TV and Radio

How has the public relations industry changed over the past 20 years?
Answered by Jack Leslie and Richard Edelman
  • Jack Leslie

    Jack Leslie

  • Richard Edelman

    Richard Edelman

  1. Jack Leslie Chairman, Weber Shandwick


    Well, this industry has changed just dramatically since when I first got in. Television was that same kind of disruptive technology that you have with the Internet; it was really a game changer. In politics, you went from this sort of smoke-filled back room to television coming in to the living room of voters and allowing them to make these judgments. But you still had, in effect, a broadcast model; that is, someone was talking to someone else.

    In our business, you put out a press release and hope they write a story. Or you'd create a television program and hoped they turned on your channel that night. Now, of course, we've moved from this broadcast model to an engagement model. Now all of a sudden, we are in this constant two-way conversation. And in our business we can no longer even plan a series of discrete events, which is how we were almost taught to think. In our business, "We're gonna do this event, and then we're gonna have this press conference and we're gonna…" We planned out the calendar almost around these events. And we hoped that they would create, in effect, a conversation and would be engaging. But it's nothing like we have now, where this is in real time and you're not exactly sure what the other party is going to say. And I tell my clients, "This is not a time to be a control freak because you've lost control.

    We used to actually say, if you can believe it, in our business years ago, we would say, "Well, the key is to control the dialog." And I remember telling our clients that, "Whoever controls the terms of the debate wins." You know, wins the election or wins the battle for market share. Well, nobody can control the terms of the debate today. You are in just a constant, sort of, engagement with folks, and stuff's coming out of left field and right field all the time, and you've got to be able to live with that. And so how we practice our trade has changed fundamentally.

    So, for example, we used to have more of a setup like a newsroom. You know, you'd have beats like reporters would have beats. And we would be putting out news, if you will, for clients based on whatever their objectives might be. Now, we're really in the business of content creation. Now, we really ought to be structured like studios. Now, we ought to be thinking about, "Okay, what are the creative ideas that are really engaging to people?" And then we have so many different platforms that we can begin to push that out, or we can begin to engage whoever the stakeholder or audience might be.

    More answers from Jack Leslie »

  2. Richard Edelman President & CEO, Edelman


    In the early '80s you had a case you're very familiar with, CBS versus Westmoreland. We actually at Edelman worked on the first sort of litigation PR. We actually had a he-said, she-said kind of approach. As soon as the lawyers came out of the courtroom we had our defense counsel provide briefings for the reporters. That was a big step forward in crisis management. Later on we did the first big environmental PR campaign for dolphin-safe tuna in the early '90s. And it was Star-Kist deciding that it wouldn't use any tuna that was catching dolphins. They changed the nets and raised the price but actually did something really significant in that area.

    More recently, the advent of social media and use of Facebook as a key brand proposition… so the Facebook page for Johnny Walker or Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, or whatever, is now a key point of intersection for consumers who are advocates and even those who are critics.

    More answers from Richard Edelman »

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