Up close and personal with Julia Hood of PR Week

I had the unique opportunity yesterday to turn the tables on PR Week Editor Julia Hood and interview her. The occasion was the PRSA Counselors Academy annual Spring Conference in Savannah.

Julia was gracious enough to agree to sit alongside me and share her views in a "Town Hall" format with 185 top agency leaders from all parts of the world. We touched on everything from Doug Dowie and digital technologies to the role of PR and its rising importance within the marketing mix.

The session’s only real contentious moment came when Rick French, who runs a very successful North Carolina firm, challenged Julia on her publication’s coverage of the Dowie trial, saying she’d been too easy on the management of Fleishman-Hillard, Dowie’s firm. Julia disagreed, saying she thought PR Week’s coverage had been very balanced throughout the trial. We also talked about why advertising still receives mainstream business press coverage (I.e. Crispin Porter’s Businessweek cover story) while we, in PR, don’t.

She sees the latter scenario starting to change and cited Edelman’s recent coverage in the Journal as an example.

As is my wont, I took the opportunity yesterday to again bring up my perception that PR Week affords more coverage to the larger PR firms. While Julia didn’t disagree, she did suggest that small and midsized firms need to do a better job of understanding who writes what at PR Week and come to her and her team with advice and insight on potential story topics rather than new business or personnel announcements.

Last, but not least, I asked Julia if she were just starting her own PR firm (I called it Hood & Hood and based it in her home town of Bethel, CT for argument’s sake), how she would go about "getting on PR Week’s radar screen." She said she’d make it her business to scan the editorial calendars, line up one or two clients who would speak on her behalf and, as she stated earlier, become a source of tips and trends to one or more reporters. She said that, as we do at Peppercom, she’d treat Hood & Hood as one of her most important clients, and devote time and energy to branding her firm.

Julia plans to podcast our entire 40-minute discussion on the PR Week website shortly (we’ll link to it when it becomes available). Oh, and by the way, in addition to being a great editor and interview subject, Julia also happens to share my passion for the Mets. We had a great time watching the Metropolitans knock off the hated Bronx Bombers on Sunday night.

28 thoughts on “Up close and personal with Julia Hood of PR Week

  1. Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins
    to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m
    not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share.
    Thank you!

  2. briza- first i am not posting as others like you say. raindog just piped up and besides, anyone can see if the same poster uses different names..they are called IP addresses..i actually thought u were raindog..
    andrew’s post only talked about one point, and interestingly enough, repman once again avoids my points and sends andrew in to do the dirty work.

  3. I don’t believe I’ve been critical of your posts in the past. Examples?

  4. Read Andrew’s post. He clearly stated why…
    You posing as Another Rep, Raindog, etc. is not funny. I don’t think anyone cares about your little games.
    You have some insightful posts. I think people for the most part enjoy your commentary. Why can’t you leave it at that?

  5. sorry raindog. do you have any comments on my posts today?

  6. briza, or shall i call you raindog? what point am i missing exactly? read my posts and tell me what point i am wrong on. just saying that someone missed the point without showing how or why is a bunch of crock…

  7. Ted- fabulous idea and well written. You hit the nail on the head with your solution-but I would add one thing. Why wouldn’t PR week (hard copy) devote a column each column to the Small-Midsize market. If you subscribe to the theory that they “owe” space to the big guys, then devote a small % to the small guys as they at least deserve space when news warrants it.

  8. Here’s my take on the situation. PR Week is in an impossible situation. Overall, they do a nice job covering the industry but they are beholden to the companies that spend a lot of money with them.
    One thing they might want to consider is to dedicate a section of their Web site to covering the SME market. It could highlight small to mid-size firms that are innovating and doing things that no one else in the industry is accomplishing.
    Ideally, I’d like to see them do this in the hard copy of the pub but space is too precious.

  9. I-man you’re way off-base on this one. read both of repman’s posts on this topic more closely. YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT!
    Go back re-read the posts and apologize to the Repman.

  10. There you go again, rep- not having anything to respond, so you resort to old tactics. You addressed about 1/10 of 1% of 1 of my points. Weren’t you the one who e-mailed me asking me to respond with commentary? And now, I am not being “negative” or launching “personal attacks,” but I am discussing your blogs. But instead of you responding with real information, you go back to old ways.
    I find it amazing that a communications pro as yourself has so much trouble debating the points I made above (which by the way are direct quotes from your blogs) and instead resorts to posting garbage without addressing any of the points made. But yet, this erstwhile communications failure can post logical, thought provoking comments which others apparently agree with. Kinda makes you wonder…

  11. I-man: sometimes I think you post just for the sake of posting. It must get very lonely in the medical supplies field. On this issue, you’re just beating a dead horse (or syringe as the case may be). There are many, many large firms out there. I’d consider any over $15 million in annual revenue to be large. I’m not going to name names but there are lots of big firms that lack innovation of any kind. I have a suggestion, though: why not bottle all this angst and use it on your own, soon-to-be-launched blog? I think everyone will be better off……

  12. yes, he noted there are several exceptions, but he says for the most part there was a lack of innovation. but now he lists 3 and says a few others we well. that brings the total to 5 or 6, and i dont know how many “large agencies” there are, but by saying 5 or 6 do innovate and obviously there are more, then it contradicts his other statement of “As a result, we’re seeing very little innovation from large agencies.” You can’t have it both ways…that is all I am saying. i think all too often, the repman takes something and generalizes everything else around it. for examples, look no further than this topic, the 30 second commercial, advertising in general, etc. to make comments like “super bowl advertising is a waste,” or “30 second spots are history” is to make a generalization that is wrong.

  13. Isaac,
    I think Steve addressed this in a post last month (in response to Julia Hood’s editorial), where he notes that there are several large agencies like Ketchum and Edelman that are exceptions.

  14. Amazing how the double talk continues. Last month you wrote the following:
    “As a result, we’re seeing very little innovation from large agencies.”
    You just wrote:
    “Edelman, Ketchum, Weber and a few other large firms are actual visionaries and are contributing to our industry’s innovation.”
    Rep- which is it??? Now, to cover yourself, I’m sure you are going to say something like “Some are good, but most aren’t..” but that is a CYA answer. Sure, you can say that Edelman, Kethcum & weber and those “few others” are only some of the big guys, but how many “big guys” are there?
    Come on Rep, some consistancy please….

  15. Actually no, I don’t get it. If you were speaking on behalf of the small agencies (like you say you were) then how could you go “on record” and essentially criticize PR Week for not covering the small guys, when in fact, based on everything I am reading now, the small guys aren’t doing what it takes to get the coverage. You called out PR Week, when instead, you should have taken the famous Cody line of “if you were my client” and offered them advice on PCOM’s best practices.
    Here you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. First you say small firms aren’t getting the coverage, then you say Peppercom is doing what she says and getting the coverage. So that proves that if you are doing the right things and have news, you will get coverage. This fundamental equation tells us the reverse is true as well- that if you don’t have the news, or aren’t doing the right things, then you won’t get the coverage.
    That said, maybe you should revisit your post and rather than criticize Julia and PR Week, maybe its the small firms that need the advice, not PR Week.

  16. Actually, it’s Richard Edelman who is leading the charge at his firm. To his credit, Richard is helping to reinvent the traditional definition and parameters of public relations. Edelman, Ketchum, Weber and a few other large firms are actual visionaries and are contributing to our industry’s innovation. The vast majority, though, are recycling the same old, same old.

  17. Thanks James, its coming all well. I will not post a link here when it launches out of respect to Mr. Cody, but I will send you a link offline.

  18. PR Week has been very generous in its coverage of Peppercom over the years. I was speaking on behalf of the Counselors Academy and the various small and midsized firms it represents when I said that PR Week’s agency rankings issue skewed very heavily towards large agency coverage. We are practicing smart, strategic agency publicity on behalf of Peppercom. So are some other firms our size. I’d like to help educate the smaller ones who aren’t doing so so that they, too, can share the spotlight in PR Week. Get it?

  19. I-man,
    Isn’t your blog launching this week? How far have you and Rep II come along in the process?
    Anyway, I can’t wait to read it!

  20. Steve-
    Which of my comments were negative??? What amazes ME is that you seem to never address MY comments and instead try to knock me in some fashion. But before I respond, I will address one of your comments:
    “If you were the savvy erstwhile publicist you pretend to be, I-man”
    That comment is EXACTLY the type of resposne you use when you have nothing more intelligent to respond with. The FACT is that during my 4-years at PCOM, I, as well as Jimmy and Dave, were the 3 people the agency turned to when big media hits were needed-across almost ALL agency accounts.I was very well respected by my peers, management and the media for that and have the results to prove it, so your comments are just baseless. Plain and simple.
    Now that the record is clear, getting back to this post, YOU have openly criticized Julia and PR week based on your perception that they afford the big firms more coverage than firms like yours. Your “theory” was that smaller firms have greater innovation coming from them, but the big guys dominate the coverage. My response then was that maybe the small guys aren’t doing the right things to get noticed by PR Week and your most recent blog validated what I said. It’s not that you and others don’t have great ideas or big news, it’s that you simply aren’t practicing PR 101 for yourselves and getting the know the reporters, what they write, when they are writing it, etc.
    Now, I know that you are going to respond that your current PR team is great, and of course they do that. So that begs the obvious question- If you have great innovation (which I know you do) and great news, and the PR team is doing exactly what Julia said, then why is the coverage not there? Either:
    1- Julia just threw some PR 101 practices at you and the group and blew off the question
    2- PR firms like yours who want more respect and coverage from trade rags are suffering from the shoemaker’s kid syndrome, and they really aren’t working hard enough on agency PR
    3- You are doing these things, and PR Week simply doesn’t care as the big guy’s are still the ones ultimately paying Julia’s salary.
    Would love to hear your response and for you to actually address the comments I made..

  21. I would assume Dan Edelman contributes a lot of money to PR Week. Do you think that has anything to do with the treatment he gets? I would say so… Money talks especially with trade rags PR Week included.

  22. While I found this post interesting, I simply cant avoid the opportunity to knock PR Week – Not only are they not representative of the PR industry, they only serve the 5 largest agencies.
    As one of the few in the industry who receives mainstream business press coverage (cover story in NY Times last year, major piece running in Business Week this coming Monday), and am not shy in the industry about our success, PR Week takes every chance they can to blast us, WITHOUT RHYME OR REASON. We have built what in 2006 will be a $9 Million agency and the fastest growing firm in the US 3 years in a row, but Hood and her staff are self appointed PR “success” barometers and I for one very much resent it.
    Kudos to Peppercom for challenging Julia on her coverage issues. (and Julia, those comments about treating your firm as 1 of your “most important” clients – When I do that with 5W, isnt that what you criticize every chance you can ? Its Ok when Dan Edelman does it, but not me ?
    Come on…
    Ronn Torossian, President, 5W Public Relations

  23. If you were the savvy erstwhile publicist you pretend to be, I-man, you’d know that Editor Hood’s first name is “Julia,” not “Julie.” Second, her remarks were aimed at members of the Counselors Academy who, for the most part, have smallish-sized firms. Because they are wearing multiple hats, they don’t have the time or wherewithal to focus on a strategic PR program for their agency. As a result, they’ll often delegate any such work to an intern or junior person who doesn’t know what Jimmy the Moock knows. Julia’s comments were intended to alert small agency owners to these understandable mistakes and help them increase their visibility. Sometimes, the negativity of your comments amazes me. Why would a discussion about the best ways to generate publicity incite you? Oh, and BTW, our current agency publicity team is the best we’ve ever had.

  24. I very much agree with media king Moock’s comment. Having been a media person myself, I know firsthand that reporters simply hate getting pitches when the flack has no clue what the reporter covers. However, targeted pitches and real understanding of the reporter greatly increase the chance of not only a hit, but a long-term relationship.
    That said, I was a bit puzzled when reading rep’s post about the advice that Julie gave, as it seemed like basic pr 101. The line about understanding a reporter is as basic as running out every ground ball. I am guessing that it came across wrong, b/c I would be shocked if that was news to repman or any pr person for that matter. Back in the original post when rep called out PR week and Julie, I made a point that small agencies have to do more than tell publications that Jon Doe blew his nose last week, but that was dismissed without much regard.
    Rep, are you telling us that the pr team at pcom hasn’t done the things that Julie suggested? If they haven’t, maybe Mr. Moock can bring his flip-flops back to 470 and give his inspiring media pitching class. And if they have, maybe Julie should have been made aware of the fact. Either way, this post left me puzzled…

  25. Rep,
    Always interesting when we can put the “other side” in our shoes. I took particular interest in the “understanding who writes what” line.
    It seems that time and time again, agencies allow junior folks to pitch stories to reporters/pubs that they haven’t even read. Until that problem is solved (if it can be), you’ll continue to hear that most communicators are sloppy.
    I think the industry has become too lazy. Far too often pitches, releases, and such are blasted out to everyone and their mother. I’m of the firm belief that reporters and publications should be researched and studied. After, try forming a relationship verses a quick hit. Clients come and go, but reporters usually stay put or end up at another publication.
    PS – I took a while to post because of the beating your Mets put on my Phils. Still a race though…