Next year marks 25 years in PR for me. I switched after writing about 2,500 newspaper stories from a whole bunch of different countries, and the transition was pretty bumpy, to put it kindly. I was naïve, arrogant, and full of attitudes that are best left in the newsroom. This series of posts – shared by one of our newest staffers (thanks, Justin) — reminded me about all the stupid mistakes I made, and what has become the core of my philosophy about this business.
The biggest lesson: It’s so much better to be on the inside.
Most reporters still believe that they are discovering the news, even creating it. That happens, once in a while (and lucky for all of us that there’s still editorial budget, for muckraking). But for most stories — the newsroom is the last stop. The PR and messaging meeting is the first.
So a near-lifetime into this gig, here’s my short-list of what it takes to be successful, whether or not you’re leaving a newsroom behind:
- You’re not in charge. You never were, but you thought you were. Now you have to be of service. This often means telling clients no, and helping them see things another way. And then sell them on yours.
- It’s our responsibility to provide smart advice, with as close to a 360-degree perspective as you can muster. No more sitting on the sidelines and passing judgment with text alone.
- We’re in this together. Lone rangers don’t really fit it. If you just want to write and be left alone, be a writer. We need to communicate, which means talking with – not just ‘to’ – the people around us.
- Snarky doesn’t cut it. There are no prizes for cynicism here. It’s not that we don’t see the contradictions, wasteful behavior and sometimes, simply bad decisions around us, but crappy attitudes are infectious in the worst way, and don’t make you any smarter. Or better.
- What our clients do is really hard. Creating new products, creating new markets, and selling things to busy, distracted buyers is tough work – even in the brightest economies, which aren’t likely to show up in the next few quarters. So let’s respect our clients for the tough work they do. And hope they respect us, in turn. Which they will, if we do good work.