Prior to my 15 years in the world of public relations, I was a journalist/editor for eight years at many Bay Area tech publications. I started at Multimedia World (a sister publication to PC World), was one of the founding editors of Maximum PC Magazine, then graduated to ZDNet, which became CNET Networks. When the dotcom bust hit in 1995, it not only wiped out a slew of up-and-coming internet technology companies (remember Webvan.com and Pets.com?), but the downturn in subsequent advertising took a lot of technology journalism jobs along with it (including mine).
I freelanced for a few publications for a few months, but the gigs weren’t paying the bills. I thought long and hard about other careers I could dovetail into where I wouldn’t have to start at the ground floor and work my way up again; A career where I could still use my skills as a journalist. And then it occurred to me… What about PR? I had worked with PR professionals through my entire journalism career and many of them made it sound like their job was fun. When I joined Stanton, I found other team members had made the same transition. 15 years (and over 75+ clients later), I’m happy to say that I’m still sharing/applying my journalism expertise with clients… And delivering impressive results!
Here are a few advantages of bringing former journalists to your PR team.
We Know How to Tell a Story
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who don’t appreciate the need to connect their business with what is in the news or the needs of the readers and viewers they are reaching. There are many ways to do this, from a story that tapped into current events, to a technology that leapfrogs solutions currently on the market. The point is the client’s story must be unique and/or differentiated enough to engage the interest of a reporter. “Me too” stories just don’t fly, and a journalist on your PR team can help identify what the most major newsworthiness elements are in your client’s story.
We Know How the Media Think
Former journalists turned PR practitioners understand and can think like a reporter. Due to reduced journalism jobs, we know they’re forced to do more with less and thus know their time is short. They know from experience if a story pitch is lacking in newsworthiness, and they understand the value of developing positive relationships with reporters and ensuring there’s mutual respect. Former journalists should be able to write tight, understandable pitches and then know which reporters would be most interested in the story they’re trying to tell.
We are Avid News Readers
I spend at least an hour and a half of my day reading news sites. Not only to keep myself informed as to what’s happening in the world, but also to understand how world events could impact or present opportunities for my clients. With this knowledge I’m able to quickly synthesize how my clients could potentially jump into a breaking news story. And the clients that I work with appreciate the proactivity when I send them stories that I think could pertain to them.
We Aren’t Afraid to Challenge Clients
Because former journalists don’t want to be called onto the carpet by their former peers, they will challenge clients pushing weak stories to get to a stronger pitch that will result in a published feature with high engagement.
Former reporters also understand how to deal with breaking news situations, so we know how to prioritize our time, are driven by deadlines, and hold strong work ethics. And, of course, we know how to write, which means less time editing/rewriting, and a happier client.
By: Rick Popko, Senior Account Director