Public Relations – PR for short – is a lost art these days.
As a journalist for more than five decades, I’ve had professional relationships with a number of Hawaii PR people who were essential in the hospitality community, because they were the key that could open doors for access to VIPs or notables in a variety of situations. It could have been a visiting actor working on a film, a budding chef in the culinary world, a singer-dancer in a touring or local theatrical production.
PR had a prime role in media communication.
It used to be that a PR wizard could connect the dots with media to arrange print interviews or land a spot on the morning or evening newscasts for the broadcast industry or arrange a live radio gig.
Very often, media folks knew the PR resources better than their big bosses, simply because spokesmen or spokeswomen were the gateway to data or providers of clues for reportorial types. Times have change, and I’m wondering: What’s happened to PR people?
Maybe it’s me, already retired and doing my own thing, that I’ve lost contact with the PR world. I don’t do hotel or theater runs like I did back in the day. Then again, many orgs with PR services operate strictly via emails and an infrequent phone call. It’s the new normal now.
Thus, PR pros are an endangered species, for sure. My contact list these days are scanty, with only a few PR names; back in the day, my Rolodex (Google that!) had a bunch of rPR esources on individual cards on file.
Those I’ve known in the past have retired, have relocated, have been removed, hopefully joyfully after their service. A few have died.
I was reflecting on publicists of the past — the women and the rare few men — who had a hand in the PR brigades of the past. This serves, thus, as an expression of mahalo to these behind-the-scenes heroes of another era.
Doyenne of publicists
The late Elissa “Lisa” Josephsohn easily was the doyenne of powerhouse publicists, whose clients ranged from restaurants to theater companies, and opera to symphony clients, who knew how to partner her clients with entertainment ventures to building up the dining and performance arts in Honolulu. Over three decades, her clients included Sunset Grill, the Black Orchid, Ruth Chris Steak House, Compadres, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Palomino, Dixie Grill, Victoria Station, Rose City Diner and Auntie Pasto’s, plus the Honolulu Symphony, Ballet Hawaii, the Hawaii Theatre, Diamond Head Theatre. Her signature theater clients included the producers with original Canadian and domestic roots, staging the likes of “CATS,” “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Miss Saigon,” at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in an era that there was a drought of bona fide touring companies of stage attractions; her passion help create the foundation and a template for future producers to make the leap to give Hawaii a chance, which opened doors for future legit theater in the islands.
To name-drop, other pioneering PR directors included:
- Dee Dickson, Jeanne Park Datz, and Woody Chock of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
- Jere Bostwick, of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
- Kay Ahearn, of the Kahala Hilton.
- Joyce Matsumoto and Erika Kauffman, of the Halekulani Hotel.
- Nancy Daniels, of the Outrigger Hotels and the Kahala resort.
- Bobbie Watson, of the Ilikai Hotel.
- Sheila Donnelly, of the Hawaiian Regent (she was a publicist servicing her client from her own offices, not physically attached to the hotel).
- David McNeil, of the Ala Moana Hotel (he, too, worked from his own PR firm downtown).
- Patti Cook, of the Willows restaurant.
Surely, there are many more from the past, who should merit a nod; and hopefully, there are a new breed in a quest to reestablish the importance of PR.