (Ketchum): It's almost like time is the new exclusive.
Tom Reno (Hill & Knowlton): It's changed the nature of our job a bit because the competitiveness of the media world and the leanness of the newsroom have created an environment where we have to be far more thorough in what we present as a story. That's also due to the combination of them not doing the fact-checking that they should, not really diving in deeply as they should. We really have to present a fully fleshed story. In the old days, you could pitch the broad story. Now you have to write the story in many ways for them. I think that's what's changed. Due to the immediacy, you better get it right.
Lloyd Trufelman (Trylon): You talk about us being senior people, I don't think any of us were practicing PR in the heyday of the New York press, when you had nine or 11 dailies. If you are running a PR firm in Minneapolis, where there are two radio stations and one newspaper, you call a reporter at the paper and he declines the story, there is nothing that you can do. But media is one of the pillars that run this town. We've got this tremendous, messy, argumentative thing. This rapidly accelerating, violent, cutthroat cloud, which for us is great because all of our clients are saying, ”Help, I can't see anything.“ On one hand, it's unnerving, but I'd rather be doing it and taking the punches here than being confined to practice PR in a sort of typical, unfortunate American- monopoly media marketplace where there is no competition, no dynamics.
Lynne Scott Jackson (Millynneum): This is also a great opportunity to educate, be it our colleagues or bloggers. It's not to make people over-aware, as you don't want to push your audience away, but it is exciting because you want to be known as the credible resource. Then if journalists are coming to you, you have the facts. There is also the opportunity for outreach to new sources, rather than the tried and true. I think for a lot of us it's challenging, but we can use our journalistic backgrounds to contribute. We need to do the digging, so that journalists have facts that are correct and leave no room for error.
Paul Bogaards (Alfred A. Knopf): One of the things that makes New York unique is that you have a couple newspapers that vie for ownership of stories. Today, in The New York Times, there were two stories on Ron Burkle and Page Six, one in the business section and one in the arts and leisure section. It's just crazy. That's one of the things that makes New York unique.
But there is a huge caveat here. I think New York has been flattened for the reason Jan brought up. Right now, news can be disseminated by the push of a button across the globe. A real-world example from yesterday: We are publishing Gay Talese's memoir, A Writer's Life, and we had given The New York Times an exclusive which is running this Sunday in the arts and leisure section. Yesterday, if you saw the New York Observer, there is a huge piece on Gay Talese, top of the fold. It was a serialization that Gay's agent had negotiated, but Gay had made the mistake of answering the phone on Monday and talking to the reporter at the Observer.
So yesterday I had to get on the phone with The New York Times and tell them that their exclusive was not an exclusive. I waited until 3pm to make that phone call because the arts and leisure section goes to press on Tuesday afternoon. So I was telling the truth, but I was holding back a little. The Times posted their interview on Wednesday.
The Times remains the most important vehicle for the dissemination of news for our industry. So I called the reporter and told the truth, that it was not our deal, but a deal the agent negotiated and Gay answered the phone. So the piece will run on Sunday. It gets complicated, but ultimately New York isn't an isolated metro anymore because you have news coming at you from all over the world.
Hood (PRWeek): This must be a factor for you, Bernadette, with the NHL because it's a national story for you.
Bernadette Mansur (NHL): The press comes to us, but I think there's an interesting dynamic. You started off with the story on Page Six and I see it very much in the media in Toronto. With all of the big stories that they are chasing, there is still a sameness about it. It makes you wonder who they're writing for. Is it for the readers for each other? I believe they're writing for each other, especially in the sports arena, and I am seeing that now with the Page Six saga.
With what the newspapers have to deal with now – they are giving the content away on the Web site – they should be more unique and more passionate about unearthing things. There is a lot of redundancy. How many times does the reader want to read the same thing?
Harrington (Edelman): You see the arc with the Duke situation right now. You can call the whole thing out as it's going to play right through the May 15 hearing. That it's going to print to broadcast to online so that it can be kept alive. You know who the principal characters are now – heroes, the villains – and it's packaged.
Graubard (Graubard): I think as agencies, as counselors to our clients, we need to educate them as to what is and isn't important. There is certainly a lot of noise out there. Across the board, to clients, The New York Times is different than a blog. But we are constantly talking to our clients about what to let play out, like water running down a stream, it will run its course and then evaporate. You have to make sure whatever structure you set up, as far as strategy is concerned for a client, that you are able to follow through and get the important media, be it the Times, the Journal, or BusinessWeek. This other stuff is just going to be.
Howard (WS): I think Bernadette made a good point – you have so much more uniformity in traditional media, that it has almost lost its voice. The attractiveness that the new media provides, whether it's to consumers of media or to point out to our clients, is that it creates this strong, unique voice that resonates and ultimately impacts them. So the big boys – Business Week, The New York Times, etc. – used to run the show. In a lot of ways, they still do. However, if you're going to provide the best counsel to your clients, you have to move away from the traditional. We need to counsel them on how to deal with this emerging voice.
Hood (PRWeek): In the end, does the Page Six story matter? Is it just media feeding on media?
Clemons (NUL): That story doesn't resonate as much in my world as it played out in the media. It sounded like it was made up. You had these two newspapers fighting each other; you don't know how much that plays into it. I remember from being in sports that it's important that you do not answer a question if you don't know the answer. A lot of times, what would happen is that the New York Post would ask one person, “What do you know about this? Did you know that he said this?” Then we go to another person and ask, “Do you know what this person said?” And, of course, neither one of them said anything. That's the biggest thing that happens in New York. I would rather talk about issues that affect the community than this story.
Bogaards (Knopf): Page Six sells books.
Flaherty (Ketchum): It's a sidebar. It's extreme and salacious, but it touches on important issues. It touches on the idea that sometimes the people who are covered in the news are frustrated with the seeming unfairness of the media getting to do what it wants. I think the fact the Burkle hired private investigators, after one overture from Jared Paul Stern, to videotape the meeting is an indication of how a powerful executive would like to regain some control over when they are in a media situation. The rules are different in this context, but they are relevant to journalistic integrity.
Trufelman (Trylon): The thing that is interesting about Burkle is that the man is a billionaire. That's a thousand million. And he's got many millions of dollars, and he's concerned about column items in Page Six? If I were a billionaire, you could put up a billboard saying what I was doing. It's fascinating to see that a man with this influence, power, and money is concerned about Page Six. So if you are a nonprofit, Page Six is not the place you go for serious policy analysis, but if you are trying to sell tickets for a benefit and Page Six says a celebrity is going to be at the Waldorf tomorrow night, 20 more tickets sell. So Page Six moves the meter. You just have to put it in context.
Bogaards (Knopf): We gave Johnson an item from the Gay Talese book from when Gay was under Tina Brown at the New Yorker and she chose not to run his piece on the John and Lorena Bobbitt episode. It was very easy placement. It was called the Penis Chopping Episode. You've got Page Six, which might not seem like great placement, but Page Six and the New York Observer are interesting vehicles in that the gatekeepers read those pages. Everybody who works in the media reads the Observer and everybody in New York reads Page Six.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Everyone in PR strives to get involved in the overall marketing mix. What strides has the industry made in doing so?
Sneed (FCB): I do corporate PR for advertising agencies. The ad agency is my client, not the agency's client. For example, we just won a large account in tandem with GolinHarris, Dow Chemicals. We were just on the front page of PRWeek. We are uniting more and more with either Weber Shandwick or an IPG company. We are finding that our interactive, which is also CRM, direct response, and CBI, has the lion's share of new business. Non-traditional, what we refer to as “below the line,” has become about 60% of our revenues. If you are not integrated, you are not going to be. It has directly affected our business in a very positive way. I was just complaining that I find one of the ad trades to be antediluvian because they are not getting it. The have been railing editorially that agencies need to integrate and we have, but nevertheless they don't know how to cover that. We have been partnering with PR and getting more business.
Mansur (NHL): I think a lot that integration comes with the fascination about consumer product companies and the brand. What is the brand? What is the DNA of the brand? Who should be communicating the DNA? And they realize that it is PR.
I certainly found this in our experience when we came back from the lockout and we had to reposition the NHL. We had to do it in many different ways – economically, on the ice, and from a marketing standpoint. Talking to our fans, who were the only saviors we had in being able to come back as strongly as we did, it was a very interesting dynamic with the marketing that we have in that PR was supreme in terms of what we could do to get that out.
Looking back at the NHL lockout in 1993, you had the legal department and the PR department – one was in one room and one was in another. We all wanted the same result, but we all do it differently. This time, because of the tools we had – the Internet and the ability to get things out instantly – we were in lockstep with the legal department. Everything that went up in terms of materials was vetted instantly by the lawyers. They saw from our perspective what we needed to do because we had to get the message out. We also saw how we were constrained from a legal perspective. It was a very different relationship than it was 10 years ago.
Sneed (FCB): In our field, everything is consumer driven. The more interested they are in any subject, the greater the variety of resources they will turn to – and we have to be there at every touch point.
Flaherty (Ketchum): Integration is a given. We should all be practicing it and pursuing it. The important question is: Are we going to play a central role as marketers are frustrated with their ability to create engagement and be relevant in the marketplace across all these different platforms? There's great frustration out there, but is our discipline going to play a central role in helping reach out to the one-to-one kind of marketplace and to influencers and third parties? Or are we going to be integrated as a supporting member of the team and framed as we have been traditionally thought of – as media relations only? Or are we going to step up to the plate and be seen as the logical discipline to go to as a leading source for that kind of engagement because our discipline has always had to earn the presence of our message? We've never been able to buy the presence of our message as most other marcomms do. We have to work through a gatekeeper and have it be kind of receiver-selective messaging.
In this world, everyone is out there saying, ”I'm going to pick this and not that,” zapping commercials and everything. The power is in the message that people want to receive. PR should have a central place there, but we see other disciplines developing an engagement practice, a viral practice, and arguably encroaching on what should be rightfully ours.
Reno (H&K): One thing we're starting to prove is our intimacy with stakeholders. It's allowing us to push forward and have a lead role. I think that intimacy with stakeholders is critical and why we're so effective in carving out the positioning and the messaging. With the other disciplines, especially advertising, it's not necessarily what it's about. It's about the creative; it's not about clearly understanding these incredibly diverse markets and having a relationship with them.
Hood (PRWeek): But can't they fake it until they make it?
Reno (H&K): They're trying hard to fake it. It's often corporations and not just the consumer. It's employees and shareholders. We're effective because we understand each one of those stakeholders and constituencies and it's not different messaging and positioning. I think that is what puts us ahead. We understand what they are looking for in terms of their unique communications needs.
Jackson (Millynneum): We understand it, but we are not selling ourselves as well as our advertising colleagues are. A lot of us were journalists, so we feel that we shouldn't. I think that's part of the hurdle we have to jump over because we are the leaders, but we have to let the ad co-op know. This is what we do, we need to have that budget, and we need to be in charge of you. But we're not used to selling ourselves. We need to step up to the plate and do more. There are all these audiences bubbling up and we can take the lead in reaching them. We do understand better than our ad colleagues.
Howard (WS): I think it goes back to the original point about breaking out of traditional media and going into the non-traditional media. We are able to provide our clients with deeper ways of connecting with their consumers. Ultimately, if you understand that the media has changed and that, in essence, culture is the new media, PR tactics are the way of weaving the DNA of the brand into the DNA of the culture. We can create lasting ties with consumers that weren't possible to establish with traditional advertising in the past or to establish in the world of being TiVo-ed out.
Mansur (NHL): Isn't that the essence of a viral campaign? You put out a viral campaign, put your finger prints all over it, yet it goes nowhere because it's perceived as advertising. It must be subtle and you must be nimble. With non-traditional media, getting to the younger generation is tough because they are not reading. It has to be authentic. We have the capacity as PR people to be very nimble. That's important.
Flaherty (Ketchum): The era of centralized control of the message, including buying the message, is over. We are in the post-mass media world. So our discipline should be very good at giving it the authenticity, of allowing the consumer to own it and framing the brand. The notion of the Wiki brand, the brand is really defined by the culture and society.
Bogaards (Knopf): You have to know where consumers receive information and how they process it. It has been a leap that we've had to make as a publisher. Typically, publishers have had very small ad departments and very big PR departments. We've relied on the earned media placements. Yet, there has been an erosion in the consumer gravitating toward traditional media. We found out a long time ago that kids were going to the iTunes site, so we made a concerted effort to have a presence there. It is great if you know where the kids are spending time and where the audience is spending time. Then you can access them. But you do have to be careful how you do it. It can't be a hard sell.
Trufelman (Trylon): The rules haven't changed. You talk about people doing these surreptitious viral marketing campaigns, but that is a fancy word for lying. It doesn't matter whether you are successful in influencing The New York Times to write an article about you or a blogger. As PR people, you can argue back and forth that media relations is a vital component of the whole PR effort. In the whole marcomms universe, it is the only thing that's credible.
If you get a blogger or the Times to write a positive article, all the direct mail doesn't matter, because it's not credible. I mean, you have all these people out there blocking pop-ups and skipping commercials, but on the flip side you have people electing to receive RSS feeds. So, if we can influence content in a positive way, it doesn't matter what the media platform is.
The problem is that on the client side, more and more things are quantifiable. Clients ask, “How many mentions are we going to get in this publication?” We say, “We're not sure, they might not take the story.” But the ad guys can give them a spreadsheet with all of the numbers right there. The more we try to quantify that, due to our work being mostly qualitative, the more we're trying to put on an ill-fitting suit.
I'm amazed for all these years to not see the PRSA or the Council of PR Firms do an ongoing, non-advertising based, proactive, client-focused effort advocating the use of PR much the same way we are seeing the National Newspaper Association doing their thing. I've been in PR 20 years and I can't recall a concerted effort to reach out by those two organizations in the same way everybody else does.
Harrington (Edelman): To go back to Tom's point about stakeholders, I think there's one that is very powerful – the employee base. I think a lot of companies are onto it. Leading by example is Starbucks. They have been very successful in getting their programming marketing out in a grassroots fashion. Tonight, they are premiering the movie Akeelah and the Bee. They have done discreet screenings of the movie all over the city just for their partners. The Edelman Trust Barometer notes that it's “people like me” that people trust. In Starbucks' case, it's the person behind the counter that's going to say, “Go see that movie.”
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Since we're on the subject of employees, let's discuss talent. A year ago at the New York roundtable, the participants were all lamenting about deteriorating writing skills being a huge void, particularly among young PR pros. You all oversee staff. How do you gauge the young talent coming into the industry?
Clemons (NUL): I'm very concerned. I just posted a job for a PR manager. We had a lot of impressive candidates, but one thing that concerns me is that we did not have a lot of male applicants. For myself, as a PR practitioner for the past 26 years, I can only count about five men who have been in the PR profession for more than 20 years.
Another concern: I just went to the University of Maryland, where the PR department was kicked out of the journalism school and put into another department. That concerned me because it showed that we had lost that edge that we were no longer able to be a part of the journalism department.
Graubard (Graubard): I saw where Boston University was also thinking about moving the department out of the journalism school. I think it's better for the PR department to be in the business school. I always tell our employees that when we are doing our job right, we are a conduit to the journalist, we are not the adversary. I think that it's important to be able to frame that story to go to the journalist with something real, and if you build the right alliances with the media, they trust you. From a business perspective, there needs to be more than just a hint that we are on the journalist's side. We should operate as journalists in how we talk to clients. We should ask our clients the questions that the media is eventually going to ask them.
Sneed (FCB): As far as the corporate end goes, the CEO respects the business community and the business-school ties far more than the journalism aspect. I've seen such amazing arrogance on the part of CEOs, vis-à-vis the press. In fact, they have a different value system. The business school aspect is very important, though I'd prefer a hybrid.
Graubard (Graubard): Maybe we should do more to educate the CEOs.
Flaherty (Ketchum): By aligning with the business school, we are acknowledging that our discipline has to look at the spectrum of relationships of which media is still the primary focus. We also need to be focused on the shareholders, employees, NGOs, and the myriad relationships.
I'd love it if the first business school course you were offered was not Mass Comm 101, but Relationships 101. In that course, you'd look at supply chain relationships, relationships with community, your employees, with all of your stakeholders. There would still be a big focus on media and writing, as it is central to our business, but it would take that broader business view and put us in the position to be the relationship manager for the company.
Howard (WS): Ultimately, to be successful at what we do, you need a strong knowledge base. First of all, it helps you understand all of the external issues that are impacting the company and it gives you the business acumen to be able to deconstruct the company against that business standpoint and ultimately be able to shape and define what the story actually is. We need to be that bridge between the client and the journalist.
Graubard (Graubard): We give an hour-and-a-half writing test to everyone who comes in. It covers current events, common sense kinds of things. It is shocking how little people know. We asked a question recently, “Name the Presidents in reverse order, starting at Bush.” It's amazing how many people can't get beyond Reagan.
I've always been very bullish on young people coming in. If you look hard enough you can find great people. As a smaller agency, we have it easier that we don't have 40 slots a year to fill. If you ask the right questions and give the right writing test, you end up with something good.
Simmons (NYC Comptroller): One of the predicaments that we face in government is finding qualified candidates who can speak Spanish. We lose a segment of the media by not having someone who can give interviews and pitch a story in Spanish.
Trufelman (Trylon): I think it goes deeper than business school, journalism school, or even writing. What I'm noticing is that in a search-enabled world, the phrase “I don't know” is inoperable. What I'm also noticing is just a general lack of analog ability to synthesize information, to dig down, process, and understand. And I think it's much bigger than just our field.
I have two kids in middle school. When we went to parents' night, we heard from all kinds of people – guidance counselors, social workers, administrators, but not one teacher. But everything at school is about safety, self-esteem, and making sure that tests aren't graded in red ink because that's threatening. An English teacher gave us an evaluation of our daughter, and the evaluation had typos in it. I think the problem is more of a societal problem. We might have a situation where the crisis with American education will continue and we're going to have people in China who can speak and write English better than we do.
Mansur (NHL): An extraordinary number of kids say they want to go into PR to be in sports or because they want to meet people. That goes hand in hand with what a lot of us are saying here. The education that is getting them to my door is not doing what it should be doing for them. It's not only that some are not able to write, but they have no education as to what PR is.
Graubard (Graubard): I would not make the statement that today's kids can't write. There was an article in The Wall Street Journal last week that it's never been more competitive to try to get into an Ivy League school. But we are not attracting the best of the best candidates anymore.
Jackson (Millynneum): We must push the kids to succeed. It's very rote, but sometimes talking with friends who are parents also; if we don't take that initiative when the kids are young, then they are going to be coming out of these colleges with less to offer. I teach at NYU and I am very impressed with the young talent, but what they have to get over is the self-esteem hump.
Bogaards (Knopf): To Jeff's point about the candidates, our company is unique and fortunate to see a lot of candidates from Ivy League schools. Ultimately, it doesn't matter where you go to school, but the skills that you bring. I had a candidate in last week. One of the first questions I ask is, “Do you like to read?” “Of course.” “OK. So what was the last book you read?” There was a long pause. I told him to take his time, but he couldn't even make up an answer.
Harrington (Edelman): One of my standard questions is, “What media do you use?” Generally, they say that they Google this and they blog that, but they are generally unfamiliar with the Journal or Business Week. A lot of them don't even make the effort to read the morning paper. It's very alarming. Other than The Daily Show, they don't know the news.
Flaherty (Ketchum): The iPodization of everything is quite an issue because you don't see the full scope. You have to worry about the narrow view of the world because if you are choosing only things that appeal to you, do you really end up with a broad view of issues out there? As part of our writing test, we ask candidates to identify 20 people who are currently in the news. And we don't go obscure on them. We ask them about figures ranging from entertainment to politics.
Hood (PRWeek): Market variation is quite extraordinary on this front. In Atlanta it's a very different story than San Francisco. Something particular to the market would be interesting.
Howard (WS): I think PR has become sexier. It's become more important, so as a result we are getting a more diverse range of candidates applying to our firm. I mean “diverse” amongst backgrounds, as well as ethnicity. I think as PR becomes more significant, we become more effective because we are attracting a more diverse group of people and are able to create more counsel rooted in the values of our clients.
Hood (PRWeek): But in the city where there are so many great management consultancies and investment banks, is the industry competing?
Harrington (Edelman): This continues to challenge us. We have a diversity task force. One of the things we are doing this summer is to take in 25 interns, with two-thirds of those being multicultural in background. This is a commitment we made to give people the opportunity to experience working for an agency. We hope as a by-product of that that there will be a mutual like.
Flaherty (Ketchum): The ad business has done some things that have worked – the Four As program and a well-developed intern program. We have invited that intern group to come to Ketchum for the past few years. In fact, we asked that we be the PR firm that they visit amongst the ad agencies. As a result, we've had two or three great interns come out of that program. We are coattailing on a successful practice.
Reno (H&K): I think the industry has made a lot of strides. You see the progress; it comes in blocks though. Right now we are at a point where we are seeing tremendous gender diversity. If you look at our firm, we are about 70% female. I think you are starting to see it racially and ethnically. I think all of the firms are being smart about it, they recognize the business imperative. It only makes us better when you have a diverse workforce. We are not where we want to be, but I've talked to people at other firms and they all have great programs in place.
Jackson (Millynneum): There is definitely progress from the mid-80s when I was Hill & Knowlton. Back then, there were five African Americans globally and zero Latinos. Yet, I'm going to put on the table a little quiz for everyone.
Does anybody know what is going on at Howard University this evening? Howard University tonight is celebrating its 35th anniversary of the school of communications. In terms of all of us being leaders in the industry in the world's greatest city, we should know about this. Now the network has expanded where there are 25 additional colleagues for the next fundraiser.
It's incumbent upon all of us to be aware – and not only ethnic professionals – of what is going on in the mainstream world in terms of reading our AdAge and our New York Times. We need to reach out to make sure that those Latino colleagues can work at city hall or any of the shops in the city. People still think, “I couldn't possibly work at that publishing house.” But they could.
The times are so exciting, and the Internet offers this wonderful opportunity. If your programs are working, that is great. Let's use that as a model and let's use that elsewhere. Let's learn from each other. If everyone has these pockets, that's not effective. We need to work together.
Clemons (NUL): It's my 26th year in this business and we are still talking about diversity. Obviously, we are not there. I started out at Howard University in 1980 and I went to Miller Brewing Company in 1985. They were talking about diversity. I think diversity in our neighborhood means not black. Diversity means hiring anyone, but somebody black. If we are using those types of words, than we are not achieving the goals that we are trying for.
I was a barrier breaker in this PR world in terms of sports and in terms of a lot of things, but those barriers still seem unbroken. If you look at the pro-sports landscape, you see very few. If you look at corporate America, you see very few. We still talk about diversity and we still have a problem. The perception still exists that we can't get in these doors, we can't be the SVPs, we can't be the EVPs.
I think the consumer-based companies are doing a lot better than our private PR companies because they have to use diverse candidates. People at the corporations must do what they have to do because they are publicly held companies. These guys here are not publicly held companies. They don't have to hire diversity – and that shows.
Jackson (Millynneum): We know there could be an entire forum about this, but not only with employment because we know that the issues are economic. There are simple initiatives that could take place where each organization represents millions and even trillions of dollars, that is a good opportunity to just have companies that are various ethnicities.
There definitely has been progress; we know that there needs to be more. There are a lot of people who are willing to be part of the solution. It's 2006, we're forging ahead. We are not going to look at what was not done, but the programs that are effective. How can more people come into the fold if they do not have the right skill set? How can we train them? It is all very positive. Then there will be no one who will be saying, I cannot find that person who speaks Spanish.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Share with us your one industry prediction or wish for the next 12 months.
Graubard (Graubard): The next 12 months will focus on the mid-term election this November. I think we're going to see the public debate come to more of a head as to what we're doing in Iraq and what we're doing internationally. It seems that everything is quite amorphous and no one really knows where the economy and culture are headed. I hope that after November, we have a clearer sense of that and be more optimistic in this country.
Harrington (Edelman): I think we are going to see increased opportunity for our industry in increasing our fair share of marketing dollars.
Bogaards (Knopf): PR is going to become dominant in the publishing industry in terms of marketing dollars. I also think that in terms of the media culture that we live in, it is going to shift from traditional earned media placements to prosumer media placements. I think that's going to keep happening.
Howard (WS): I think that the line between being a traditional media specialist and non-traditional media specialist is going to evaporate and there won't be as much as bifurcation as there is now. Ultimately, in the next 12 months and beyond, if you are going to be a leading PR counselor, you will have to embrace both worlds equally and not segment the non-traditional media component in a different area of the agency. You will no longer be able to say, “That's not my world.”
Clemons (NUL): Believe in your product. Believe in your brand. Know that you have a good story and be passionate about what you do. To me, that is the best thing about PR.
Flaherty (Ketchum): I agree with Billee about the elimination of lines. I think everyone is going to have to work their story across all of those platforms and be very good at it. That is going to require training and not the hiring of specialists.
One prediction will be that the excitement around consumer-generated media will lead to consumer-generated everything and it will create a rich opportunity for us. One example is consumer-generated recreation, specifically, geocashing. It is a great harbinger of things to come. Going online and putting in satellite coordinates to a handheld GPS, and going and finding the millions of things hidden by individual consumers all over this country. It has created this whole recreation and it could not have existed two or three years ago. Think of the possibilities – and we should be the source of some of those ideas.
Sneed (FCB): It will be all about the consumer. That's the bottom line. Everything is consumer-driven and our industry is becoming increasingly aware of that. It's about a one-on-one relationship with the consumer and the Internet is driving it.
Mansur (NHL): It's going to be a busy 12 months for all of us. I think everyone here knows what's going on with consumers and the change in technologies and how we get to the diverse audiences. I think we are going to be looked to for guidance. I think this is going to be a strengthening experience. I think we are going to have to be very quick and convincing in helping get the messages out.
Simmons (NYC Comptroller): I expect an increased influence of blogging and the Internet to shift political opinions, especially in this market. We saw it last year with the mayoral election, but next year may be different because we do not have a substantive election in New York City, but this year I expect it is going to get much more influential.
Reno (H&K): I think China will dominate the political, business, and economic landscape. I think it will clearly impact how we market and how communicate here.
Jackson (Millynneum): I think there will be a return to a passion for what we do, and the golden age of the generalist because we need to have so much information and knowledge across different business units. That's exciting. Also, I hope we can encourage the next generation to be hungry and to obtain those skills if they want a job in communications.
Trufelman (Trylon): I think it boils down to accelerating disintermediation of the media that is really driven by broadband penetration. If you look back at all the predictions that were made during the dot-com boom, they are all coming to fruition now. It just took seven years instead of 18 months.
We are getting to a point where wireless broadband is going to be ubiquitous, so the Internet will be everywhere. The platforms are going to move everything to the third screen. Everything you do on your desktop now, you'll do on your Blackberry. So all that is speeding up and the media is being completely broken down by the Internet.
Look what's happening to the newspaper. Look what vlogging is doing to the TV networks. I think this is good for us because people are saying, “How do I navigate this constantly shifting sea?” If we are media experts, which are what we should be, it bodes well.
SVP, executive director of publicity, promotion, and media relations, Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
VP of communications, National Urban League
Senior partner, Ketchum
President, The Graubard Group
President, Eastern region, Edelman
EVP/MD, global strategic media group, Weber Shandwick
Lynne Scott Jackson
SVP, communications, National Hockey League
EVP and GM, Hill & Knowlton, New York
Press secretary, New York City Office of the Comptroller
EVP, director of corporate communications, FCB Worldwide
President and CEO, Trylon SMR