A Look Back: How PR Has Changed Since 2004

After graduating from college in 2004 with a degree in Public Relations (PR) and two PR internships under my belt, I was young, fresh and eager to embark upon my PR career. Even though it doesn’t seem like very long ago, it was worlds-away from how PR is practiced today, mainly because it was a few years shy of the launch of the digital era.

My career began out of an office with three “master” computers, a very-important fax machine, and landline telephones. Email existed & was used, but primarily for personal use, and the most successful PR pitches came about as the result of a cleverly worded phone call that grabbed a reporter’s attention. Today’s best practice of crafting a pitch that hopefully turns into an ongoing dialogue or relationship with a journalist was unheard-of.

Other daily activities back then were focused on creating media lists from the printed Bacon’s media books, faxing approved news releases, making rounds of follow-up calls, and often visiting newsrooms in-person to hand-deliver releases inside a “creative” press kit.

Just a year or so later, email became the preferred method for delivering information, saving me hours of time each day and from dozens of paper cuts.

Towards the end of the decade, social media evolved from the once music-focused MySpace into a complex universe of channels and segmented audiences, and another must-use weapon in the ever-expanding PR toolbox.

Today, coveted skills such as being “tight” with the local business editors or knowing AP Style like the back of your hand are not nearly as valued as they once were. Partnerships with influencers, design know-how, and video editing capabilities are just as high on the list.

In addition to managing my own (and our clients’) social media, today I own an iPhone with two phone numbers, two iPads, one MacBook Air, and a smart TV; I’m able to handle five times the work, but am working five times as hard. Increased accessibility means I’m now expected to be available at all hours, so there’s more opportunity to have less time of my own.

I’m definitely more efficient and smarter than I was 14 years ago, but being more effective has come at the expense of private and family time. Taking a call on vacation used to be a punishable offense. Now, no matter where I am, it’s mostly expected I can be reached. Working on vacation or off-hours is par-for-the-course.

PR won’t look as it does now forever – and anyone who wants to be successful in PR and stay relevant must be willing to accept and embrace change. And just like a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables is essential to a well-balanced diet, a PR pro’s ability to strike a balance between digital and “real life” sources and connections is no different. I firmly believe that the upper hand is with those who can adapt and combine new, digital communication techniques with the human touch of yesterday.

When I look back and relive the past 14 years, I realize that I do, in fact, want to keep doing this — day-in-and-day-out… even if I’m working at the speed of life, times two. That is — as long as my husband can pick our son up from school and my dog door stays intact! 🙂 

To learn more about PAVLOV’s PR capabilities & expertise, visit www.pavlovagency.com/services/public-relations/ or email [email protected].