Popular PR Professional Shares Tips with Journalists


Photo by Grace Becker

By Sabrina Aragon

Dennis Erokan is a communication professor at Saint Mary’s College. However, he is well-known beyond the classroom. Erokan founded the popular Bay Area Music (BAM) magazine, the Bay Area Music Awards, and was the former CEO of the marketing firm Placemaking Group.

Erokan explained public relations as telling a message from a different angle compared to one in advertising. It requires someone else to tell the story in order to add significance. This is where journalists come into play.

The public relations team must work with journalists in order to tell accurate, honest and truthful stories about a business or an individual. Journalists must figure out if the information in the press releases is balanced and if readers will be interested.

Erokan asserted, “It’s really, really important that a journalist can trust a PR person and that the PR person is trustworthy.” Essentially, the PR team and journalists must work together in telling a truthful story.

This relationship is crucial particularly in times when crisis management is needed. He explained the importance of telling the truth and sticking to the real story as much as possible. Erokan recommended the most effective method in a time of crisis management; State what happened and apologize and state what will be done to avoid the situation in the future. Erokan gave examples such as Starbucks’s CEO apologizing and closing 8,000 stores for racial bias training. He said that this move was successful in that they were able to change a negative into a positive event. He also mentioned Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in front of Congress. Although there was differing views as to the honesty of his apology, the testimony resulted in a rise in Facebook stock. Crisis management is necessary for individuals and businesses.

Erokan ended with general tips to PR professionals: tell the truth, know the audience and understand the message. He also adds, “Not only know your social media strength, but know your social media tool and its purpose.”

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