Joshua Cook has spent over 20 years in media and public relations, tackling growing markets and feeling the pulse of industries across the state. His current role is Director of Public Relations for Ghidotti Communications, an Arkansas-based public relations and content marketing agency.
AMP: Tell us more about you.
Cook: I grew up in Eastern Kentucky and have lived/worked in New York City, Tokyo and Austin, along with brief stints hiking along the Appalachian Trail and backpacking around the world. I recently celebrated four years since moving to Little Rock, my wife’s hometown. In many ways, it’s been more like coming home than anywhere else I’ve traveled. My wife and I also have three incredible little boys, ages 8 and under, who keep us very much on our toes.
AMP: How did you get into public relations work?
Cook: I began my career in the newsroom. I moved to New York a week after graduating from college, for an entry-level position with CBS Network Radio News, in 2000. After 15 months, I advanced to become the youngest full-time newswriter on staff producing and editing national and international breaking news for a weekly audience of 26 million listeners. In all, I spent 10 years with CBS News, but came to a point where I realized I wasn’t continually growing my skill set. I also wanted to return to the South to explore other opportunities, but I wanted to be thoughtful about that transition. Integrity and professionalism are priorities in both my personal and professional life, and I wanted to be sure that any future opportunity aligned with those values.
My first role in public relations was at The University of Texas at Austin, in the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. It was a whirlwind transition, but another former journalist recognized my experience and potential in the field and immediately brought me on board. Even with my newsroom experience, there was a lot more to learn about working in public relations, and I like to think of my experience at the university as my very practical master’s degree in the field. After that, I transitioned to a Director of Public Relations role with a geopolitical analysis and forecasting firm in Austin that had global media reach, but, with a growing family, decided to look more closely at Little Rock. An out-of-the-blue call to get advice about public relations opportunities in the market turned into an interview and invitation to join the Ghidotti team here in Arkansas.
AMP: What is unique about the PR and marketing industry inArkansas?
Cook: Excellent work stands out and sets you apart. That’s especially true about the communications field here in Arkansas. The state has several growing markets, but savvy leaders can still keep their pulse on what’s happening across industries and across the region. That’s where reputations matter. Those of us in the communications field have a responsibility to consistently deliver quality results with integrity and professionalism if we wish to continue growing. Arkansas also offers opportunities for a mix of both traditional and more modern communications strategies to best serve the state’s diverse businesses. That also makes it a great place to work and expand the field.
AMP: What are some challenges you face in the public relations and marketing industry?
Cook: This is certainly an evolving field. In many organizations, the lines between public relations and marketing have significantly blurred over the past few decades, thanks in large part to the transition to online/digital communications and advertising. It is important that communicators continue to focus on their strengths, as they adopt new tactics or skills and implement new strategies. One of the strengths of public relations has always been storytelling and – as much change as we experience with technology, new platforms and how consumers engage with information – nothing communicates value better than a good story. As professionals, we must never lose sight of that.
We also must continually adapt to changes impacting the news media industry. Arkansans have benefitted from a strong and diverse local media landscape, but that industry overall faces challenges with consolidation and competition for ad revenue. We always need to explore new ways to work with one another to serve our clients and communities better while also expanding services. The growing value of content marketing services is a good example of that. A good story goes a long way.
AMP: What is a piece of advice that you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself about the marketing and public relations industry?
Cook: I was fortunate to receive some good advice from other journalists who made the transition to public relations and marketing before me, and I have since been fortunate to share that advice with others interested in making the same transition: Your newsroom and storytelling skills are incredibly valuable, and they will set you apart, but they’re only one piece of the job. You will have a lot to learn in this field, and that never goes away. That’s part of what I love about it. Public relations and marketing offer so much room to learn and grow, and eventually begin to shape how the industry as a whole moves forward, regardless of where you are.
AMP: What is one thing you’ve learned throughout your career?
Cook: One of the things I’ve learned throughout my career is the importance of surrounding yourself with good people and good leaders who share your values. I’ve certainly been blessed throughout my career to work with people I respect more and more each day. That includes both my communications colleagues and my clients. I realize this applies to all fields, but it really cannot be understated. My respect for those I work with and alongside motivates me to work harder to deliver results for them each and every day. I recognized that from the beginning of my career, observing different leadership styles in the newsroom, and it remains an underlying truth today.