Media relations is still key in effective PR practice

The honorees for PRWeek’s Hall of Fame Class of 2021 demonstrate why media relations extends way beyond smiling and dialing and remains one of the most important elements of the PR toolkit.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in conversation with chief of staff Judy Miller about PRWeek Hall of Famer Joe Evangelisti.

The 2021 PRWeek Hall of Fame gala celebration on Monday was even more inspirational than usual.

This was in part because it was many people’s first in-person industry event for two years. We had to celebrate the 2020 class virtually due to the COVID lockdown and our last physical Hall of Fame gathering took place in December 2019.

It’s also because attendees enjoy the collegial vibe in the room, which is more celebratory and less competitive than the average awards event because the focus of the evening is on celebrating PR industry legends and the profession in general, rather than lauding one brand or agency over another. The presence of families and friends adds to the pleasant atmosphere.

The quality of testimonials contained in the video tributes for each honoree was a great testament to the esteem in which the in-house PR function and agency counsel is held at corporations and brands.

This year’s class comprised Jano Cabrera from General Mills, Golin and USC’s Fred Cook, Joe Evangelisti from JPMorgan Chase, Flowers Communications’ Michelle Flowers Welch, Karen Kahn from HP and Zeno’s Barby Siegel.

Luminaries including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening, former Vice President Al Gore, Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass, basketball legend Magic Johnson, conservationist Jane Goodall and TV journalist Willow Bay paid fulsome tribute to our inductees and you can see the testimonial videos here.

But it was telling that moving tributes to the honorees also came from senior media figures, including political correspondent Dan Baltz of The Washington Post, who said of Cabrera: “I’ve always found Jano very good to work with, especially when he was working on behalf of political candidates, which is not the easiest job.”

JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon highlighted Evangelisti’s superb relationships with the media, most interactions with which are conducted in the background to ensure the company gets a fair shake in coverage and reporters are appraised of the background to issues and situations.

Chat show host Tamron Hall said of Flowers Welch: "Michelle didn't just break through the glass ceiling - she shattered it and opened doors for more little Back girls to live their dreams."  

Smart CCOs still spend lots of their time engaging with different media professionals and building a rapport that will serve them well in general, but especially when the proverbial fecal matter hits the rotary impeller.

Don’t get me wrong, strategy and big creative ideas are important, but PR is a relationship business and nowhere is that more crucial than in the sphere of media relations.

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