Betty Dillard email@example.com
It’s turning into a banner year for Paige Hendricks. The public relations strategist is celebrating 35 years in business. Her award-winning Fort Worth firm, PHPR Inc., will move in mid-summer into cool new digs in a renovated warehouse on the Near Southside. And just recently, she tied the knot with fiancé Bob Russey. Natives of Fort Worth, the couple both attended Stripling Junior High School in the 1960s. Between them they have three sons, a daughter, a son- and daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. Hendricks began her career as a newspaper journalist and advertising representative after graduating from Texas Christian University with a degree in journalism and English. She began in public relations with community and regional theater in New York before moving to Dallas in the mid-1970s. After serving as PR director for a Dallas professional children’s theater group, she opened her own consulting firm in 1978. In 1984, her company expanded and moved to Fort Worth. During more than three decades of running her business, Hendricks has worked with private and public corporations, consulting on PR issues for clients in a variety of industries including performing arts, health care, finance, education, engineering, real estate and nonprofits. PHPR’s political consulting skills are extensive. Hendricks worked with Vice President George H.W. Bush’s advance team in preparation for his presidential campaign appearances in Fort Worth in 1988. She also managed the successful primary election campaign for Texas State Senatorial candidate John Lively and was campaign consultant for former Fort Worth City Councilman Bill Meadows’ successful District 7 campaigns. In 1997, PHPR was a nominee for the Rotary Club of Fort Worth’s Employer of the Year. Hendricks’ community involvement includes memberships and board service with Women in Communications Inc., the Public Relations Society of America, the Public Relations Counselors Academy, Fort Worth Sister Cities, Susan G. Komen Foundation (FW Affiliate), Ballet Concerto Inc., Fort Worth Theatre, Stage West and Leadership Fort Worth. She was a member of the Junior League for nearly 20 years and has been a host family for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition six times.
How has PR/marketing changed over the last several decades? Technology is one of the biggest changes, that and the actual physical space needed to run a business like this. When I started in the ‘70s, typesetting, photography studios, film studios, post production – anything we had done that were communications media was elsewhere, outside the office. The amount of space that was necessary to do what we do was not a big physical space then. The bell curve went to needing a huge amount of space when we became not only the designers and the strategists but the production centers, too. These days, a lot of what might be necessary for training or internal communications can be handled with a high resolution laser printer and a sophisticated photo copier and our computers – not even PCs any more. During the need-a-lot-of-space days, we needed storage space for film, art boards, video masters, media kits and materials for clients. We were doing our own photography and needed extra space. Photography became integrated with computers and we went back to smaller physical spaces. Now we store in the cloud, which makes it more magical. I’m able to do in a discreet period of time so much more because of technology than I would have been able to accomplish in that same discreet period of time 20 years ago or 30 years, even the past 10 years. Technology, especially social media, seems to be the biggest change in all fields. We have so many more questions. Should I get involved with Facebook? Should I join LinkedIn? How participatory should I be, if at all, with Twitter? We’ve had to become familiar with the applicable nature of the different tools for our clients. We have to know the social medial tools to advise our clients.
Have the needs of clients changed too? Certainly. Their fundamentals are still there. What is the message and why is it important to convey it? Who needs to know and why do they need to know and what do you want them to do with it? That remains the same. After every question is asked, the number of mechanisms or tactics that can be employed to accomplish the task are exponential compared to what they were. Before, if we wanted to get information to a newspaper we could call, we could drive over a media kit or have a courier deliver it. There was no fax, no email. I flew an employee to Atlanta once with information that we needed to get there the same day. One thing we’ve had to do even more diligently and thoroughly and methodically is to share our methodology with our clients. We’re not going to take shortcuts but follow careful steps to achieve communications.
How did you get started in this business? My first job out of college was at The Selma Times Journal in Alabama, where they still had hot type, linotype machines. That newspaper should have been the bellwether to presage the rest of my career because they were the first paper in the country, I think, to convert to offset, cold type printing. That stayed with me 35 years, all those changes. It was good to understand all those moving parts of technology changes and human resources that must adapt. So we’ve adapted. And continue to adapt. You’ve got to.
To what do you owe your success? Flexibility, as far as adapting to clients’ needs. Absolute dedication to methodology. Willingness to adapt to change, to recognize the vagaries of the marketplace and the economic situations. And absolute dedication to doing it right, doing a thorough, methodical, thoughtful, creative, strategic approach to getting our clients’ messages out so that people important to them think about them in a way that the client wishes. I’ve stuck around and persevered and have been willing to follow the marketplace. These last four years have been the most difficult in these 35 years because of the recession. Every client has been affected. You have to be able to adjust to the changing marketplace. Another thing that’s been valuable is my understanding the importance of the success of my clients and how that might not always mean the continuance of my success. I’ve had many clients that started out small and have been successful and expanded and sold or merged or been acquired. Eventually they may go away and the business goes away. But that’s absolutely successful. And that comes back to perseverance.
Any advice for someone interested in or just entering the PR/marketing field? If they’re in school and thinking this is intriguing, remember that it’s extremely hard work and that the baseline requirement is writing. Also remember that it is very attractive to a lot of people and that pushes down entry level salaries. There are a whole lot of us so the remuneration might not be what you would expect unless you’re extremely flexible as far as location and what you do and who you do it for. Be very picky about high standards, integrity and the reputation of who you’re going to work for. Know that what you do the first year or the second year is not what you’ll be doing the eighth year or the 14th or the 35th. You’ll still be using your education, your experience and your creativity. You’ll still be doing the most important thing we do in this office every day and that’s to connect the dots.