By Alexa Grunder | November 16, 2020

As part of our spotlight series on the team members of MSR, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Blake, Director of Enterprise Technology at MSR Communications. Chris has always embraced the newest technology and its ability to empower us and enhance brand communication. But in order to get your brand communication noticed, Chris says, “We need to create compelling, informational content that’s authentic, too.” Chris realizes how strong content marketing can influence customers but he also recognizes the need to protect consumer data.

Thanks for taking to time to speak with us, Chris! Can you tell us about your journey into the PR industry?

My first real job out of college was working for one of the top entertainment PR firms in the country. While I really enjoyed the PR aspect, I eventually decided entertainment wasn’t my thing. After a few years in business management and trying to become a rock star, I moved to San Francisco in 2000 and soon returned to the PR world. This time it was in tech, which I took to immediately. The little firm I hooked up with was called “msrdotcomm.” After the dot-com bust, the firm renamed itself MSR Communications.

What evolutions and changes have you noticed since the start of your career as a PR professional?

Blogging and social networking spring to mind as having the biggest impacts on the industry. Now you can’t be a full-service firm without adding digital marketing, content marketing and other related services to the mix. The fundamentals of PR and marketing still feel the same, and experience still matters, but you also have to keep expanding your horizons.

Tell us what the last few months have been like for you work-wise. In what ways has COVID-19 impacted the PR industry?

I’ve been working out of my home office for 15 years, so I was already used to collaborating remotely and not wasting time. The only difference is now I’ve got three kids added to my client roster. As for the industry, there was a period in the beginning where it was a real challenge to pitch reporters, especially those covering the industries most affected. There was simply much more important news to report on. It’s still a challenge, but I think we’ve done a good job learning to adapt.

Have you noticed any new PR and marketing trends emerge during the pandemic?

I have so much respect for journalists. They’ve been the most affected in really bad ways. It’s mostly a thankless job, especially in today’s environment. Many of them are on Twitter and LinkedIn, which gives you a good sense of what they’re doing and what they’re going through day after day. So as far as trends go, I would hope more PR folks are seeing that effort and responding in kind. Most do, I’m sure, but you also see some in the PR world treating journalists like a marketing tool when they’re really your biggest client.

What advice would you give to those looking to begin a career in PR in 2021?

Internships are still so important in my opinion. Not only does it give you a leg up in learning the business and making important life-long contacts in PR and the media (both relatively small worlds), if PR turns out not to be for you, you’ll discover it pretty quickly and move on to things that suit you better. You’ll also need to make reading and writing a big part of your life. Take some writing courses. Study company blogs. Read as many newspapers and magazines as possible. Even if you come in with the right education (PR, marketing, etc.), weak writing can hold you back. And if you’re not reading–always reading--it will be very hard to know how to insert your clients into the conversations that matter.

Can you give us a sneak peek of the apps that are most used on your mobile device?

All the usuals. I’m always trying to be as efficient as possible, so an important one for me is BeFocused, a productivity timer that I use with the Pomodoro technique. Plane Finder is another one I like to have up while I’m reading or watching a ball game in the yard. It lets you pull up aircraft and flight data on planes as they’re passing overhead. I hate being on planes, but I like watching them.

If you could meet any influential person, who would it be and why?

I’ve bumped into quite a few heroes, but I mostly prefer to enjoy what they do from afar. That said, if Vin Scully invited me to lunch, I wouldn’t turn him down. 

Thanks Chris for your insights and helpful PR advice!

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