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Following in the footsteps of an industry legend is a challenge. The ladies of W&W Public Relations Firm have not only lived up to the legacy of late publicist Patti Webster, some would say they made Webster proud of continuing the excellence she started. The firm, which was started in 1991, has had clients such as Steve Harvey, Patti LaBelle, Janet Jackson, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard.  BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to the two principals of W&W Public Relations, Karen Lee and Aliya Crawford, about how the landscape in public relations has changed, how the firm has continued the pattern of excellence started by Webster, and what the future of public relations looks like. Patti Webster is considered one of the pioneers in media, but particularly in PR for women of color. How has it been to navigate and maintain the 30-year-old firm since her transition? Lee: Yes, Patti was a pioneer and a visionary, and both Aliya  and I feel honored to be at the helm of W&W. In our profession, there are always challenges, but we continue to receive an incredible amount of support from clients, both past and present. Patti’s motto was “a good name is rather to be chosen than riches” and we have worked diligently to ensure that we continue in that vein. Our team—including senior members Jacinda Chen, Brittany Godwin, Tony Ferguson, Syreta Oglesby and Christopher Brown—have been essential in helping us maintain that standard. The media landscape continues to change daily, but especially during COVID-19. How does W&W PR continue to adjust and pivot? Lee: It has been a time of change and evolution, and we work together to make sure we share information and discuss opportunities moving forward. Our collective all have relationships and experience in different areas, which allows us to reach out to new business opportunities and create campaigns that stimulate media coverage and results. We have also found that some clients need assistance with virtual interviews. We want to ensure they are prepared to answer questions about COVID-19, news headlines including vaccinations, politics, crime and weather. W&W PR has a strong roster of some of our favorite entertainers. How do you reinforce the need for PR services when fans and talent have direct access to one another? Lee: Although entertainers and public figures now have direct access to their fans, there is still (and always will be) a need for professional PR. Social media has provided individuals and brands an amazing opportunity to market themselves, but that’s just one avenue. Brands still need comprehensive, long-term PR strategies to elevate their profiles and tell their stories. An effective strategy is going to include both traditional media (print, television, radio) and new media (digital, social, podcasts) in order to reach different audiences. How you integrate traditional media and new media into your plans is going to depend on what your objectives are. What does the future of PR look like? What new trends do you recognize? Crawford: The number of smaller agencies is growing and I think we’ll see more large brands and household names working with small firms, as well as larger PR companies partnering with boutique agencies. I think this is a great thing! Digital media is here to stay and more print and broadcast outlets will transition to all digital. Also, new social media platforms will be developed and the existing ones will evolve. Opportunities to monetize content in the digital world will continue to expand. So, it’s essential to stay abreast of the latest technologies and platforms and have a presence in these various spaces. One of my hopes for the future is that diversity, inclusion, and equity will be prioritized in this industry. That companies large and small be intentional and consistent in promoting these things within their organizations and that individuals—entertainers, athletes, designers, etc.—provide greater opportunities to minority-led agencies. W&W is synonymous with excellence and longevity. What does the future look like for the firm in spite of the changes happening in the world? Crawford: The world and the industries we work in are ever-changing, and everyone has seen and experienced so many changes in the wake of the pandemic. I think one of W&W’s strengths is our ability to adapt to our environment and to the different needs of our diverse clientele. We’ll continue to be flexible and forward-thinking. We won’t limit where we can go as an agency and as a brand. In addition to offering PR and branding strategies, over the last several years, W&W has established a talent consulting division, overseeing the talent booking for Stephen A‘s World on ESPN+ and the syndicated radio program and podcast, Money Making Conversations with Rushion McDonald. We plan to continue to grow in this area, as well as establish a film and television production division. Additionally, we’re very focused on continuing to provide opportunities for women, Black people, people of color, and other underrepresented groups within the PR industry. What advice would you share with someone looking to enter the public relations field? Crawford: If someone desires a career in public relations, they should determine the area that interests them. Entertainment, corporate, technology, philanthropy, and politics are just some of the areas where PR is essential. Going to school and taking the necessary courses to succeed is key. Working an internship at a company or organization that handles PR in their desired area can help them grow and confirm that the company’s area of expertise is what they want. If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor in your chosen field, that is a great advantage to you. Publicists usually work very closely with clients, often traveling with them, so it is important to make sure that the relationship is business, not personal, which can be challenging. There are times when a publicist may dine with a client or attend a social event, but it’s important to remember that it is still business.
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