Krumm: PR Stands for Personal Relationships

Joe Krumm, who died this week, left a long legacy of people-centered public relations that emphasized personal relationships rather than spin.

Joe Krumm, who died this week, left a long legacy of people-centered public relations that emphasized personal relationships rather than spin.

PR should mean more than public relations, according to Joe Krumm. It also should stand for personal relationships. His career as the long-time and much revered director of community and government relations for the North Clackamas School District proved the wisdom of that advice.

Krumm died this week after collapsing following a music performance as a drummer at the Ash Street Saloon in Portland. He was 61 and had a history of heart disease.

Krumm's popularity directly reflects his people-centered approach to PR. “Ultimately, you have to get two-way conversations started to understand people’s real concerns,” Krumm said. “You need to ask, ‘How can we serve you better?”

His notion of PR extended beyond conversations into true engagement. Krumm was instrumental in recruiting senior citizens at Willamette View Manor to become tutors for students struggling with math and reading. He organized community focus groups, including an ongoing listening session with Hispanic parents. He prodded district officials to oblige their request for more textbooks in Spanish and at least one person in each school who spoke Spanish.

Krumm was a big believer in getting people into schools so they could see learning in progress. He also believed in the importance of targeting specific audiences with customized outreach, such as a Living History Day that attracted more than 800 veterans to Milwaukie High School.

Community connections, Krumm insisted, were critical to student success and District success at the ballot box. His outward-extending communications received credit for the passage of two large bond measures to keep pace with student enrollment growth in the North Clackamas School District. Parental approval ratings also rose and results from frequent public opinion polling allowed the District to win multiple grants.

Making PR all about personal relationships implies sustained conversation and engagement. You can’t build a relationship with a flashy one-off event. Building relationships takes time, but pays much richer dividends than slick PR campaigns that shout rather than listen.

Krumm's mastery of Personal Relationship communications should be an example for all PR professionals who need to win confidence and get things done. He had an upbeat, let’s-do-it attitude, he was generous with his time and advice and he knew how to have fun – all traits that make people want to relate to you.

Joe will be missed by his family, friends and colleagues. But he would be honored by following his PR footsteps. “He was determined to make public relations a valid, no-spin approach to getting information to people who were interested in schools,” said Rep. Lew Frederick of Krumm. “He really held that community together in ways that are going to be difficult to replicate."