What Public Relations Has Taught Me (Over the Past 25 Years)
This blog post originally appeared (slightly differently) on The Native Society blog on July 5, 2016. In this blog, I’ve recounted best practices and learnings from our agency (Landis Communications Inc.) (LCI)’s more than 25 years in business.
How did you get into the industry?
I got into the PR industry like everyone else — I studied classical piano at Northwestern University! Seriously, after graduating with a Bachelor’s of Music in Arts Administration, I worked at the Ravinia Festival where the Chicago Symphony plays in the summertime. When Beverly Sills cancelled, I was answering the phones and I think the PR Director was impressed with my joie de vivre and enthusiasm. So, I started answering phones in the PR department and found my calling.
Any emerging industry trends?
Yes, the trend for the PR industry is integration of all emerging communications channels. Clients aren’t just interested in standalone PR services: they want — and need — services like content marketing, social media, digital strategies and more that complement traditional public relations services. Those that can master all of these skills will survive.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
The PR industry — like everyone else — needs to better embrace technology and utilize it. Technology will help our industry automate and provide greater efficiencies; but the trick will be how to still keep the hands-on personalized service that provides effective results.
Inspiration for Landis Communications Inc, and your vision for it?
My inspiration for the business was that I felt there weren’t enough PR professionals dedicated to ROI, metrics and results. More than 15 years ago, LCI pioneered our Promised Results program, which tracks our work directly to the business goals of each client. We’re all about metrics! My vision for the business is that we continue to grow and become more global. To that end, we are the San Francisco member of the Public Relations Global Network (www.prgn.com) with 50 affiliate agencies worldwide (and I had the pleasure of serving as President of PRGN as well).
What’s next for LCI in the near future?
For the near future, we have truly made our mark in the healthcare sector. We are currently representing a consortium called the Global Alzheimer’s Platform whose lofty but achievable goal is to cure Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. We have brought such celebrities as Ron Reagan, Paula Abdul, Leeza Gibbons and Linda Gray to help the effort. We are also promoting the expansion of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, which will provide expanded healthcare services to children in the Silicon Valley and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Your key initiatives for the success of LCI?
The best advice I ever get (more than 15 years ago) was to invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for our business. Currently, even though we’re not the biggest public relations/marketing agency in the San Francisco Bay Area, our search results are more often than not in the top three for the keywords “san Francisco public relations.” To market your business these days, you have to be where customers are looking for your products and services. The first place they go is Google Search. Currently 90% of our business prospects come to LCI via a Google Search. I have to thank our amazing consultants, Mannix Marketing in New York state.
Your most difficult moment at LCI? (and what did you learn?)
The most difficult time in our business was during the dotcom implosion of 2001. We were heavily invested promoting consumer technology companies and retail, both of which were hard hit by that recession. We went from being a $3.2 million business in 2000 to an $800,000 business in 2001. What I learned from that experience was to diversity our client base (which we have done) and emphasize metrics and results (which we have also done). We’re now back to being a $2 million+ business annually.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
I believe that our clients love — not just like — working with LCI for the following reasons:
a. Measurable results that help move the needle for their business
b. Creativity and Passion
c. Senior Counselors directing every account and personalized service
d. We’re great team members and we have fun
How do you motivate others?
I like using the example from dog training (I’m a big dog lover and my pups, Gaston & Alphonse, would bark in agreement with this answer). With your employees, first off — hire the best people. Then, reward the positives and forget the rest.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Especially for those younger candidates hoping for a career in public relations: make sure you learn how to write. Most people these days think an emoji or an acronym substitutes for good writing. It doesn’t. Get some experience by interning with an agency you admire, where you can learn best practices. And finally, make sure you get training in all relevant areas of the emerging communications industry: public relations, digital strategies, content marketing, digital analytics, social media, crisis communications and traditional marketing.
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Thoughts? Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
David Landis is President and CEO of San Francisco-based Landis Communications Inc. (LCI), a full service agency devoted to public relations, digital strategies, social media, content marketing and video production.