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Joe Cohen head shot CULast week I attended the 2014 PRSA Western District Conference in San Diego! It was a great experience with many valuable learning opportunities which I will share via the HMA blog over next few weeks.

Perhaps one of my favorite sessions of the conference was Leading the Way: Fearless Future for PR by Joe Cohen, the current national chair of PRSA. I was able to ask Joe a few serious questions but I also got in a few fun questions that I think you will enjoy!

What is the biggest opportunity you see for the PR industry in the next year?  The biggest challenge?

The biggest opportunity and challenge are one and the same… our ability to evolve and adapt as the business and media environment surrounding us continues to transform.

As we well know, social media has helped to create a media landscape that is a two-way dialogue and where brands and organizations engage with their stakeholders in highly public forums.  This has in turn created enormous opportunities for the PR function, a discipline rooted in stakeholder communications. In today’s environment, PR is uniquely poised to serve as a lead strategic discipline that is, at the very least, shoulder-to-shoulder with advertising and marketing.  We used to say that PR needed to get a “seat at the table” but this is no longer good enough… it’s now about having a lead seat.

In order to seize upon this opportunity, we need to challenge ourselves as a profession and as professionals to deepen and expand our knowledge of integrated marketing, data and analytics, and content creation and digital publishing.  At PRSA we are now working hard to audit our offerings so that we can help educate and empower our members to thrive during this very exciting time for the profession.

Culture was a big part of this conference- how much emphasis does your agency place on culture? How does your agency balance culture vs client relationships? Can you give a couple of examples of how this works in your agency?

A key to success in any field is to find a company with a culture that matches your personality and your values.  I was fortunate to find this, almost 15 years ago, at MWW and I have been with the agency ever since.

MWW is highly entrepreneurial and rewards employees who work hard while, at the same time, creating a fun and engaging environment.  We often speak about fostering a “matter more” philosophy that is very employee and client-centric.  This is manifested in a number of ways including hosting Matter More University professional development classes on an ongoing basis, as well as Matter More Days (philanthropic events) throughout the year.

What is your current book recommendation?

I’m currently reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – a very enjoyable and highly readable book that covers a number of themes that are very relevant to communications professionals. PR comes up quite often in the book and Isaacson makes it a point to emphasize that some of Jobs’ success was due to his media savvy and the theater of excitement that he would create surrounding new innovations and product launches. The book also paints a candid and unflinching look at one of the most influential people of our time.  All in all, a great read.

With the movement of journalists moving into the PR agency - how do we as an industry engage them when they might not be interested (or know the benefits)?

Journalists entering public relations is nothing new but it is now happening with more frequency, given the increased need for brand-generated content, as well as the business challenges facing many traditional media outlets. As journalists enter the field, we need to educate them on the varied skill sets and competencies needed in order to be strong public relations professionals.

In the past, we used to say that in order to be a good public relations professional, you need to be a good journalist… but today you must also be a good marketer and content publisher.  For journalists entering our field this holds doubly true as they must expand their thinking to include each of these perspectives.

What is your favorite part of being the national chair?

Meeting our members.  One of the best aspects of serving as chair is that I’ve had an opportunity to travel the nation and meet so many of our volunteers, the people who are the lifeblood of our organization. I find it motivating and inspiring to see the great work that his happening every day across the organization.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a member association with more passionate or enthusiastic volunteers, and I just love this about PRSA.

What is your favorite personal social media outlet?

I’m a complete social media junkie.  While I enjoy experiencing new platforms, I tend to spend the most time on Facebook and Twitter.  I particularly enjoy Twitter…  Whether it is watching TV, concerts, breaking news events or even attending a PRSA conference, I love having the ability to take a “temperature check” on public conversation.


What are your thoughts on what Joe had to say? Do you agree?

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

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