Bradford O’Hearn passed away this week at 74. Brad was a mentor to me and was at least partially responsible for my time in government PR. He was both a great journalist and public relations man, with solid ethics and lots of common sense.
Brad made the transition from journalism to PR look natural and easy; he was successful because he understood the roles of both professions, and also knew that by nurturing relationships and contacts, he’d get his stories written and his clients written about.
My links to Brad were many. While he was a Newsday reporter, I’d pitch him regularly. When he left Newsday after 20 years to serve as Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin’s press secretary, he recruited me to work in a similar role for the Town of Babylon. Later, I consulted for the Deer Park School District to help pass its budget, which had been rejected by voters for 10 straight years. My efforts were successful, and I eventually gave up the client and recommended the work to Brad. Deer Park’s budget has never failed to pass since we took it on.
As a PR man, Brad had numerous clients who counted on him to get their stories into the media. He also had an affinity and expertise on the subject of ethics, both in journalism and PR. He delivered presentations on ethics to members of the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI) and other groups, and frequently lectured on college campuses. His hypothetically-based case studies and participatory style became my template for teaching ethics years later; I’ve since emulated and implemented Brad’s approach.
Journalists like Brad O’Hearn often make very good PR people. Their ability to know a good story, put it into compelling words, and create an interesting experience for their audiences is what PR people are doing more and more in our “create your own content” and “be your own media” digital age. Brad’s move from reporter to public relations practitioner was a lesson on how to do it well. Rest in peace, old friend. Your thoughts?
We’re approaching another new year and many of us typically make a list of resolutions. It’s always good to look toward accomplishing goals, changing habits and getting into better shape both physically and mentally in the coming year, so here are my PR promises to myself for 2015:
1) Enhance teaching — I’ll be teaching courses I’ve taught before, so I’m promising myself and my students that I’ll find ways to enhance every class. I’ll insert more creativity, more interactivity and more technology, and I’ll always be working alongside my academic and professional colleagues to improve and augment our public relations program. I’ll also work even more closely with our PRSSA chapter’s terrific members and leaders to make 2015 the group’s best year ever.
2) Start a five-year program — It’s only a concept, but we’ll explore ways for students to earn their degree in public relations and then earn a master’s in, say, journalism or media studies by taking graduate courses during their senior year. They’d then finish their second degree in year five. Similarly, journalism and media studies students will also be able to earn a master’s degree in PR through a five-year program.
3) Research and write — One of our obligations to the university and our profession is to advance the body of knowledge and understanding. I’ve implemented three surveys of nonprofit organizations to learn how they fund, staff and run their public relations efforts, and had a paper published on the results. In 2015, I’ll take on a new research topic and work to have my findings shared.
4) Get into shape — Always fighting my tendency to take on more than I can handle, I’ve promised myself to put together a better filing system (paper and online); improve ways I prep for classes, meetings and advisement; and yes, I need to lose 15-20 pounds. That effort starts now, too.
Whether you’ve made and will keep your resolutions for the coming new year, I hope it’s a happy and healthy 2015 and you achieve all you set out to achieve. Happy New Year and thanks for reading! Your thoughts?
I continue to hear from students and professionals that public relations is often maligned by journalists. I would urge these media folks to look inward and re-think their often-too-public position that PR is the “dark side.” They’re biting the hand that feeds them.
In fact (and I’ve been saying this out loud for years), it’s time for journalists to step up and admit that they need PR people as much as PR people need them. They might even need us more than we need them. I’ll explain:
First of all, social media has allowed PR practitioners to become their own media. In a review of “Be the Media”, David Mathison’s cool book on modern publishing tools, Ben H. Bagdikian, author, Pulitzer-winning journalist, and dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, says, “…modern methods permit every person and organization to reach an audience that only a few years ago was reserved for the multi-billion dollar media conglomerates.” The need for traditional media and messages pitched to and written by a third party is shrinking. This has many journalists scared.
Second, journalists know but won’t say how much they rely on PR people to help them find stories, get interviews, do research, and obtain resources. And it’s just an educated guess here, but I’ve observed that easily more than half the stories in any given news publication or program are first generated through a PR person’s pitch.
And my last point: membership in PR organizations include many former reporters who have retired, sometimes involuntarily, from journalism. It’s logical for them to come over to our side to work as public relations practitioners because of their knowledge of the media and their day-to-day experience working among us.
So who’s in the power seat here? Who should be given who a little more respect? I’ll let you answer these questions. Your thoughts?
There is good news for public relations majors who graduate this month. There are jobs out there. And most projections predict continued strong growth in the PR field over the next decade. But, to use the oft-quoted “Spiderman” mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (The quote really originated from writer/philosopher Voltaire in 18th century France).
Here’s why I say this: Experts believe that journalism majors are on a different side of the job growth curve. More and more print publications have folded as content has shifted to the Internet. Because there will be a predicted decrease in investigative and beat reporters, the burden of providing news content will shift to PR practitioners who, as a matter of the profession, are happy to provide it. Those who are far wiser than I point out that fewer reporters combined with more public relations professionals means that it will increasingly fall to PR to present information in an accurate, unbiased way. This will be challenging for us, as we tend to create content using filters which show our clients in the best positive light. If we are indeed becoming more powerful, we owe it to content users to responsibly avoid “spin” and place our content using care and honesty.
It’s no suprise that students most often come into the public relations major at universities after starting off as majors in journalism and other fields of study. It’s a sign of the times. It’ll be up to the Class of 2011 and the newest PR professionals before and after them to enhance and sustain the credibility we older PR practitioners have fought for in our profession. Your thoughts?