It's not often you hear someone in media relations invoke genius mathematician Isaac Newton, especially if it has nothing to do with an apple hitting his noggin. But Steve Saleeba of the Hollywood Agency in Hingham, Massachusetts isn't your typical PR rep, which is why he was recently named a Qwoted 100 PR Superstar.
Saleeba balances well the qualitative and quantitative aspects of public relations; he can talk about key performance indicators (KPIs) and strong storytelling in the space of a single answer. Here he shares his views on the profession, including how he approaches the ultimate problem: how to synchronize with the schedules and needs of journalists.
Qwote: What do you see as the future of PR technologically, strategically, or in any category you're passionate about?
Steve Saleeba: In a society overflowing with data and obsessed with analytics, I expect KPIs around public relations to become more widely standardized and more precise in the decades to come. Data measurement has and will continue to play an important role in public relations, but I don't think it will become the be-all and end-all. A large number of external influencing factors affect the impact of public relations, making it notoriously difficult to measure. Ultimately, I suspect that strong storytelling, which has dictated culture and tradition for as long as humanity has existed, will remain at the heart of public relations.
Qwote: What do you think you do that other PRs could learn from?
Saleba: Isaac Newton wrote: “If I saw further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. I suggest PR people pay attention to history and sociology. Throughout our existence, humans have used storytelling to shape societal norms. Understanding the evolving nuances of storytelling and the elements that impact the masses is key to being effective.
Qwote: What is your toughest challenge with journalists?
Saleba: Hourly. Too often I can pitch a great story to a particular reporter, but the timing doesn't work on their side. On other occasions, I have had ongoing conversations for months with journalists, only to have my client tell me that he was not available on the day the journalist decided to do the story.
Qwote: How do you approach crossing the noise threshold to achieve effective coverage?
Saleba: There are many ways to break through the noise. Building relationships and anticipating the needs of journalists are a few of them.
Qwote: How does public relations in 2024 relate to the future of journalism?
Saleba: Competition for media attention will intensify and earned media will have increasing value. Those who can't compete on earned media have many other options: Over time, the Internet has opened up more PR options through blogs, podcasts, and of course, social media. To stay relevant, public relations must face and keep up with these evolving media trends. Some of these will require us to adjust how we tell our stories when we present them to the media. Since the Internet took off and cannibalized its revenue streams, the journalism landscape has shrunk while a significant segment has simultaneously shifted its priorities from what consumers need because it's important to what consumers want consumers because it is entertaining. The USA Today Network just announced that it is hiring a reporter to cover Taylor Swift's beat. The city where I work doesn't have a dedicated reporter. Some media outlets are experimenting with AI to replace journalists.
Qwote: What advice would you give to those looking for an effective PR person?
Saleba: Many factors come into play, but here's the ultimate test: ask them to tell your brand's story in a way that will interest a sixth grader. Their response provides insight into how they break down complexities to craft a compelling narrative that everyone can understand. The second most important factor is their understanding of the media landscape and how to use it to reach target audiences.
Qwote: What is your golden rule when it comes to public relations?
Saleba: Not all PR is good PR.
Qwote: Anything else to add?
Saleba: Do you want to succeed? Embrace the philosophy of creativity, honesty, responsiveness and reliability.
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