By now you’ve read (and probably loved) “Celebrating 10 years of RH Strategic: The RHise of a PR Firm,” which is Part I of a two-part blog series about the firm’s creation and evolution. We’re excited to share Part II, once again featuring John Raffetto and David Herman as they discuss how PR and the media landscape has evolved since RH Strategic’s inception a decade ago.
The below interview has been edited for content and length. Listen to the full interview below:
How has the media landscape evolved since you founded RH Strategic?
John Raffetto: I think one of the common misperceptions is that over the last 10 years, we’ve had a shrinkage in the news business. Really, what’s happened is there’s been a transformation; 10 years ago, newspaper was king and now it’s not. People look at that and say, “The news business is dying!” Well, that’s not true at all; in fact, I consume more news today than I ever did before, because I’m consuming it from lots of different sources.
I’m really excited about the changes that are coming. I think about things like hyper-local news; we used to have a lot of hyper-local news – now we don’t. In my community, there’s a big debate going on about where to place a homeless shelter. That debate’s taking place on Nextdoor. Now, I look at Nextdoor and think, “Wow, this is a news platform; it’s a crowdsourced news platform. I would not have known about this issue if it hadn’t been for Nextdoor.” That’s really interesting. Those are the kinds of things that we’re thinking about as we head into the next 10 years.
How have expectations for PR changed?
David Herman: There’s some interesting things that have happened and I think it’s why we’ve been successful as a firm. We’ve been a little bit ahead in terms of the PR industry’s demand for results. Over the last 10 years, PR has been more akin to media relations than broad public relations. There’s been a big focus on the quantifying of results and the demonstration of results for money, which is interesting.
When John and I started working together in the dot-com days, you’d sit around the table and do some big-think strategy sessions. You really wouldn’t have to work for a whole lot of specific results. There’s been a massive transformation away from that; we’ve moved to looking for the specific media results, trying to demonstrate success and taking over share of voice in key platforms.
JR: We live in a time now where the President can tweet directly to 40 million followers. That’s fascinating to me. I’m also fascinated by the change that we’ve had from professionally-trained journalists deciding what goes on the front page above the fold to developers at Google trying to tell you what the top stories of the day are using algorithms. They blur the lines between what’s news and what’s opinion, because they’re not trained in journalism. What does that mean for the future of PR?
We also are consuming a lot of content today that is paid. Again, it’s not flowing through the traditional channels of journalism. Does that mean that it’s not good content? No, it’s great content. In fact, I think PR has a lot to contribute to that kind of content development. There’s some massive changes that are under way that makes our business radically different than what it was 10 years ago.
DH: When you think about it, 10 years ago all the big newspapers just sort of carpet bombed out news to people who were just trying to consume it all. Maybe they’d go through and find the style section if they wanted to read that, or the metro section if that’s what they were interested in. Now they’re able to go online and go directly to the sources they want.
It’s interesting because what we could talk about now is targeting information directly to the consumer, as opposed to trying to guess where they are, or trying to just get some massive story in a large paper that, frankly, may be substantially less effective than having something much more targeted.
As these changes continue, what sets RH apart?
JR: We get excited about all these changes that are happening in the world, and the changes we’re talking about in the context of PR and news. We’re living in an era of extreme innovation; that is really exciting for us.
We’ve always been tech-oriented. For us, we see the potential for those innovations to improve our quality of life across the board. We look for projects, clients and campaigns where we can be a part of that and help these people who are innovating. We want to help those people bring their ideas forward, so they can go out and change the world for the better. When we go and talk to clients that are doing that, that’s when we get excited to help them bring a voice to their company.
DH: We go into these meetings with people who are really excited about the products that they have and it’s infectious. It’s fantastic to be in those meetings and to talk about how to make the market see and realize what they’re doing, and how revolutionary it is. Every single day we’re changing an aspect of our society; it’s a lot of fun to be part of that.
To be able to really help clients realize success by having the market recognize what they’re doing is a huge core of who we are as a firm. It’s why we have technology as part of nearly everything that we do. It’s the thing that keeps us excited.
Want to get in on the celebration? Tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHTurns10.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.