Chances are you've probably heard the phrase "Detroit is a small town in a big city." It's an apt description for the provincial way everyone here seems to know everyone else. For a public relations guy, that can make your job a dream or a nightmare.
David Rudolph is a local PR guy. He's the senior managing partner at D. Ericson & Associates PR, where he sure seems to know everyone in town and he's representing half of them. Some of his clients include Kuzzo's Chicken and Waffles, Detroit Dog Rescue, Grille Midtown, Garden Theater, Tangerine Room, Chene Park, and Brooklyn Street Local, among many, many others. He represents some minority-owned businesses, but says he doesn't like to focus on the minority-owned aspect. Actually, he'd like to forgo the label altogether.
But a few weeks ago, via social media, he posed a theory to black business owners who complain about not getting press. "Before you say the media does not want to cover black businesses think about the talent you have working to attract the media," he wrote on his Facebook page. "If you do not know how to reach the media, guess what? Hire someone who does."
That's exactly what Rudolph does.
Metro Times: How'd you get started in the business?
David Rudolph: I fell into this business. People always ask me how I got into the PR business and I wish I had a glamorous story to tell, but I did have sort of a glamorous start. I had just finished my master's degree at Florida State University. I was going through the testing process to work for the CIA. I was trying to get in there as an analyst because my degree is in international relations trade finance. I was trying to be a secret squirrel spook, but it turned out that the government has initiated a freeze on the hiring.
MT: So, wait, how did you get into PR?
Rudolph: I needed to find a job and I had some friends from Michigan State and started asking if they knew anyone who was hiring. I had a friend who worked for WJR, and he was doing sports commentary for the Detroit Pistons. He knew of a job opportunity in the media relations department for the Pistons. They liked me enough to hire me.
MT: What's exciting about being a PR guy in Detroit right now?
Rudolph: Detroit has changed to a place where it's searching for its new identity. We're being defined as a new territory for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. It's a good time in Detroit. There are so many new people out there. The Detroit brand is equally as impactful as the clients we're representing here in Detroit. You say you're in Detroit and people want to hear what you have to say. It's special to be in a town that people are listening to what we have going on.
MT: You've mentioned before that you don't want to be pigeonholed as a minority-business owner. Why is that important to you?
Rudolph: There are a lot of things that can line up against you when you're a minority business owner. The road isn't always as easy, that's just the landscape you play in. Especially in Detroit, where we're still a town of 85 percent African-Americans and minorities. I was listening once to a radio program and there was a business owner who called in and was talking about Detroit. She was asking why there aren't as many minority-owned businesses in the media as non-minority-owned businesses. A lot of people just don't understand, especially some minorities, that there are some things in their business where they might need to take one more step to market and promote it.
MT: What's your advice to businesses, black- or white-owned, to getting more press?
Rudolph: Most of my clients know their business and service very well, but they might not know the branding and communication part. Getting in the media isn't easy. It takes a real coordinated message.