An Unexpected Journey Into PR History

This book review is more than a decade too late. Published in 2002, Leonard Mogel’s Making It In Public Relations: An Insider’s Guide to Career Opportunities seemed to scream outdated, already overdue as I pulled it off the library shelf in 2017. Looking at the cover didn’t help its case, either. It has that classic 2000s look of modern, cutting edge word processor graphic feel with a teal cover with a fade in brown banner across the bottom of the cover. The summary on the back cover detail the highlights of the textbook: “Profiles of the ten largest public relations firms, An insider’s look at a small PR firm, A study of corporate communications at the Bank of America, Discussion of public relations for diverse organizations.”

Interestingly, the back cover wasn’t exactly wrong,

even to an audience from the future.

I have to be honest with you all: My gut was wrong when I took the book off the library shelf. I was wrong when I thought this book would be a waste of time. I have to give past me some credit, though. Think back to 2002, if you can  (I’m painfully aware that there is a chance that someone could be reading this article without having the likelihood of even remembering 2002) or are willing to (I’m pretty sure the early 2000’s are is a collection of cringe-worthy decisions for most participants in American Culture). I think we can agree that it was a very different cultural time from what we experience today. Fast-culture was the staple of the early 2000’s with a penchant for trends, yet those trends didn’t have the fast-track options of today. The hashtag was still a pound button in 2002, and was practically irrelevant. Liking something wasn’t a declaration, though be sure that we knew what things were So Hot. Social media was years away from being anything akin to today’s efficient machine. The internet was still restricted to flash and java levels of development, and the closest thing we had to social media was anonymous chat-rooms with the constant demands of ASL?

Anyone else remember the Palm Pilot boom? Key early 2000’s technology:isolated in purpose and device,increasing the difficulty of literally keeping it all together.

The early 2000s is a big deal to reading this book today. In reflection, this is the era of technological limbo. As American Culture had growing pains and changes, the technological industry had to fine tune its vision and purpose. The population was divided between the need for faster, more efficient communication literacies (think texting, emailing, and IMing) and classical modes of communication (phone calls, mailing–including the fax). Text Talk was considered a fad, but what if it was the beginning of what we know in modern communication today– emojis, hashtags, social media campaigns. At some point, our culture committed to the technological realm of community. The Early 2000’s are an era of Technological Limbo, and how we defined communication in that time shapes the ways we use the internet today as business entities and consumers.

 

As I wrap up my flashback, I want to make it clear

that this book does not have the original intent

of addressing Early 2000’s American Culture.

This lens is merely a mode in which I found the book a helpful guide into today’s Public Relations market and practices (I also had immense pleasure in the compare and contrast reading experience it lends).

This book was clearly intended to be able to stand on its own as a resource textbook, with the option of supplementary material for a deeper understanding of the book’s references to top companies and anecdotes. However, by now, this book has transformed into a supplementary text. The “Top Agencies” list is sorely outdated with it’s cataloged numbers and what companies are considered heavy hitter clients (AOL, anyone?), but the conclusions of this section are what matters when reading the text. It still holds true that Ad Agencies and Public Relations Agencies compete for the same type of employees, and that Public Relations Agencies are still making a lot of attractive offers to pull top candidates with broad skill sets into the field. The section on small firms fits the theme–it’s small. The chapter does well to make it clear that small businesses have a hard time making their stake competitive. This clear preference of large,sprawling corporate businesses is, I believe, indicative of the time. In today’s market, small businesses have an allure of exclusivity and contributing to the local economy. In fact, companies like Google, MailChimp, and Costco aim to have the environment (and therefore some identity) of a small business. Businesses don’t necessarily depend on their accounts and capital gain to prove themselves in today’s market. Now that international communications are eased and the movement for better community and business relations are considered, businesses are defining themselves in more interesting ways.

Overall, this book is an informative and interesting read if you already have established knowledge on the topic and time period (otherwise you’ll miss the chance to chuckle to yourself as the book marks its age with quips like “Coffee is hotter than ever”). This is an informative read because the main morals of the book are still valuable. There is still a need in the PR market for creative, collaborative, and network-savvy employees. Public Relations also holds a lot of the same potential job requirements the book lists, albeit with some technological upgrades:

Media Relations

Employee Communication/Relations

Speechwriting

Lobbying

Issue Management

Reputation/Representation Management

Strategic Corporate PR and Integrated Communications

Financial PR

Entertainment/Personal PR

Crisis Management

Healthcare Marketing/ Communication

This list is comprised from the book, and you can imagine how the internet and fast media culture has complicated these responsibilities. With the average consumer entertaining modern research practices (with a tool they keep in their pockets, no less), client and product representation is incredibly important to maintain. Many PR professionals dedicate much of their time considering web presence and representation within their solutions for their clients. In today’s world, there’s a higher chance of communicating with a bigger audience via the internet. There’s a considerable movement to “cut the cord” with cable, which drastically reduces the impact of television ads, while there is a technological siren song pulling readers away from traditional print media, too. The traditional Ad spaces are becoming ineffective, and the opportunities to express yourself cheaply on the internet are growing.

The world is different today, and so is this book. We don’t idolize banks and their revenue, anymore (maybe, in part, to the bail-out frenzy and recession).Similarly, we don’t value companies the same way socially. The decision to work for a company is not only weighed by the company’s importance and net worth. Instead, we go the web and see what the employees are saying. The company is the product we are wanting to buy into and work for, and as such we research the work environment, benefits, and what the company does with the community. Maybe this is spurred on by the availability of information, or maybe this prioritization of employee review is brought on because the recent professionals and graduates witnessed the culture of lay-offs as they were growing up. Regardless, we have changed and the book has not (understandably), but this holds a historical review of the field and still packs a morally meaningful punch.

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