We had the chance to sit down with Hawthorne Advisory Board Member, Tom Hoog, who was in town recently to give the team some insider tips and advice for sustaining a fulfilling public relations career.
Hoog has decades of experience in the public relations sector and has twice as many stories to accompany his impressive resume. He’s discovered the secret to staying afloat in the ever-changing PR landscape and let us in on a few of his industry secrets.
Hoog’s path to public relations wasn’t always so clear-cut. As a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the late 1950s, Hoog became increasingly more interested in politics and piloting. His passion for politics was first sparked by John F. Kenney’s presidential campaign, but upon graduating he became a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. After flying in the Navy for seven years, Hoog returned to civilian life during the anti-war movement and found himself rallying for peace alongside hundreds of thousands of activists across the country. Realizing the key to enacting legitimate change would be through politics, Hoog took his first steps into the political realm when he was hired to work on George McGovern’s presidential campaign.
Since entering into the world of public relations nearly 40 years ago, he has seen the industry change for the better in some aspects and for the worse in others. Newspapers and approximately three television networks were the main sources of information for the public when he first began. Now, there are many more channels to target messages to audiences, such as social media, a wide variety of media outlets, and an array of television stations, some of which are strictly a dedicated news source. While this is great for conveying messages to the mass public, it can also be problematic and lead to unfiltered messages. With the wide variety of communications channels, Hoog offers the following advice:
- Take “spin” out of our vocabulary as public relations professionals and instead become “truth tellers”
- Hold ourselves and our clients accountable to tell the truth and not “spin” the story to their liking
- Read more, especially the book The Road to Character by David Brooks, which perfectly ties back into the conversation of aiming to always remain a truth teller both professionally and personally
For those who are interested in PR, but not in the industry just yet, Hoog suggests gaining a complete understanding of this field now that there are more specialized areas of PR than ever before. Businesses today want you to understand and know their business just as well as they do. In order to climb the ladder, you can no longer be a generalist. You must be an industry specialist and discover your niche.
To succeed in this industry, one must also be able to properly balance life and work. Hoog prides himself on being able to say he’s never worked a day in his life. For him, that has made everything around him more enjoyable because unhappiness at work will find its way into your personal life as well. Now retired, the balance continues. In addition to traveling the world, stays busy by giving lectures on college campuses and at professional development workshops across the country, in addition to sitting on the HSG board.
As a Hawthorne board member, Hoog is excited about the direction and bright future of the firm, especially in the current industry landscape. Hawthorne has distinguished itself as a premier boutique firm with solid principles and good people to lead the charge, according to Hoog. During his years as President and then CEO of Hill + Knowlton Strategies, he would always encourage his employees to speak up, hold management accountable, and keep them from making mistakes. In other words, be truth tellers.
He now offers that same advice to Hawthorne’s growing staff. As Hawthorne moves forward this year and beyond, the firm will continue to move towards a growth strategy and broaden the firm’s niche while continuing to keep themselves and their clients honest.