Brad Penner

No, this is not about a yearning for bygone days. Or doing things “old school.” I’m perfectly comfortable with my computer and intend to continue using it until they implant the A.I. chip in my brain. But that’s another blog post.

Public relations is, as the name implies, all about relationships. Sure, you need to know about what your client’s company or organization does. Learn about the competition. Understand who they’re trying to reach and why. But who you know and who you get to know ultimately determines if you are able to help your clients succeed.

Journalism is also about who you know or get to know—contacts in government and politics, public relations sources who can assist you in telling a story your audience wants, or needs, to see. After more than 20 years as a journalist I transitioned to public relations. And the one constant as I’ve changed employers a couple of times is my Rolodex. (If you’re under 30 (40?) this may be a new term. It is a thing, and they still make them).

Mine is the covered tray style, holding cards with names, phone numbers and a few addresses. These days I mostly use it to keep the dozen or so passwords I need for various accounts. Of course, there are other ways to store those, but I still like having a reason to occasionally open up the old Rolodex.


A relic from Ancient Times.

On those cards are reminders of colleagues and confidants. Stories big and small. There’s the name and number for a local Ross Perot supporter (good times). And city council members, state agency leaders and United States senators too. They’re all connected to experiences and people I value to this day.

Today my smartphone, Gmail and social media accounts hold my valuable contacts and connections. The tools of technology provide reminders in different ways of the personal and professional relationships that are important. They help me help my clients more efficiently and effectively. I like that. But I won’t toss my Rolodex just yet.