When I started out in PR a few decades ago it was a very young industry and only the bigger or braver companies had PR teams or engaged agencies. Reputation and growing awareness around brands was just as important as it is today but with global communication being much slower, the whole pace of life was slower. Then, when you launched a product you held a big launch event, issued press releases and press packs with hard copies of photos and all press releases were sent via snail mail. Inevitably one of the busiest departments in the PR agency was the mailroom – now a redundant area! But in some ways it was hugely fun and challenging – you often met up with journalists to brief them, or my favourite, which was very pioneering at the time, was when we visited the magazine houses and took Covent Garden Soup cartons round each food journalist. Naturally we were very popular at lunchtime but it really encouraged sampling and we got some great press coverage. After any event you waited nervously for days, or even weeks to see what coverage came through via the media monitoring and chased the press to see if the launch was a success.
Nowadays we email, text or ring the press to contact them and sadly in consumer PR rarely get to meet the people we may depend on to publicise our clients and brands. Who would have thought back in the early days that such a thing as social media would even exist and we’d be attached to our phones trying desperately to influence consumers with the latest food product, drink or gadget.
In many ways doing PR now is easier with so many tools to hand but equally it is more complicated and varied. Most notably the pace at how brands rise or fall is has changed. But at the very heart of it communication is still the same – we still strive to tell a story about a company, a brand, an idea or a product. And of course storytelling goes back not decades but centuries so perhaps PR is rather an old industry.