I’m joining my former WXRT News colleague, Charlie Meyerson with our first blog brainstorm.
Charlie has graciously agreed to my request about his good, bad and ugly experiences with PR people. I’ve happily obliged his idea to dispel the myths about journalists who switch to public relations. Keep visiting here for this unique online conversation between a veteran journalist and a veteran PR professional.
Often when I meet new clients, someone invariably jokes that when I left journalism for public relations, I entered the “dark side” of communications. Heck, even I feared I’d sell my soul by switching to a PR career after 20 years in broadcast news at WXRT, WBEZ, and WGN radio.
I recalled conversations in the City Hall Press Room, cynically feeding the misconception about PR people with names like: hacks, flaks, spinmeisters, handlers, sellouts and worse. So in my mind, I too feared becoming one of those dark characters lurking behind the curtains when I accepted the Communications Director’s job for Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 1995 re-election campaign.
After 17 years in PR and media relations, I can tell you that dark sinister image is great for TV dramas, but not a reflection of reality. In fact, these real-life nicknames are more fitting monikers: ”Story Assistant,” “Mr. Communicator” and “Message Engineer.” Our role, as PR people is to communicate our clients’ stories and help journalists with story ideas.
We serve as the media’s information providers, schedulers, and fact-checkers. With jobs continuing to decline at newspapers, TV and radio stations, those media reps lucky enough to remain employed need all the help I can possibly give them.
Providing ideas — knowing when and how
Reporters have even greater pressures to feed the beast — the 24-hour news cycle. Without ideas from people like me, they’d have to do more scouting, calling and mining for sources. I routinely get journalists’ request for ideas. In fact, even when I don’t have a client expert, I will go out of my way to find sources to help them out (in journalism as in life, there is value in paying it forward).