I used to hate PR (public relations) people when I worked on the newspaper. And really, I still kinda cringe when someone calls me a PR professional.
“I’m in media relations,” I always correct them.
I don’t spin. I don’t twist. I just educate the public the best I can for a company. Would I love to pound the pavement again as a journalist seeking the truth, living the edgy life? Yea, I dream about it. I’m not gonna lie.
BUT … I will say that I’ve learned several lessons on my road from reporter to “media relations.” And if I ever make it back, I’ll definitely apply them!
So, here are my top five takeaways I’d like to share—whether you’re a writer, reporter, or PR hack:
1) Not all journalists are honest, or accurate.
Trust me, this was a HUGE surprise to me. And quite honestly … a blow. My job on the newspaper was my first out of college, and I truly believed that every journalist was ethical—like me. But after working on the PR side, I realized that some reporters don’t care about the truth; they only care about their angle. Whether from laziness or an agenda, I’ve witnessed journalists report blatantly false information. Lesson? Don’t believe everything you read, always research the facts yourself, and treat ethical journalists like royalty.
2) Understanding media strategy or content marketing can HELP writers or reporters, not hurt them.
Not to brag, but I believe I’m the perfect example of this. As a reporter, I’d slap you if you mentioned the word “blog” to me. However, after entering the world of media strategy, I started this blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Now, I have a readership … and I haven’t even published a book yet! Lesson? Any reporter who can build an ENGAGED following will more efficiently distribute the news … so don’t run from the concept of content marketing.
3) Multi-media and diverse writing is now a requirement, for anything.
I left journalism right as the newspapers began to collapse in December 2007. I began my new job in PR at the start of 2008, allowing me to witness the media world’s transition from the outside. I used this time to develop my skills in writing for the Web, social media, blogs, magazines, newspapers, e-newsletters, business, and to persuade. No longer can I find a writing job that merely asks for experience in print. Lesson? The more you understand multi-media–as well as writing for different audiences—the better chance you have of landing a job!
4) Learning to pitch well isn’t only for PR people. Freelance journalists need it for editors, and writers need it for literary agents.
I’ve been able to help creative writer friends perfect their query letters to literary agents. And I’ve advised journalists on pitching a solid story to a magazine editor (and landed freelance gigs myself). Why? Because I’ve become an expert in pitching. Understanding “the tease” has become a vital skill in anything media-related today. Lesson? Don’t think of pitching as selling out; instead, embrace what you can learn, and use it to your advantage!
5) The basics ALWAYS apply.
Bottom line, I still attribute information to its sources, even when writing for a company. My leads are always 30 words or less. And I always keep my readers in mind; the goal is still to inform them, regardless of the outlet. Lesson? The basics are taught for a reason. THEY WORK. So … never forget them.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you agree with my observations? Have you witnessed something contrary, or additional? Discuss …
C’mon, you MUST be thinking something.