By Maury Tobin
A client I work with on transportation funding and policy issues recently was on The Howard Stern Show. The show aired part of a syndicated radio interview in which my client addressed the exigent need for increased infrastructure investment in America.
After airing the segment, which was part of an ongoing Tobin Communications Radio Media Tour (RMT), Stern and his news wing-woman Robin Quivers discussed that improving the nation’s infrastructure should be a must and an issue around which people and policymakers rally.
It was a good day as the potential audience zoomed into the millions. These mainstream media gatekeepers “got” why a new transportation funding bill is essential. My firm was able to see that certain messages and strategies are helping build an identity and voice for the coalition my client helps oversee.
From Several to Many PR Opportunities
When Tobin Communications began working intensively with this client, the coalition was not in the middle of any PR campaign or time-sensitive lobbying initiative. However, we determined that its communication needs to be fluid and ongoing, as well as showcase the coalition and its members through original and fresh content.
We knew that infrastructure was one of the issues on which President Trump campaigned. We knew members of Congress promised action on this front. We determined that an updated and overhauled website, unique content that could be produced for various digital platforms, and increased member involvement could help us enhance the coalition’s reputation and reach and, more importantly, also keep the groups in the coalition vested and mobilized.
Because we want Congress to do the right thing and invest more in the nation’s airports, deteriorating roads and bridges, public transit, ports, and interdependent connectors, our goal is to extend America’s transportation story. But to do so, we need to make the coalition’s PR more than occasional blips.
The Stern show mentioning our spokesperson and the coalition by name was a media coup for a group of transportation heavy-hitters who beat the pavement in the insular advocacy world of Washington, D.C., but whose sphere of influence increasingly must include the businesses and many diverse towns and cities that rely on the nation’s transportation system.
PR is Not All Glitz and Glamour
Through the years, Tobin Communications has broadened its client services to stay relevant as smart phones, digital technology and viral communications became mammoth factors. Daily we see that PR sits at the confluence of being an art and a skill.
Some of what PR practitioners do has an immediate impact and is measurable. But other elements — such as building credibility and a presence — are not fixed variables. They are animals that have to be fed and nurtured. This is what makes clients happy, but also our work challenging.
One of the things I’ve noticed in the PR industry that’s troubling are the firms that put a higher premium on spotlighting themselves rather than helping their clients succeed. It makes no difference to me if I am the principal of a PR firm in a tony location downtown, in a hip room that evokes a resurrected Mad-Men era, if my client doesn’t shine.
What we know about this era of communications is that what we saw years ago as new media (that now is becoming older media) or what will emerge next as some prophesized panacea can’t replace what PR clients need the most: hard work and understanding and employing a range of communication strategies.
In closing, I would like to caution those who say radio is in its fading years. People being able to access current news and information with them almost anywhere they go changed that dynamic years ago. Radio pros, whether celebrities like Howard Stern and Robin Quivers or newspeople at a small operation in Idaho, speak to the heart of America every day and share information about people, places and things that can shape perspectives and change our country for the better.
Maury Tobin is the president of Tobin Communications, Inc., a firm he founded in 1996 that provides integrated campaign and digital services. Tobin earned both a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master’s Degree in Public Communication at American University.