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Many things have changed since Schroder PR begin 10 years ago; many have not

Ten years ago this week, Schroder PR opened its doors to provide writing and media relations services to a few select clients. Since then, a lot has changed in the business of public relations, but a few enduring principles remain more important than ever.

When we opened our doors to the public in 2003, we were already serving a few commercial real estate developers and soon were hired by one of the two largest law firms in town.

At that time, the primary request of our clients was that we carefully craft well-written press releases and provide them media counsel. Since then, the media world has exploded to an immediate online delivery of news from many news sources – including posts by many writers who have had no professional news training and are not professionally edited.

A decade ago, clients were still trying to understand the potential of the “world wide web” and we were often asked to help re-write their websites with new copy that would attract a prominent listing in developing platforms called “search engines.” Google was still a small private company that was a couple of years from going public.

The word blog was less than five years old in 2003 (it was coined in 1999 from its original term of weblog). Managing partners of large firms were trying to understand how to follow and regulate their use by leading-edge partners in the firms. It wasn’t long before our clients were asking us to assist them to host blogs on their own websites.

Networking and business development is a vital part of any business, particularly a new firm such as ours. Back then, the primary tool of business development was the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Book of Lists. A few days after we opened our doors, a new web-based platform was launched that changed everything. It was called LinkedIn. Today, LinkedIn is a primary business development tool, though we still usually begin our new year making lots of notes in the printed Book of Lists, which is also available in electronic form.

Email and instant messaging had long replaced the idle chatter and gossip around the proverbial water cooler. Then in 2004, we all re-learned an entirely new way to peer into the lives and thoughts of others with the launch of Facebook. Although office productivity initially took a big hit with its growth, we now spend many hours a week updating business pages on Facebook for our clients.

In 2003, we began helping clients produce videos to explain their service offerings. New computer editing tools brought down the cost of this formerly cost-prohibitive medium. Ten years ago, we were still advising clients to trim their videos to five to eight minutes in length. Then in 2005, YouTube launched and video exploded. Today, based on Pew and Poynter research, we caution clients to edit their videos to no longer than 60 seconds and we help manage their YouTube channels.

While Schroder PR has always been an advocate for concise use of the English language, we all learned to edit even tighter in 2006 when Twitter reduced our world of communication not to 140 words, but 140 characters!

As Schroder PR moved offices several times around Midtown Atlanta, we were careful to always provide a cork bulletin board above the desks of our teammates so they could post personal photos and important lists. Now we primarily use the cork boards to soften the sound in more efficient working conditions while our team is busily posting photos and lists for our clients on Pinterest, which launched in 2010.

While many things have changed in 10 years, many principles still endure. Yes, our team spends much of our time monitoring social media for our clients, but we still spend a surprising amount of time editing press releases that we can post online. Yet, we rarely send press releases to reporters. Today we boil story pitches down to one-page backgrounders full of bullet points or send short emails or Twitter pitches.

Though we have so many new tools with which to communicate, we’ve found there is an increasing need to have regular face-to-face meetings with our clients. Client service remains the most important facet of our business and in this new year, we hope to spend more time in person with our clients than ever before. That’s where the magic in this business really happens.

The proper use of the English language is still paramount. Each of of our teammates has an AP Stylebook on their desks. We did try the electronic version for a while, but the book is still our bible.

When we start working with a new client, we still spend the first few weeks and months helping to sharpen their “message” and “position.” When we launched our own website in December 2002, we introduced our company’s slogan and mission, which endures – perhaps with even more significance – to this day: “Clear Messages in a Cluttered World.”

– Chris Schroder

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