On Monday, Sept. 26 at 10:30 a.m. our president, Maravene Loeschke, dropped by my office. “Can you come up and see me at–” she paused and looked at the wall clock behind my assistant — “11:40?”
I said of course. When a president asks a question like that, it’s rhetorical. You say yes, of course.
At 11:40 she sat on the couch and I in the chair across from her. “I have accepted the position of president at Towson University as of January 1.”
I nodded, as PR people do when given such news.
“At exactly 12 noon, the chair of our board of trustees and the chancellor of the chair of the University System of the Maryland Board of Regents system will send out an separate announcements,” she said. I made a couple notes and we talked for 10 minutes.
I returned to my office at 11:55. Five minutes later, the announcements appeared.
Within minutes the Baltimore Sun’s story was online. Within a few more minutes Google Alerts was in full swing with links to media picking up the story.
By 12:30 pretty much everyone on campus –and the universe — had the news.
The announcement surprised people but after some thought, made sense. Towson was Loeschke’s alma mater. She earned her degrees, taught and held administrative positions there for 32 years.
I talked to our national media consultant, Dick Jones, the next day. Dick and I have had a professional relationship for decades. We’re the same age. We both started in the business as reporters.
“Didn’t it bother you that no one even involved the PR Department?” he asked.
The question surprised me. “I hadn’t even thought about it,” I said. “No. Honestly, it was handled so cleanly, we didn’t have to do anything.”
Only a few short years ago the president would have had a secret meeting, given a few of us the news. We would have to prepare a news release, call all the media and tell them there would be a press conference, then spend a couple days fending off all the questions.
She would have made the announcement and then we would spend a couple days arranging individual interviews. The above would have taken nearly a week.
This was over in 15 minutes.
Dick’s question made me think about the radically changing world of communications and the role PR.
More in Part 2.