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One of my favorite authors of all time is Malcolm Gladwell. He has written a few books you might have heard of including Blink, The Tipping Point, Outliers and What the Dog Saw. While all of them have concepts or ideas that apply can apply to public relations, for this blog I decided to discuss Outliers.

In choosing this book it got me to thinking what exactly is an “Outlier,” what are the “10,000 hours” and how do the concepts described in the book apply to public relations.

One of my favorite parts of the book is about Bill Gates and his story- about his “incredibly lucky series of events” that enabled him to create Microsoft. From the high school he went to, to the computer club, to the opportunities to code. All of those things gave Gates the opportunity to amass his “10,000” hours. The book describes 10,000 hours as the magical number a person needs to become an “expert” at something.

In looking at public relations I began to wonder if the 10,000-hour rule applies and if it does what does that look like. It seems to me that public relations is an ever-changing field so could one ever “accumulate” 10,000 hours in “public relations?”

In looking back 20+ years ago public relations professionals used typewriters to write a news release and faxing was the main delivery route. Compare that to the world of today when social media and email are what is used. In looking at the last 20 years of change how can the “10,000” hours rule apply?

I would say yes. Working with my two bosses, Abbie Fink and Scott Hanson, who each have more than 20 years of experience in public relations, they know the field of public relations.

At HMA Public Relations, Scott has 27 years of experience and (assuming a 40 hour work week) that equates to 1404 weeks or 56,160 hours. Abbie has 26 years of experience which is 1352 weeks and 54,080 hours.  I also looked at the number of years of some very well-respected public relations professionals from around the world in the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN):


Uwe Schmidt (Germany) 24 years = 49,920 hours

Anne Buchanan (Philadelphia) 31 years = 64,480 hours

David Landis (San Francisco) 35 years = 72,800 hours

Francine Robbens (Brussels) 39 years = 81,120 hours


WOW- They all have well over the “10,000 hours” in this dynamic field that is constantly changing.

At HMA, both Scott and Abbie stay involved and current on information through multiple outlets including PRSA and PRGN. They also know that public relations is not just about sending a news release.

It is about the relationship you have with your clients and the media contacts you are sending information to. While public relations may not be typing the release up on a typewriter and faxing it over- the process is still the same.

Now I want to know, how many hours have you accumulated in your field and is 10,000 the magic number?

Rachel Brockway
Rachel Brockway
Senior Account Executive Rachel is a native Arizonian, who enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, playing tennis, reading and social media. She’s a busy mom and is passing the idea of volunteerism onto her son. Check out Rachel's Full Bio


  1. Scott Hanson says:

    Based on the numbers of some of these pros, it looks like 100,000 hours would be Cal Ripken or Lou Gehrig-like.

  2. David Landis says:

    I’m just glad that I can safely say that I’m not the oldest Outlier in this group. Thanks, Francine! Cheers, David

  3. Joy says:

    Disclaimer: I know very little about PR and am not an expert…

    I think the number of hours really fluctuates with the field. In PR, I think you’re correct: it is the relationships that keep these professionals at the top of their game. Times change and anyone involved in media has to accommodate the new media (like social media) in a way that keeps them on top. For instance, the news org that prematurely released some news (incorrect or not) today…instead of alienating everyone in trying to be “first”, a good PR person has excellent relationships with clients and others in the community that will support them. If there’s a blunder, it can be minimal with others looking out for you instead of trying to “catch you” screwing up.

    I’ve been in my line if work for well over 5 years and can’t say I’ve perfected it. Times change. On the same note, I’ve been a parent for 6 years…yet something tells me I’m STILL not sure what I’m doing.

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