Public Relations, Alive and Thriving

“PR pros use both traditional and social media tools in their media relations activities,” says Merton Silbar, who established Silbar PR, a media relations and communications agency, over 40 years ago ( “We’re constantly evolving to create ongoing awareness and long lasting experiences for our publics and consumers.”

Media relations is one dimension of a public relations program and other marketing communications activities. “Social media, of course, offers immediate connection with your current and potential customers.” Mert notes. “But, if you know how to reach journalists – TV, radio, print or online – traditional media can offer longer term rewards.” And, as everyone knows, social media specialists follow and pick up on traditional media.

“PR professionals can seldom, if ever, maintain a client for very long solely by using social media. Before the advent of the internet, PR successes were measured almost exclusively by media exposure generated,” Silbar notes. “Today, this cannot suffice. It must be a combination of media exposure and then maximizing that awareness via social media for a coordinated and successful PR program for your client or company.”

Here’s one of Mert’s and Silbar’s many examples.

In 1993, Jim Gibbons, a 25-year investigative reporter for ABC-TV, succumbed to leukemia. Mert suggested to its nonprofit client, the Leukemia Research Foundation, that it approach the station and suggest a fundraising event to honor Gibbons. The result: 19 years later, the “Jim Gibbons 5K Run/Walk” annually attracts almost 2,000 participants and has raised millions of dollars for leukemia research and services. This includes over 200, 30 to 60-second free TV public service messages on Chicago’s top rated news station each year in support of the fundraiser. “What began solely from a newspaper obituary and media report,” Mert explains, “today encompasses extensive social media to expand the reach for the nonprofit and the TV outlet. The memory of Jim Gibbons lives on.”

Many people prefer social media to traditional media because it’s direct and seems easier to achieve. They’re also not sure how to approach journalists with the newsworthiness that reporters and editors seek.

To reach media pros (“gatekeepers” to your publics and consumers), “you have to stay on top of the news, know each medium’s approach and audience, and tie your organization in with current events,” Mert says. Your goal is to build relationships with journalists because traditional media offers unique credibility, broad reach, status, longer term awareness and social media recognition.

As another example: When Silbar PR was informed by client Midtown Athletic Club that the father of tennis star Andre Agassi would be appearing there, the agency visualized the potential PR opportunities. “Mike Agassi had designed the most complex and sophisticated tennis ball machine of its era, built for his then 8-year-old son, Andre” Mert explains. “When he was 12 years old, Andre won his very first national tournament and gold ball at the Midtown Tennis Club,” the agency’s client. Silbar PR hosted an event and successfully pitched traditional and social media with its newsworthiness.

When you’re approaching the media – via personalized “pitch” letter or an SEO attractive news release – be ready to discuss the relevancy and timeliness of your news and why the journalist’s audience will be interested.

“Last year,” Mert says, “we suggested to client, Grand Foods of Winnetka, that they link up and celebrate locally the international news event: the Royal Wedding in England. One of Grand’s specialties is wedding cakes, so Grand created some English wedding cake look-alikes, and customers enjoyed the delicious experience and ‘Royal’ connection. We used social media, YouTube, and other traditional media to engage consumers.”  

“You have to think creatively, stay on top of the news, and use all of the available tools, traditional and social. The best PR is not here today and gone tomorrow, but still here tomorrow.”


12 Responses to “Public Relations, Alive and Thriving”

  1. Good to hear how the pros do it, Sally. Thanks.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for your feedback. And, speaking of pros…there you are!!

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  4. admin says:

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