This PR champion interview features the esteemed Phil Hall, Editor the highly regarded PRNews which is the leading and definitive publication covering “all things PR”.In this interview, Phil graciously takes time out to give us his insight into the current state of PR and what the future holds.
NH: Briefly, do you have three tips you would give to every company in regard to PR?
Hall: My three tips: (1) If possible, do it in-house; (2) If you prefer to hire an outside rep or agent, do the most thorough background check on the outsider imaginable; and (3) Be realistic in what PR can and cannot do for you.
NH: What do you find most inspiring about PR and how it can effect change?
Hall: PR is most inspiring when it levels the playing field for smaller companies and organizations that lack the marketing budgets of their monolith competition. High-impact PR can make the little guy look like a giant and help to drive sales, sales inquiries and new business opportunities. In short, it turns the little guy into a big guy — or at least into a serious mid-sized guy!
NH: Why is it important for companies to think both locally and globally in terms of news they disemminate?
Hall: Because Uncle Walt was correct: it’s a small world after all.
NH: There’s a debate right now about the power and viability of the good old press release and if they’re still useful? What do you think and why?
Hall: A press release is useful only if it has genuine news to announce and only if it reaches the people who can spread that news far and wide. Too many press releases are in distribution that contain no news whatsoever. Even worse, too many press releases (both the important and frivilous ones) are not going to the people who should get them.
NH: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about garnering good PR?
Hall: The expectation that any PR person can do the job. Quality control is a major problem in the PR industry. Not just at the junior account level, but also among senior management in many corners of the industry. I gave a speech recently at a regional PRSA meeting that bemoaned the lack of quality control and when I was finished there was a long and icy silence, followed by a hesitant wave of applause. It wasn’t until after the meeting was over that people filed up to me one by one to thank me for daring to say what I did.
NH: What is the biggest challenge to getting traction in coverage and how do even SMBs and mid-size companies overcome it?
Hall: Knowing how to differentiate yourself and your products/services/company from the competition.
NH: In your role as Editor of PRNews, what predictions can you make for the future of PR and how it will change?
Hall: You are assuming PR has a future! I see the rise of creative agencies (who handle PR, direct marketing, advertising, Net marketing, SEO, graphic design) emerging to take the place of the traditional PR agency. PR agencies that only do traditional PR functions will go the way of the two other traditional communications tools: the typewriter and the telegraph. In corporate communications, I see PR fighting aggressively to get itself heard at the C-suite level. But in the event of another economic downturn (and the next recession will be a borderline depression, trust me), expect to see a lot of companies outsourcing their PR to the creative agencies I just mentioned. The companies will hold on to their IR teams, because (as Willie Sutton never said) that’s where the money is.