A Decade in Detroit PR
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A Decade in Detroit PR

A Decade in Detroit PR

In the blink of an eye, it’s been 10 years since I moved to Detroit. When I came to Michigan in 2007, Detroit and our PR industry looked a little different than they do today.

Kwame Kilpatrick was the mayor of Detroit, you’d be laughed at for believing that mass transit in Michigan could ever exist (remember they’d already been trying for decades), you could get into Slows on a game day without much of a wait, and, of course, in mid-’07 the Great Recession hit. In the PR industry, you had to fax press releases and advisories to media, not many newspapers had a digital news site, Facebook was three years old, Twitter was only two, Apple introduced the first iPhone, and PR, advertising, and marketing had clearer “lanes.”

From watching our economy and city’s further downturn, to witnessing our society catapult into a highly digitized world, it’s safe to say a lot happened in the past 10 years. After a decade here in the PR industry (six of those years here at LE&A), I’ve seen a lot change and learned some share-worthy lessons:

Don’t be afraid of an uncertain opportunity. I moved here thinking I’d be back on the East Coast within a few years. Seasoned professionals always talk about how their career paths typically went in a different or unforeseen direction and I never really understood how that could happen if you’re making plans and setting goals. Living here taught me that it’s good to have a vision but being adaptable will get you further, if you’re open to opportunities and learning new things. Sometimes you may not even realize the magnitude of an opportunity until you’ve gone through it.

Change is good but you have to keep up with it. Our industry is changing FAST. As communications professionals, we have more ways to deliver and control (or lose control of) our messages. We must take the time to embrace the new tools, information or platforms we are given. Ten years ago, many PR professionals were skeptical of whether and how social media had a place in the business world. Now, almost everyone in the industry is tweeting, posting, sharing, boosting – and it’s only a matter of time before something else disrupts how we do our jobs today. Challenge yourself and those around you to absorb new information and stay up on what change may be ahead.

Detroit is a small town, with an even smaller PR community. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is more like two degrees when you look at the PR community in metro Detroit. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for the friends I have in the industry – friends who are mentors, sound boards, connectors and information sharers. While Detroit may be getting bigger, we cannot take for granted the amazing talent and knowledge around us, and best of all a willingness to work together. More recently, with so much change (see above), the shift to digital has allowed the community to grow and collaborate even better with local media, marketing, advertising and digital professionals. Take advantage of it all.

As I look back at the past decade, the time is so ripe for Detroit right now (I mean look – we’re getting that transit finally!) Looking forward, I’m even more excited and optimistic about where our city and industry is heading. Jeanette Pierce, executive director of the Detroit Experience Factory, summarizes it best: “Detroit is big enough to matter in the world and small enough for you to matter in it.”

Cheers to opportunities, changes and an even stronger community in the years ahead!

Ashleigh Chatel is a director in LE&A’s Detroit office.