Interview - James L. Horton

Interview: James L. Horton, Director, Online-PR: 3rd February 2004

What's your background?

Overeducated and underemployed. I have three Masters degrees in English Literature, Journalism and Business. I worked briefly in news then made my way into PR. I started as a documentary film director and officer in the US Army during the Vietnam period.

How did you get your break?

An agency in Chicago thought I knew about financial matters because I ghosted a story for them on bank loans. In fact, I knew nothing. I was put into the investor relations division and was personally humiliated that I knew so little. I got my MBA at night to make up for my lack of understanding.

What makes a great PR man? (or person)

I don't know. Some are great salespersons for ideas. Some are good at understanding issues in depth. Some are outstanding strategists.

What give you the edge?

I don't know that I have an edge, but I am known for being able to digest complex issues and ideas and to simplify them.

What are your main products and services? (aka "solutions")

We do corporate communications, but I also have a long technology background.

How has the internet changed the PR business, and the communication sector in general?

It has changed the business profoundly. We don't do anything now without the Internet in the back of our minds or in the forefront of research and media planning. The Internet is at the core of the media business -- at least in the US.

Why is journalism a good background for public relations executives?

People learn to ask questions, get facts accurately and write well.

What % of American newspapers are PR, as opposed to hard hitting news?

Don't know the answer to this. PR helps in hard-hitting news as well. Reporters need answers and PR practitioners get them.

Why does the media need PR consultants?

To cut through bureaucracy and get the facts a reporter needs and to point the reporter to stories that he or she might have missed.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

I'm not sure that I have a highlight reel. I've done some fun things and not so enjoyable tasks. I like the business.

What mentors did you have?

One of the finest was a gentleman by the name of Phil Dorf who is dead now. He was a former newsman, a longtime PR pro and a stickler for getting the facts right no matter what it took. Working with Phil could be exasperating but it was thrilling too. I loved him dearly.

Given the nature of the business, how do you manage work VS recreational and non business?

This is not a problem.

What motivates you?

I like what I do.

What plans, if any, do you have for Australia?

Regrettably, I haven't been to Australia since I spent a couple of months there in the early 1970s with the Australian Army as a visitor. I was at Canungra then in Northern Queensland in a hot, dry-as-dust training area with scorpions. (One ran from under my boot.) As I recall, the temperature was about 115 F and we were climbing loose shale hills. One step, slide. Another step, slide. Still, it was wonderful. After that, we spent time in a whirlwind visit to Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. We took back roads some of the time and drove the dirt. We drove through the Snowy Mountain district as well but the water levels were way down. I'd love to come back someday.

What do you do to relax?

Woodworking, lawn care, house repair, web updating, blog, playing flute with daughter. Not sure of this order.

I hope this helps.

Editors note: James Horton knows PR. If your looking for the right man for the job, James Horton might be just the person you need to make contact with. PS: If you, the reader, are based in Australia, contact me first : )


James L. Horton
49 Collinwood Road
Maplewood, NJ 07040


Online PR

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