From the President’s Desk: Reflections on the past 20 years

Robert Simpson

Robert Simpson

President & CEO

For the last 20 years, Robert has specialized in strategic communication and public relations, focusing his passion for storytelling to help organizations achieve greater impact. As PR Associates’ leader, Robert plays a role in collaborating with clients and our teams to develop strategies and create experiences that deepen audience engagement.

Two decades, 240 months, 7,306 days, 823 projects, 261 clients, four corporate rebrands and in a blink of an eye twenty years have passed at PR Associates.

It seems just like yesterday when we let out a collective cheer when we saw our first client’s story on the front page of the Globe and Mail’s Business section.

In 2000, when we started PR Associates most of us were journalists and had three skills, writing, telling stories and drinking beer. We still did things the old way.

Google was less than a year-old, Amazon was not yet profitable and Facebook was not even an idea, but the foundation of the digital transformation was developing and we were bracing for change.

We knew that the Internet and social media would change everything. Traditional media practitioners like journalists and media owners, the masters of the universe, would no longer shape the agenda world over.  Social media and mobile devices were empowering the individual with an unprecedented capacity for influence and public relations was no longer a one-way-conversation, rather conversations driven with a human voice, without authority or control, interconnecting person to person globally.

Not only did social networks change the way we engaged with the world around us, but they also forced us to start integrating marketing services and capture budget beyond the traditional media relations silos. From the 24/7 news cycle to the massive increase of unreliable news sources, our clients were forced to become much more mindful of their brand and public persona and we could no longer just about media relations; we needed to develop content, have creative directors, create ads and offer services far beyond what we’d ever done before.

While journalists and publication continue to be an important source of earned media, the massive growth of influencer marketing and thought leadership has changed how we as PR professionals distribute content.

Today, real time marketing is becoming a big part of public relations. We need to have a deep understanding digital media and marketing and our work is no longer about worrying about journalistic deadlines, but its about taking into account blogs and influencer content that have big reach.

Now, an essential part of our business is knowing the platforms key audiences interact on, the topics they are interested in and the current social trends people are participating in. Not only are we changing the way we communicate and share information, we use social media to listen, interact and connect.

While much has changed over the past twenty years at PR Associates it’s clear to me that maintaining a positive public image is still a top priority for our clients, and our bright, social media, digital marketing and graphics experts offer communication opportunities that two decades ago would not have been possible.

And just for the record, after 20 years we still collectively cheer when our clients are on the front page of the Globe and Mail business section and drinking beer remains an essential skill.

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