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Throwback Thursday: The Evolution of PR

A PCI staffer in 1990

A PCI staffer in 1990

We asked PCI veterans what life in PR was like before advances in technology and the internet. Here are just a few of their answers:

“It’s hard to remember life without the internet, cell phones and email. When I was starting out, our technology was Brother word processors and floppy disks, fax machines and analog tape-to-tape video editing systems using beta tapes for video news releases.” – Sharon Dewar, Vice President, PR pro since 1995
“Back in the 80s, we would have late-night press kit stuffing parties (pizza included).” – Ruth Mugalian, Vice President, PR pro since 1984
“When I started at PCI, we had to develop media lists from directories that were out of date almost immediately after they were printed, so we had to call to verify if they were correct. We did mass mailings of press kits and pitch letters, and if something was really important we would fax, messenger or overnight. We called all media to pitch. A reporter’s deadline had a whole different meaning because nothing was published online. When media outlets started to have an online presence, some clients didn’t care and just wanted to be in the ‘printed’ version.” – Leigh Wagner, Senior Vice President, PR pro since 1988
“I remember the time before cell phones when we had to use pagers. And then PCI got a couple cell phones that we all shared and could check out from the reception desk when we went to media events.” – Wendi Koziol, Senior Vice President, PR pro since 1998
“The internet! How did we know anything before Google?” – Beth Schlesinger, Vice President, PR pro since 1994
“In Chicago, we had the benefit of the ‘City News Bureau,’ a 24/7 operation that originally was located at Randolph Street and Wells Street which later moved just next door to PCI’s longtime address of 35 East Wacker Drive. The City News Bureau would accept news releases which a staff member would then promptly place into a pneumatic tube that traveled underground, even under the Chicago River, and came up minutes later in the city rooms of the city’s five daily newspapers.” – Dick Barry, Senior Consultant, PR pro since 1957
“In 1985, accounting department invoices were hand-typed on a typewriter and we used ledgers to record data. Checks to vendors were also hand-typed.” – Diane Boldt, PCI receptionist since 2004
“When I started in PR 20 years ago we were memo crazy! All communication was via memos. And 'social media' was hoisting a beer with reporters at a dive bar.” – Cheryl terHorst, Senior Consultant, PR pro since 1997
“In the 1980s, PCI trained senior leadership at a Chicago cultural institution and members of the nonprofit’s board of trustees about strategies for effective interviews. Staff brought a black rotary dial telephone on a long cord into the conference room and pretended to take an urgent message from Ted Koppel, requesting comment on a fictitious crisis. Details were written on a pink ‘while you were out’ message pad. The technology has certainly changed since then, but the strategies and tips for effective interviews and managing crisis communications that PCI shared with the client are just as relevant today.” – Craig Pugh, President, PR pro since 1985

Public relations and communications work is constantly evolving, and we're digging into the PCI archives to discover just how far we’ve come. Follow us on Instagram as we unveil our finds in future #tbt posts!