It isn’t often you hear someone in media relations invoke the genius mathemetician Isaac Newton–especially if it has nothing to do with an apple smacking his noggin. But Steve Saleeba of the Hollywood Agency in Hingham, Mass. isn’t your typical PR rep, which plays into his recently being named a Qwoted 100 PR Superstar.
Saleeba balances the qualitative and quantitative aspects of PR nicely; he can talk about key performance indicators (KPIs) and strong storytelling in the span of a single reply. Here he shares his views of the trade, including how he tackles the quintessential stumper: how to sync up with the schedules and needs of reporters.
Qwoted: What do you see as the future of PR—technologically, strategically, or in any category you’re passionate about?
Steve Saleeba: In a society overflowing with data and obsessed with analytics, I expect KPIs around PR to become more broadly standardized and more granular in the decades to come. Data measurement does and will continue to play an important role in PR, but I don’t think it will become the end-all. An enormous number of outside influencing factors affect PR impact, making it notoriously difficult to measure. Ultimately I suspect strong storytelling, which has dictated culture and tradition for as long as humankind has existed, will remain at the core of PR.
Qwoted: What do you think you do that other PRs could learn from?
Saleeba: Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I suggest PR folk pay attention to history and sociology. For our entire existence, humans have used storytelling to shape societal norms. Understanding the evolutionary nuances of storytelling and elements that impact the masses is key to being effective.
Qwoted: What’s your toughest challenge with reporters?
Saleeba: Timing. Too often I may pitch a great story to a specific reporter but the timing doesn’t work on their end. On other occasions, I’ve had ongoing conversations for months with reporters, only to have my client tell me they are not available on the day the reporter decides to do the story.
Qwoted: How do you approach breaking through the noise floor to get effective coverage?
Saleeba: There are many ways to break through the noise. Establishing relationships and anticipating the needs of reporters are a few.
Qwoted: How does PR in 2024 square with the future of journalism?
Saleeba: The competition for media attention will increase and earned media will yield increasing value. Those who can’t compete on earned media have plenty of other options–over time, the internet has opened up more “owned” PR options through blogs, podcasts, and of course social media. To stay relevant, PR must contend with and keep up with these evolving media trends. Some of it will require us to adjust how we tell our stories when pitching media. Since the internet took off and cannibalized its revenue stream, the journalism landscape has been shrinking while a significant segment has simultaneously shifted its priorities from “this is what consumers need because it matters” to “this is what consumers want because it’s entertaining.” USA Today network just announced it is hiring a reporter to cover the Taylor Swift beat. The town where I work doesn’t have a dedicated reporter. Some outlets are experimenting with AI as a replacement for journalists.
Qwoted: What advice would you give to those seeking an effective PR person?
Saleeba: A lot of factors come into play but here’s the ultimate test: Ask them to tell your brand story in a way that will interest a sixth grader. Their answer offers insight into how they break down complexities to shape a compelling narrative anyone can understand. The second most important factor is their understanding of the media landscape and how to use it to reach target audiences.
Qwoted: What is your golden rule of PR?
Saleeba: Not all PR is good PR.
Qwoted: Anything else to add?
Saleeba: Want to be successful? Embrace the ethos of creativity, honesty, responsiveness and reliability.
February 14, 2023