Co-Founder, Managing Partner and Head of DEI practice at Rally Point Public Relations, Dorian Langlais is marking nine years of success at the PR agency. The journalist-turned-founder appreciates the creative edge the industry offers and he often finds inspiration from leaders of hip-hop music or even tech.
Langlais, a former TV producer, has a keen eye for great stories and what it takes to forge meaningful relationships with journalists to make an impact. However, he also recognizes the changing media landscape with emerging tools and evolving information consumption habits. It’s part of the communications challenge that keeps him up at night.
We caught up with Langlais to get his thoughts on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
Langlais: PR is a highly creative industry. So, just like my former career as a TV news producer, while I like to think about what’s happening within the industry, I look for inspiration outside of it as much – if not – more. One of my favorite podcasts is Trapital hosted by Dan Runcie, which melds my love of hip-hop music around interviews with leaders in tech and media. Kori Hale curates (and writes for) an excellent site she founded called CultureBanx, and a recent newsletter led with an article “Why Brands Should Culturally Connect With Digital Black Natives” which is compelling for our growing DEI practice. For balance, I’m reading Justin Tinsley’s It Was All a Dream, the biography of Notorious B.I.G.alongside the recent Fed Minutes.
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
Twitter is by far the most regular and useful tool for me. I don’t tweet a lot, but as a former journalist, it is the playground for discovering new people, new ideas and new stories. Like most social media, I proceed with caution and practice due diligence, but overwhelmingly tweets of those I follow and respect in and outside our industry have sparked my interest in new books, discovering new and emerging voices especially on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion, and overall helped me do my job better.
What excites you most about the future of communications?
I grew up in the era of traditional media – TV, radio and print editions of newspapers and magazines, so the pace of technology and how it’s changing how we communicate is fascinating. When I entered my freshman year at USC, the shift to digital was just beginning. There was no Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook. We’re in the midst of the next great evolution of how information is created and delivered.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
I’m a former journalist and while I wear a PR hat now, my heart is that of a storyteller; my thoughts are of a storyteller. I work with a number of great journalists at reputable media outlets, and I am concerned about the lack of investment for great storytelling. The hectic nature of media is what it is, but it’s an institution, like others in our country, that needs to be nurtured and invested in. While we’ve seen an explosion of more content, the trend is toward quantity over quality. This isn’t the journalists’ fault. Our culture has dictated news consumption to be quick bites. Journalists are asked to do more in a shorter time. And for public relations, that can bring frustration. Thinking of journalists as humans and professionals just like us who need resources and support to do their job better – and not simply a means to an end – is how we lead our practice.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Fortunately – and unfortunately – overcoming inherent bias was the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome and it hit early in my career. In my twenties, I had an entry-level freelance job to which I gave my all. The prize at the end was a staff position so I learned everything I could about my responsibility and made sure I was efficient and proactive. I even volunteered to come in for several hours each week on my own time to watch those who sat in seats I aspired to sit in. Despite the praise and recognition for my hard work and sacrifice, I was passed over for the staff position while several white colleagues earned those spots. While I didn’t begrudge those colleagues, I knew the skill, effort and creativity I brought to the table were superior. So, what was the noticeable difference beyond that? I was Black and my colleagues were all white. And for the first time in my life, I felt systemic racism impact my life – it was a gut punch. While it didn’t knock me down, it taught me perseverance and how to fight for myself and what I deserved. Thanks to a group of colleagues who recognized this injustice and executives, a position was created for me to become a staff employee and build upon the foundation I was already laying.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I’d love to say there was one singular piece of advice that has been imprinted into my mind, but for me, it’s always been experiential. While my mom and dad were always guiding me (alongside my grandmother), it was the way I was exposed to places, people and things that provided the vision for how I wanted to craft my career. In fact, it was a visit to the ABC “World News Tonight” set with Peter Jennings which solidified my love for storytelling when I was seven years old. Beyond that, the ability to – and power in – be able to understand others continues to pay dividends.