For our Week Without the Web, my Public Relations Campaigns classes will look at the work they’ve done and plan to do for their PR clients, and ponder how they might have done the same job three decades ago.
When I began my PR career 28 years ago this month, I didn’t have a computer on my desk. Using a pencil, I hand-wrote press releases and letters on a pad and handed them to a secretary to be typed. The secretaries in the office had the latest equipment: a Lanier word processor with a green screen and a sprocket printer. I had a Rolodex for keeping my address book and a pocket calendar for planning my appointments. When I needed to create a media contact list, I did research in a nearby library and called every media outlet I wanted to reach…or I could buy the costly Bacon’s Media Directory and get a dictionary-sized resource guide that was out-of-date the minute it was printed. If I wanted to make direct contact with reporters, I’d take a trip to the local press rooms and try to catch them for a minute if they were there and not too busy to chat. I wrote lots of letters and would get responses days later. I used a phone constantly; although I could leave a message on an answering machine, telephone tag was common and often went on for days.
Yes, the World Wide Web has changed PR–and the planet–a lot since I left college. So imagine yourself as Marty McFly in Doc Brown’s DeLoreon and prepare to go back to the past by 30 years. You’ll find the world of the public relations practitioner a strange and less immediate place; not better, and certainly different. Your thoughts?