Paid, Earned and Owned Media Converging in PR

Prosek Managing partner Jennifer Prosek offers glimpse into evolving industry in Connecticut Post Q&A.

Connecticut Post Staff Reports

Q: How did you get your start in public relations?

A: I was an English major in college and knew that I needed to get some work experience on my resume, so I sought out internships. I was lucky a family friend ran a very small PR firm in New Canaan and needed some help. The profession "had me at hello." Thanks to that first internship, I knew PR was my calling.

Q: How did your business evolve? How did you expand into financial communications?

A: When we started the business, as most do, we took what we could get. Our clients included local law firms, real estate brokers, even the local ambulance company. As we struggled to build the business in Connecticut, we noticed that financial institutions were moving out to Stamford, Greenwich and southern Connecticut. We decided to focus on an industry that seemed to be building up in our backyard. We also surmised that the best firms were focused on "sexier" clients (consumer companies, etc.) and we decided we would be better off bringing sexy to more staid industries that happened to be based in Connecticut. So we focused on Stamford/Greenwich and Hartford, which was the epicenter of the insurance industry. Our insight certainly paid off and many of these Connecticut-based institutions are clients today (including Travelers Insurance, HSB and GE Capital).

Q: Who are your role models?

A: My grandmother, whom I never knew, moved to this country by herself with two little girls and set up a string of successful businesses in New York City. She rode a motorcycle. She had a degree in engineering. I never knew her, as she died of cancer well before I was born. But the idea of her is very powerful to me and her picture sits on my desk at work. She's my role model.

Q: How do you decide to hire?

A: I decide to hire people when I can tangibly feel the energy, talent, skills and work ethic coming through strongly in the first meeting. And I would say their hunger, interest, ambition and willingness to achieve impresses me more than academic credentials. They need to be a culture fit. I decide to hire when my team and I are excited by the prospect of working with someone, versus when we have a position open.

Q: What has been your favorite project to date and why?

A: My favorite project remains the public relations work I did for my brother, James, early on in my career. He was a freshman at college and had rung me with the news that his first book was to be published. Before the ink was dry, I was on the phone to the New York Times pitching his story. I told them that there was a kid who was like the John James Audubon of the Fishing World. They published a full-page feature story about my brother, which created an avalanche of other press, including NBC Nightly News and CBS Sunday Morning. My brother became an overnight phenomenon and his first book sold over 100,000 copies. Thanks in part to that early success, James has gone on to have a successful career as an artist and an author and has never technically been on anyone's payroll but his own. He's my favorite project to date.

Q: What direction do you see the PR industry taking?

A: There is a major convergence in the world of paid, earned and owned media. PR firms must evolve to become more marketing-oriented and offer new solutions to their clients in order to continue to be relevant. Understanding digital and SEO, social media, paid advertising and content creation are all critical. We must also evolve alongside the publications and media outlets that are evolving. Brand journalism is here and we must understand its implications for public relations. So, in effect, the good news is the opportunities are strengthening and widening. PR should have a great run in the next decade. But the industry must evolve to understand and lead not just "media relations" but across the marketing mix.