Agency Leaders Discuss Changing PR Landscape

PRSA Chicago recently broke tradition for its annual “Agency Leaders” event that previously has featured a panel of five or six talking heads. This year, leaders of 18 agencies rotated from table to table to facilitate multiple discussions on a variety of pressing topics within the industry. Those attending the breakfast at Loyola University Chicago were able to interact one-on-one with six agency heads.

Following is a recap of themes heard by young pro Caiti Bieberich during the unique networking event:

  • 9 to 5 is no more: While PR pros are not strangers to long hours, social media and increasing interconnectivity across all channels of life is blurring the lines between personal and professional. Fear not – Danny Cohn, Senior Vice President at Zeno Group, explains that this needn’t be daunting. He advises his junior staff to “work smarter, not harder,” meaning to use time at work efficiently to get back to life. Similarly, Adam Scholder, Senior Vice President at Olson, reiterates the importance of being just as dialed in to current events and using that advantageously at work to find strategic ways in for clients.
  • Be limitless: A resounding theme of the conversation on-site was big thinking. Rana Komar, General Manager at Weber Shandwick, advises those within the industry to take risks, think fearlessly and with an entrepreneurial spirit. Ideating solely with a PR mindset limits practitioners. As Michele Anderson, Managing Director at Ogilvy, explains, clients do not care where the big idea came from, just that it was brought forth. This theme is applicable to personal career growth, as well. Erica Swerdlow, Executive Vice President at Burson-Marsteller, urges her staff not to feel limited to a certain client or practice. Instead, she pushes them to say “yes” to everything that they can and see it through.
  • Don’t forget the basics: As the leader of an agency comprised largely of former journalists, Dorothy Oliver Pirovano, CEO at Public Communications, Inc., says that the biggest skill gap in entry-level candidates now is good writing. Despite the ever-evolving new media landscape, basic skills, like writing, are critical to success in public relations. Bill Zucker, Director at Ketchum, reiterates this, citing writing and presentation skills as the two most important attributes in professional growth.
  • The time for PR is now: In the same vein as thinking limitlessly, Chicago leadership felt that there is an overwhelming opportunity for PR to strengthen its seat at the table. As the media landscape becomes fragmented and roles shift, the industry should step up in response. To do so, Anderson suggests two areas of growth: 1) creative and 2) research—specifically data analysis and reporting.  

A full list of panelists, along with their Twitter information, can be found on the PRSA Chicago website here. Stay tuned to the PRSA Chicago website for more great events like this one!

Caiti Bieberich Caiti Bieberich is an Account Executive in the Ketchum Chicago office, working across a variety of consumer brand accounts. She graduated from DePaul University and is currently involved in its Alumni Sharing Knowledge program, as well as an active member of the PRSA Chicago YPN committee. She can be found online at @CaitiBieberich.

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