Oral Histories

Ron Rhody

Interview Segments on Topic: PR and Technology/Change

Ron Rhody Biography

Ron Rhody's long career in public relations includes serving as executive vice president and director-corporate communications and external affairs at BankAmerica and corporate vice president and director of public relations and advertising for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. 

He became CEO of his own Consultancy and is the author of “The CEO’s Playbook” and “Wordsmithing: The Art and Craft of Writing for Public Relations.”  He has worked with and advised CEOs and senior executives in the business, academic and not-for-profit sectors on a variety of communication and public relations issues.  He has received numerous awards and honors from professional groups and organizations.


Interviewer: If you look back over your career and it’s over 30 years.

Rhody:At the very least. It’s probably approaching 50 now I guess which is pretty hard for a 45 year old guy but I started early.

Interviewer:How has the whole field changed? How have you changed as you first started in your position way back in Kentucky and as you worked your way through the Bank of America, What adjustments have you made over those years?

Rhody: Well I got smarter. I think of my judgment has improved considerably, that’s ‘really a good question. I don’t think in my own mind I don’t think I’ve changed at all. I’ve gotten better. I don’t mean that in an egotistical sense. I’ve gotten better in the things that I do. One of the things that’s really been very important for me, two things that have been very important. Luck. I’ve been very very lucky. And the other is that I really enjoy it. I really get a bang out of this. I get a lot of psychic income from it. So it tends to keep me. I get very if I’m on a project I’m really wrapped up in it. I get very enthusiastic about it. I don’t think that has changed particularly. But it has intensified because I’ve been given things to do that are of more consequence and are more interesting to deal with. I don’t think that I’ve changed other than that except through the process of maturing and understanding and honing your skills.

Interviewer: Now obviously things have changed with new technologies. What do you think about the Internet; the transparency that has been created because of all this available information and the fact that there are bloggers out there things that go flying through cyberspace so quickly. How does a PR person deal with that now?

Rhody: With amazement. I think it’s fantastic, what the new technology is doing. I think it is very important to realize though that what this new technology is doing is improving the methods of distribution not changing it’s not changing the principles it’s not changing the fundamentals. It’s improving the methods of distribution. And of course creating a much broader vice one of the effects may be to help create a higher level of corporate performance in terms of responsibility because it’s almost certain now that if you step out of line, somebody’s going to know about it. And that may have been the ,case ten years ago as well. But somebody is going to know about it now. That someone is going to make sure that another 50 million people know about it. So just the prospect that inappropriate actions whether they be personal or corporate are going to be known and may have a tendency to encourage better behavior. I think it also does a much it gives organizations an opportunity to do a much better job of communications. We can pretty well target now our audiences our markets and we now have the tools to be able to go directly to them. And directly to them almost effectively as major media can. Do our stuff on UTube As well. We can do our blogs as well and with the ease of digitalization produces in producing communications media through our own newspapers we can do our own talk show. The flexibility and freedom that the new technology is giving public relations practitioners and communicators in general to reach both mass audiences. Very, very specific audiences it’s a wonderful opportunity. I repeat basically what’s changing is the distribution method not the principles in my opinion.