A panel of Denver public relations agency leaders spoke recently at a PRSA Colorado luncheon about the outlook for the PR business and what changes Denver PR pros can expect as we look ahead. The sage panel included Gwin Johnston from Johnston Wells, Sharon Linhart from Linhart PR, former national PRSA chair Jeff Julin from MGA, Laura Love-Aden from Ground Floor Media, Larry Holdren from Pure and Pete Webb from Webb PR. Denver PR Blog founder Jeremy Story was the moderator.

The discussion ranged from the economy to social media, and from ethics to how we can best measure the impact of what we do. Here are a few takeaways.

The economy is no doubt causing some hesitation on the part of clients and how they determine when and where to allocate their communications budget. The problem is that budget decisions are based on confidence. If we are running scared, we lay low. If we are feeling good, we plunge ahead. As PR pros, we have an important role to play in how the public and the business community feel about things. If we can help them accentuate the positive and eliminate, or at least keep the negative in perspective, we can promote a healthier economic environment. We can help people lose the blues and sing a happier tune.

We all have our own management style and leadership philosophy. But we have an obligation to create an ethical culture that is ingrained in every team member. Whether we spell out the PRSA Code of Ethics in agreements or simply provide a forum for team members to discuss how to make good ethical decisions, we need to make sure that our teams understand it, live it and breath it. We need to communicate to our clients and the public that our profession places a high priority on ethics. That is the only way to overcome the negative “spin doctor” stereotype public relations carries.

We all know that measurement and accountability are important, but there is no standard formula for measuring our results. What we do and how we measure it depends on each client’s business objectives. So we first need to understand those objectives, and be able to provide a range of counseling and services that achieves them. Our results should be based on what the client needs, not measured by a standard formula.

The main qualities agency leaders look for in a young professional are smarts, business savvy and the ability to read. If you are smart, it doesn’t matter what your degree is in. You must read at least one newspaper or news website every day. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world you can’t help your clients. And hopefully you took some business classes along the way. You have to know how to speak the language to earn a seat at the table. 

As successful as these Denver public relations leaders have been, their wisdom lies in understanding that there is a lot we still need to learn. The technologies we use are constantly changing. The boundaries between PR, marketing and advertising are blurring. How our clients engage with their target audiences is constantly shifting.

Leadership depends on our willingness to keep learning, and to encourage everyone on our team to do the same. Wisdom is the ability to learn from our experience, appreciate the present and see all the possibilities that the future offers. Hopefully, some of the wisdom we heard rubbed off, and we can carry it with us as we tackle our next challenge.    

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