All Things Pearl: Julie Gustafson,
PDBA Executive Director

Julie offers a crash course on community relations after explaining the Pearl Business Awards and The Pearl magazine.


Julie Gustafson, Executive Director of the Pearl District Business Association (PDBA), stops by Veracity for a podcast interview right in time for the Pearl Business Awards’ nomination deadline, which is this Friday. The fourth annual Pearl Business Awards feature 15 categories that recognize individuals and businesses that are making a difference within Portland’s flourishing Pearl District. While the PDBA is a membership-based organization, you do not have to be a member to be recognized but you do have to be based in the Pearl. Any PR person can nominate any business or person for free.

Sidenote: If you are interested in examining the benefits (or hindrances) of putting an awards strategy together for your company or clients, please join me at Pregame this Wednesday in the Pearl (of course) at 11 a.m. I have two slots available to non-Pregame members. Email me at [email protected] to get on the list.

The Pearl Magazine

Beyond the upcoming awards, Julie and I talk about other PR opportunities that the PDBA brings, including The Pearl magazine, which is produced quarterly by SagaCity Media. Julie has her finger on the pulse of the Pearl bringing story ideas to the SagaCity team. The team then infuses trends and newsworthy happenings into the ideas to bring an editorial slant to articles that mostly highlight PDBA members.

Always on the hunt for a good story, Julie keeps tabs on the community by constantly walking around the Pearl and connecting with community members. She’ll even prod her membership for story ideas — mentioning that she’d like members to connect with her if they’ll be hosting a charity drive for the holidays so that she can highlight it in the next issue. She encourages members to reach out to her with story ideas 3-6 months out to keep up with The Pearl’s quarterly production.

The Pearl gets around. Not only can it be found in almost every hotel in the city, it chills at the airport, the convention center, and more. It’s also mailed to Portland Monthly subscribers.


PR Opportunities Abound

Other PDBA PR opportunities include two monthly newsletters: one that’s delivered to members only and one that’s meant for the public (also produced by SagaCity). Since these are produced monthly we can breathe a little easier with shorter lead times.

Members and Pearl happenings are also highlighted online at in an engaging story-telling way. Business listings featuring each member’s profile — including that oh-so-important link back to the business’s website — are also included here. Businesses can even update their profile content as they see fit, for instance adding their upcoming First Thursday events.


Community Relations versus Public Relations

What’s the difference between Public Relations and Community Relations? Julie’s past experience as Community Relations Manager for the Portland Streetcar highly qualifies her to dig into this conundrum with me. As we do so, we learn a little bit about the Streetcar’s fascinating history in Portland and what a community relations manager’s role might be in getting the word out about things like service interruptions and new offerings. She even expands upon what it was like to knock on the doors of local businesses that would be affected by construction surrounding the expansion of the line.

About the guest: Julie Gustafson

Julie Gustafson is the Executive Director of the Pearl District Business Association which produces The Pearl Magazine.

Connect and follow Julie and the Pearl District Business Association on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

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Amy Rosenberg
Founder and President at Veracity
Writer. Podcaster. Press Friend. Hand Holder.