By Ken Williams | Editor
Jean Walcher is not in public relations because she likes people and parties, and she doesn’t pine to work with celebrities. No one would describe her as bubbly or excessively perky, unlike some PR people you meet along the way.
In fact, Walcher calls herself the “anti-publicist” and bristles at Hollywood’s portrayals of PR characters such as Samantha Jones on HBO’s “Sex and the City” or Liz G. of the fictional PR firm PubLizity on Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show.”
Walcher and her agency, J. Walcher Communications, are both based in South Park. Celebrating years in business, the company’s clients run the gamut from United Way of San Diego County and the Hazard Center in Mission Valley to Bazaar del Mundo in Old Town and the International Council on Systems Engineering. To read her full biography, visit jwalcher.com/team/jean-walcher.
Here are five questions with Walcher:
- Why did you choose a career in public relations and who has inspired you in this field?
“I fell into this career completely by accident. My mother is a longtime PR professional with a successful business, and I worked for her while I was going to school. I moved away and worked in New York City for three years, and then to Los Angeles to work in the film business for many years. Ultimately, I came back to San Diego and decided to continue her good work and carry on the name she had cultivated in San Diego. I am the first to admit I rode her coattails …”
- How has PR changed over the past 15 years and how has that affected the way your company does business?
“The PR industry has been completely turned on its head in the digital age, as I’m sure you can imagine. Not only is there whole new practice areas in social media, content development, analytics, and blogger and influencer relationships, but on the flip side, we’ve got diminishing traditional news outlets, which is disappointing on so many levels: 1) traditional print and broadcast news outlets are more fact-based and well-researched, with higher quality journalism; 2) our own PR opportunities are fewer.
“It hasn’t really changed the way we do business, it has changed the skills we need to learn, and keep fresh and relevant. There’s no doubt that it is more challenging for those who weren’t raised in the digital age, but if they learn it, they are even more valuable as they are able to apply more strategic experience and hands-on knowledge to digital and social strategies.”
- What are the most memorable moments for your company, as well as you personally?
“The most memorable experiences, unfortunately, usually come from a crisis that we’re tasked to handle — either with a client or a media outlet. Such a crisis involves much stress, but we also learn from it, and eventually have a sense of humor about it.”
- You consider yourself the “anti-publicist.” What is the stereotype you are out to destroy, and why is that so important to you?
“PR people do have a stereotype, don’t we? I would like to dispel the myth of a PR ‘wrangler’ — someone who’s there to escort a client to parties and pitch fluffy content to media outlets they don’t read. We are marketing specialists; we consider the client, its business model and goals, target audiences, and develop strategies that will help brand them. This could include a combination of traditional media relations, thought leadership, social media, content creation, community relationships and partnerships, paid advertising, marketing and more.”
- You live and work in South Park. Why do you love this neighborhood so much?
“I moved to South Park 18 years ago when the neighborhood was just developing some serious buzz. I love being in an emerging area that blends new and old, with a diversity of people working and living. I haven’t ever lived in a neighborhood where I feel so connected.
“Mostly, I just love to be able to walk to all of my favorite spots on the weekend, not just from home to office when I don’t need a car, but all of my favorite spots: Ginseng Yoga, Rose Wine Bar, Piacero Mio, GFit, the retail stores where I buy books, gifts and clothes — and now Barons!”
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.