I received a cyber flash-from-the-past a few months back via a former colleague who posted a photo on Facebook from one of my earliest jobs in public relations. There was a fresh-faced me among my PR Associates co-workers atop downtown Detroit’s Penobscot Building in a promotional image that would accompany an article touting our firm’s strengths to the business community.
A lot of memories flooded back with that mid-‘80s photo. The friendships I still cherish with a few in the group and the loss I still feel from the passing of others. I thought of the projects that allowed me to apply my newly acquired PR skills and the seasoned practitioners in that shot who kindly nurtured my professional growth.
Much has changed since then. PR Associates blended into Franco’s DNA in 2002 when Franco acquired the agency to proudly roll on as Michigan’s oldest independent PR firm. In fact, we’ll be celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2014!
The profession and we as practitioners have also changed dramatically. I took a lot of good natured ribbing in sharing that photo with my young Franco colleagues. We laughed at the fact that they weren’t even a glimmer in their father’s eye when I stood on top of that building. (Well, it was mostly them laughing.) We also laughed at my conservative skirt suit and pearls – must haves for any budding professional in those days.
There’s a casualness in today’s workplace, most notably reflected in the informal wardrobe choices of the youngest professionals. Buttoned up business attire is now donned only for the most important of meetings and events. And those of us who once dressed to impress everyday have happily embraced this more comfortable dressed down fashion trend.
But this casualness does not reflect a lesser commitment or competency among today’s employees compared to those of us with roots in a more “formal” era.
Like all professions, the Internet boom and the ever- increasing reliance on communication via social media has transformed the practice of public relations. The proliferation of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and dozens of other social media outlets, combined with 24/7 network and cable news, means the response to events large or small the world over can be immediate and relentless.
For those of us in PR, the more controlled, two-way communication between a company and its various publics has long been replaced with commentary occurring in all directions at warped speed. It’s a phenomenon that would overwhelm yesteryear’s more formal approach to public relations. But the younger practitioners entering the field have transformed the profession.
Their flexibility and spontaneity have infiltrated our work . . . all for the better. Their familiarity and fearless use of all the electronic gadgets that are the new tools of our trade challenge those of us who’ve been at PR for a while to up our game.
And that’s a good thing, if YKWIM.