The Evolution of PR: Professor Terry Hemeyer shares veteran industry insights

Terry Hemeyer has served various high-profile companies and has personally advised two U.S. presidents on communication strategies. His career has spanned the globe and led him to work in 16 different countries. Recently, Terry talked about the evolution of PR, what skills are most valuable, and how young professionals can get a seat at the table. 

  1. How has PR changed from the beginning of your career to now?

Much has changed but at the same time there is a lot that hasn’t. There are four basic pillars that still hold true that we, as PR professionals, need to answer no matter the situation. The pillars will always be identifying what we are going to say, when we say it, how it is said, and who the target audience is that receives the crafted message. What has changed is that companies need us now more than ever. As a result, our credibility and trust are improving. Work speed and digital tools have also changed. While we have always needed to be experts in digital, now we must be instant experts as more and more companies are seeking PR professionals to address communication issues, both in person and on the world-wide-web. 

  1. What does public relations mean to you?  

Public relations is successfully presenting accurate and credible information, on behalf of a client, to an audience with the goal of the audience accepting and believing it. 

  1. What are the three skills a PR professional must obtain? 

You must be analytical and able to solve problems, big or small. You must be a great communicator and writer. If you are a good writer, you can evaluate, prepare and think analytically. Lastly, you need to be worldly and well-read so that you are aware of and able to contribute to multiple sides of an issue. 

  1. How important is networking these days?  

It is critical. You constantly have to be alert and ready to interact with others no matter the time or place. The trouble that comes with networking today is that it takes many different forms. We only networked through face-to-face interactions. But now in the age of technology, we are relying more on third-party platforms through video calls or social media. We must be able to effectively communicate no matter the platform being used.

  1. As young minds are entering the industry, what’s important for them to know?  

Understanding PR foundations are only a fraction of what the job is all about. PR can be very stressful but learning how to manage the stress is key. Everything you present to a client won’t be accepted but you have to keep things moving regardless of action being taken or not. You have to be able to accept and move past failure and know that you won’t always get what you want. If you strive for success and are faced with failure, remember to never give up. You are constantly being watched for how you overcome a setback. Failure will never overtake if your determination to succeed is present. Know that PR is not a typical 9-5 job, it is a commitment, and you must be ready day or night for anything that comes your way.   

  1. How has client-agency collaboration changed? 

I would say it hasn’t changed much because it’s all about you and the client. However, each client is different, so you have to be able to read them and acclimate to multiple personalities. What also hasn’t changed is the importance of keeping in touch with clients so that you can build lasting relationships through trust and confidence.

  1. How can you have a seat at the table when you’re starting out?  

It can be a slow process to build trust and credibility when starting out. You won’t instantly get a seat at the table based on previous status or experience. It’s about what you are doing for the company, its clients and how you position yourself. Don’t be the person that sits at your desk all day, because it won’t do you any good. Instead, get out in the field and meet the whole company, your client’s team members, industry peers and people that have a direct correlation to your work. Leaders and colleagues will start coming to you and eventually add you to their immediate circle. But it’s all about getting noticed for the kind of employee you are so that they develop confidence in you and your work. 

Julia Covini