The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently named Gary McCormick 2010 chair of the organization. He will step into his new role January 1. McCormick, director of partnership development at Scripps Network and previously a 17-year veteran of government public affairs programs, talks about social networking and how PR pros can be their own best advocate.
PRWeek: As per your experience with Scripps Network, how do you see your background in broadcast media aiding you at PRSA?
McCormick: You must be a good writer to be good at PR, and you have to understand how journalists work and what their deadlines are. In this industry we have to be good persuaders, and if you don't have the oral skills then you're missing half your toolbox. Whether that be internally when you're appealing to your boss or CEO, or externally when you're representing a client or acting as a spokesperson. And I hope that's something I'll bring to this position; an understanding of that element of PR.
PRWeek: In your role as chair you'll promote PR advocacy. Why is that an important component?
McCormick: Advocacy is important internally to educate PR professionals on exactly why what they do is valuable. And it's important externally to explain that to the public and to show the value of what we do. We don't want to be an industry that protests too much, but we have to get word out on what we're trying to accomplish and protect our reputation.
PRWeek: How can PR pros make sure they're being an advocate for themselves in the industry?
McCormick: Your personal reputation is your equity, it is your business. If you don't protect that image, you'll lose your business. PR pros can protect themselves by acting ethically and transparently, and clients will recognize that. PR is an interesting business in that your reputation is on the line every day.
PRWeek: What challenges have you noticed in the industry?
McCormick: This isn't the same industry it was 60 years ago when PRSA started. It's not even the same industry it was six months ago. With the introduction of social media and the loss of certain media outlets, for us to do our job effectively we have to find ways to educate members on how to use the new media landscape so they can better do their jobs.
PRWeek: PRSA facilitates networking among its members. What trends have you noticed in networking?
McCormick: PR pros are looking at getting in touch with others in their industry and finding out what's working for them. If you're working on a project for a client and you're on deadline, you want to know who you can get in touch with quickly to get some advice or information. What we're seeing is the benefit of having connections in the PR community so you can get that information faster.
PRWeek: PRSA also works with PR students through its Public Relations Student Society of America. What tips can you give for people just getting into the business?
McCormick: Getting in touch with the PR professionals. It's very difficult when you're a student, but the PR industry really does embrace students, and is willing to help newcomers if they reach out. Students will find mentors in this field. And the students that will be successful are those who have a passion that they can pursue. Whether it be entertainment, sports, music; almost all industries have a PR side to them. And if you're representing a field you have a passion for it will show, and you'll bring your innate knowledge to the table.