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    Member Chat with Pete Webb: Adapting to a World “Zipping Past” Us


    Pete Webb, member PRSA Colorado

    Member Chat with Pete Webb: Adapting to a World “Zipping Past” Us
    By Lauren Merideth, member, PRSA Colorado Communications Committee

     

    This year, Pete Webb celebrates 30 years as founder of Webb Strategic Communications, formerly known as Webb PR. In those three decades, Pete has done and seen it all, from promoting the grand opening of Anheuser-Busch’s Fort Collins brewery to branding the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) highly visible drunk-driving campaign “The Heat Is On.”

    Webb has been a member of PRSA Colorado for 35 years. In 2015, Webb won the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to public relations in Colorado. In his former life, Webb was an investigative reporter, which helped sharpen his skills as a talented communicator. Before becoming a journalist, Webb worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for three years.

    The following interview was conducted by member Lauren Merideth, who is an account coordinator at Webb Strategic Communications.

    Lauren Merideth: You've been practicing PR in Colorado for more than 30 years. What have you learned about your experience as it relates to Colorado? 

    Pete Webb: Colorado-based clients are intensely loyal to their local advisors because they see them in the community and can interact with them on a personal level.  We’re no different professionally than our counterparts in New York or Chicago; We have great ideas, we execute well and we’re proud of what we’ve successfully done.  We just don’t have a “midtown Manhattan” attitude.

    LM: What has surprised you in 30 years of business?  

    PW: Rapidly changing technology. Anyone remember the fax machine? The surge of social media and the diminishment of conventional media — especially print media — has changed the way we receive information and engage with audiences.  It’s plain to say, we just don’t do the mechanics of this business like we did 30 years ago, or even five years ago.

    LM: What was one of your biggest challenges or failures when you first started your business and how did you respond?  

    PW: When I started out, my biggest challenge was skillfully serving my major clients. They expected top performance and I was as a one-man band.  It took long hours and hard work and being available 24-7.  As we worked on major initiatives [e.g., the opening of Anheuser-Busch’s Fort Collins brewery, the opening of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals and others], our reputation grew.  We gained stupendous assignments such as the opening of the Denver International Airport..  With competence and success came trust and recognition of skill and the ability to deliver.

    LM: You spent years in a newsroom and that understanding was the foundation of your PR business. How has the change in news coverage affected our industry today?  

    PW: The qualities I learned in a newsroom are the same things we look for in our employees: quick learner, listener, able to multi-task, deadline-driven, striving for accuracy and delivering well-stated facts.  A newsroom — even as much as it has changed to today’s style of newsroom as a reporting center — is a great place to observe the world zipping past you.

    LM: The digital era has brought about a dramatic change in our industry since you began practicing PR. What is the biggest evolution you've witnessed and what has stayed the same? 

    PW: I’m a traditionalist, so I see some of the facets of digital delivery and social media both as a blessing and a curse.  We use it [digital media] effectively because that’s what people are used to seeing.  But talking in 140-characters doesn’t tell the whole story — or much of any story, for that matter.  Aware and educated audiences want more, and it’s incumbent upon us to respond.  At the same time, we need to know how to be effective to create change — whether that’s a change in behavior or a change in understanding.

    LM: As a successful business owner, what are the three most important skills you look for when hiring?  

    PW: I look for individuals who listen, those who have an I’ll-do-anything-as-long-as-it’s-not-immoral-or-illegal- attitude and those who want to be part of a team — one that is supportive and reinforcing.

     

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