Questions for the PR Industry: Robert Wynne

2016 Questions for PREach month we have been reaching out to notable communications professionals to ask them a few questions about their experiences and interests, with the goal of providing some insights to others in the industry. For our April edition of ‘Questions for the PR Industry’ we chatted with Robert Wynne of Wynne Communications, an events and public relations agency in Manhattan Beach, California. He is also a contributor to Forbes where he writes a column on PR.   

DSC01632sm2Robert Wynne
Partner, Wynne Communications





What inspired you to start your own public relations firm?

I was working for a law firm as Director of Marketing in 2000 in charge of seven offices around the U.S. It was a stressful, no-win situation.  Rather than suffer a heart attack, I quit with no job and no real plan.  As a former journalist, I knew the job market for reporters was bleak, even back then. I briefly wrote for “Walker Texas Ranger” on CBS many years ago, but my contacts there were long gone. So out of necessity I started free-lancing for other PR firms and realized rather quickly it would be more profitable, and more fun, to start my own firm. My contacts in higher education proved very valuable from my five years working at the University of Southern California.  We also began hosting our higher education networking events with business schools ( which kept me in constant contact with journalists and potential clients.  The events have now been expanded to medical schools and engineering schools.  This year we will also host an event for the travel industry.  The short answer is I really didn’t have a choice if I wanted to make a living.

In your January Forbes piece, you touch on measurement. What is your preferred form of PR measurement? 

This has become a surprisingly controversial issue. In my opinion, anything that adds to the measurable value of public relations and elevates the industry is a good thing.  The form of measurement I championed, which is appropriate for small businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs, is advertising equivalency (AVE) times a multiplier of five.  Here’s a description from a column in Forbes where I interviewed the author of the Barcelona Principles:

“This was based, in part, on a six-year study of 72,000 readers of the Los Angeles Times.  The multi-million dollar research study, which surveyed 12,000 readers in seven different categories every week annually for six years, determined editorial content was much more valuable than advertisements in terms of awareness, recall and attitudinal impact. The multiplier comes from previous studies with multipliers ranging from 2.5 to 8.0 along with discussions from the author of the LA Times comprehensive project.

Besides that major research, and similar less comprehensive ones, there are three reasons to use AVE. User Experience, Buyer Experience, and The Real World. In a newspaper or magazine, or on the Internet, TV or radio, you cannot divorce the experience of ads and editorial. They are seen or watched or listened to side-by-side. To claim otherwise is simply not realistic. Second, each day businesses large and small decide how to spend their marketing budgets and resources: advertising, public relations, social media, billboards, events, etc. Its already being compared – every day. Third reason, reality. Advertising is a multi-billion business. Look at the Super Bowl. Google Ads. What do PR people want to compare editorial to smoke signals? Olive oil? The foam in their skinny mocha lattes?”

The author of the principles does not agree with me on AVE, which is fine.  Reasonable people can disagree. The principles offer guidelines, not an equation, and they can be modified or used in various ways. They key for all PR practitioners is not to cede the higher ground to advertising. PR is much more powerful and carries significantly more credibility.

The press release is dead. Agree or disagree?

Press releases are useful to archive information for research purposes, either for the media or the organization.  Large companies like Apple, Intel, GE or Ford have to use them to release earnings and similar information. But for most companies and PR people, press releases are often formally written and self-serving and not seen as helpful to the media.  In my experience and the experience of many of my PR colleagues, most media placements are achieved through personal connections and targeted pitches.  Journalist opinions about press releases were covered in a previous Forbes column, “What Journalists Really Think of Your Press Release.”  It should be noted this column has reached about 50,000 views, the one on measurement still hasn’t cracked 2,000.  The most popular column of mine is “What Does a Public Relations Agency Do?” with almost 275,000 views, which gives a good indication of what the public finds useful and enjoys.

 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Robert!


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