By Michelle Hokr 

This month marks my 20th anniversary with Kevin/Ross Public Relations. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that must be true because I have had a lot of fun working here, and the past two decades have passed by in a blink. Work being work, it isn’t always fun, but it is always interesting, challenging, and professionally satisfying – and I will be forever grateful that KRPR President Ross Goldberg asked me to join his team. Plus, I have learned so many things–about PR and life–along the way.

Some of my accrued knowledge comes from experience, but a lot of what I now know was imparted to me by Ross; he is always full of wisdom!

There is a scene in the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” when Marie (Carrie Fisher) repeats something she read in a magazine article, and Jess (Bruno Kirby) is shocked because he is the author of that piece. “Nobody has ever quoted me back to me!” he proclaims.

Ross cannot say the same, because I have a habit of quoting him on a fairly regular basis. I will pass some of that knowledge on to you now, along with my own insights and observations.

Here are 20 tidbits of PR wisdom, one for each year I have had the privilege of serving this award-winning PR agency:

  1. PR is subjective.There is rarely one right way in a creative field, but some ideas are better than others and usually, despite two good ideas on the table, only one is going to win.
  2. Writing is everything. It may seem obvious, but the ability to craft clear, concise communication is a critical component of any successful public relations program. (Also, alliteration is fun.)
  3. Perception matters. When it comes to reputation and public perception, it’s not enough to be right. You also have to appear to be right.
  4. Never lie. There are times when you can’t tell a whole story, but never tell a false one. Rebuilding lost trust can be an unscalable mountain.
  5. Holding back is stealing. PR is one of those fields where you get paid for thinking. If you aren’t sharing your thoughts about a project or situation – and passionately making the case for what you believe — then you are stealing from the company that pays you.
  6. Working from home isn’t for everyone. I have been working from a home office for many years, and I love it. But it’s not as easy as people have always assumed. Now, as a result of the pandemic, millions of workers know exactly what I mean.
  7. People really like to capitalize their job titles. Despite my generally strict adherence to AP Style, sometimes people insist on capitalizing their four-word-or-more-title after their name. This is not a battle worth fighting.
  8. If it’s important to your boss, it’s important. I’ve seen clients want to skip or downsize a project that their boss wanted to implement, and I can’t say any good ever came of that.
  9. “Top ten” (or 20) articles always work. By the time Merriam-Webster added the word “listicle” to the dictionary in 2017, we had been churning out list-style articles at KRPR for years. They remain a great way to present information even if they do now have a funny name.
  10. Long live the five W’s. Whether you’re writing a press release, proofing an event flyer, or handling a crisis, there’s something wrong if you haven’t included the who, what, why, when and where. And often, “why” is the most important W of all.
  11. Know when to fold ‘em. Don’t be afraid to be the lone dissenter in a room full of talented people, but also know when you’ve been outvoted and it’s time to move on.
  12. Admit when you’ve made a mistake. Years ago, I made one huge mistake that I will never forget. Owning up to it quickly and correcting it immediately was the right thing to do. It allowed me to take control of my credibility and a day later it was all but forgotten.
  13. Manage your shared passwords. I’ve seen too many clients struggle to regain access to accounts after an employee departs. Whatever system you put in place, make sure more than one person knows where to find the log-in information.
  14. It’s never too late to call the ship back to port. “That ship has sailed” rarely means you’re out of options. If something doesn’t look or sound right, you may be better served by reeling it in, scaling it back, regrouping and finding a better way to accomplish your goals.
  15. Get to know your clients. Not just the organization, but the people you work with. I enjoy interacting with my clients regularly as if I were just another member of their team.
  16. Don’t be intimidated by job titles. I’ll never forget the first time I was sent to interview the CEO of a large company. My nerves were calmed all those years ago with this sage advice: They’re just people.
  17. PR is never boring. For example, some days I am trying to get my clients publicity and other days I am working furiously to keep them out of the news.
  18. Opening Day should be a national holiday. If you know KRPR, you had to know this list would not be complete without a baseball reference. (We love LA.)
  19. Find a mentor. I didn’t go looking for one; I just got lucky. But knowing what I know now, I highly recommend having someone to serve as your trusted advisor.
  20. Keep learning. Even after 20 years, I still learn something new on a regular basis. I hope you do, too, because as Ross has written, “If you can’t remember the last time you learned something interesting about your industry or your field, it’s a good bet your career has stalled.”

These days a lot of people leave their jobs in search of greener pastures, and I don’t blame them one bit. I hope they all find the career satisfaction that I have had for the past 20 years.

Michelle Hokr is a vice president at Kevin/Ross Public Relations.