SAN FRANCISCO – This time a year ago, I had just finished up my first couple of months in PR after a long career in journalism – a somewhat head-spinning move into writing, editing and strategizing for corporate clients.
This after years of bashing away at a keyboard seven days a week figuring out how to make sense of what’s going on in the world for a very middle American audience at USA TODAY.
I was sure enough about the move to make it: Kelly Boynton here at Access had become a friend, and through my trust and respect for her I got to know others at the agency – all of whom seemed smart, kind, and dedicated.
One of the things that drew me in was how long so many of the senior team had been with the company. I was about to leave my family – Gannett (25+ years) and USA TODAY (14+ years). For all of the turmoil in mainstream media, my colleagues were my brothers and sisters – people I would run into a fire with (or cover a major tech meltdown with). I wasn’t certain that my first move out of journalism would have me finding my new “forever” home, but I sure hoped so. Family is important.
Now I am a year in – with, frankly, too many thoughts about the transition to sort it all out on my own. So I decided to crowdsource a few questions from my terrific young colleagues here at the agency and from my journo and PR friends on Facebook.
Herewith, for the PR-curious in the journalism community, and for anyone interested in the shifting media landscape, is a q-and-a with myself, courtesy of a few folks I know and love:
Do you regret it? Nope! I still do so much of what I love. I am writing and editing and analyzing trends. In a weird way, I am even closer to the source material about how our world is taking shape. I talk to executives every week who are making big bets on where things are headed. What I would have given for this kind of access as a journalist.
Would you go back? Yes! Who’s hiring? Kidding.
Journalism is and ever will be my first love. I left because I, personally, could no longer tolerate the uncertainty of buyouts, layoffs and the overall burn process happening at big outlets that is absolutely essential as news organizations grapple with the huge question of how to make money. I’m in charge of my own future now in a way that no one in news really is these days.
But I believe very deeply in the future of journalism – it is timeless and vital. Anyone remember that pay TV series Rome, with the fellow standing up in the middle of the town square shouting out the news? Journo.
So, what exactly do you do? Umm….lots of stuff. I work with executives to help them turn their expertise and insights into cool stories that other people want to read. My favorite clients understand that it is a collaboration and a partnership. I’ve also done work on internal company messaging materials and help with media training for various executives (I play the journalist!). I’m also involved in a lot of new business presentations – primarily offering a lense into how a company is perceived currently in the media and what its aim could or should be.
Do you see PR people differently now? In the 10 years I’d been in San Francisco editing USA TODAY’s tech coverage I came to know many folks in the tech PR community. I don’t know if it’s different from the PR-journo relationship in other industries/sectors but in my experience there was a lot of respect on both sides.
Do your reporter acquaintances treat you differently now? Sometimes I feel like Carrie Mathison: No longer in the CIA but always in the CIA. I’m sure some people do but not the folks who know me well.
What if there were no ‘dark side’? I loved the comment from a Facebook friend who asked that rather than create a perception of opposition, what if we were all on the same side of authentic and truthful editorial. I couldn’t agree more.
Is your schedule more defined and more definable, so that, start to finish in given workday, it’s more A to B than A to Who Knows? Definitely. There are still plenty of very long days and sometime weekend work, but I no longer leap out of bed in the morning as if the world is on fire every single day. And I can, mostly, go to sleep without worrying about what I am missing.
What habits have been hardest to break? This is silly, but I still want to put a SAN FRANCISCO dateline on everything I write. For some reason it helps clear the cobwebs. And of course it’s impossible not to immediately shift into “interview” mode when I’m at any tech-ish gathering whatsoever.