3 PR Lessons Learned From A Former TV Reporter

Making the Switch From TV News to Public Relations

More than one year has passed since I transitioned from TV news to the world of public relations in March. No cake. No fancy dinner. The only reminder is from my Facebook post last year announcing that I was getting out of the business after nearly 7 years. I didn’t have time to mark the occasion – I was too busy opening a luxury hotel, booking technology trade show briefings and securing media interest for professional coaching. In other words, I was immersed in my new career and loving every minute of it.

Six months later I’m finally able to reflect on the past year of switching careers and transitioning into a different style of communications. Here are three ways that both journalism and public relations—two industries that might seem at odds—are similar.

[bctt tweet=”What Journalism and Public Relations Have In Common” username=”stantoncomm”]

The Art of the Pitch

As a TV news reporter, I pitched stories daily and hoped that my news director would bite on something I spent hours searching for, whether it was combing small town newspapers, scrubbing social media or working my own sources to uncover hidden gems. I learned how to craft my pitch to make it both appealing and newsworthy.

In public relations, pitching is an essential skill to master. After all, it’s the reporters and editors that are the gatekeepers to what gets covered. After attending an all-day media relations seminar (shout out to pitching guru Michael Smart), I learned the value of targeting the right reporters and personalizing my pitches. Reporters can spot a copy-and-paste job a mile away.

Building Relationships

The best stories come from people within an organization close to the know, not the municipal public information officers sending out daily and weekly press releases. As a reporter, those sources didn’t just come to me – I had to cultivate relationships and earn their trust.

The same goes with public relations. The odds of landing a story in a top tier outlet—let alone any publication—are low when sending out a pitch blindly (unless you work for a household name brand). I’ve seen firsthand the value of making a proper introduction to journalists, which includes letting them know that I read their latest article. Only then did I pitch them on my client. Do it well, and a PR pro can become a well-trusted source for a variety of reporters who come to you in their time of need, a.k.a. a slow news day.

[bctt tweet=”The Art of the Pitch, Building Relationships and Having a Plan B, C & D: How Journalism and Public Relations Are Similar. ” username=”StantonComm”]

Always have a Plan B. And C. And maybe D.

I can’t tell you how many times in the news room a story fell through, whether it was because the key interview backed out at the last minute or the assignment desk re-routed me halfway across the city for breaking news. A trait of a good reporter is knowing how to roll with the punches and come up with creative solutions when you’re up against a daily deadline.

In public relations, there are a lot of factors out of your control, such as a celebrity pulling out of an event at the last minute of a key promotion or an organization finding itself in hot water from a faux pas magnified by social media and the 24/7 news cycle. One does not bury their head in the sand and pretend that everything will magically get better. It’s important to keep your head on a swivel, roll up your sleeves and work with your team and client to figure out the appropriate course of action.

A Bright Look Ahead

I had a great seven-year run as a TV news reporter in small towns and big cities, where I went the extra mile to create captivating stories with compelling characters, in addition to holding the powerful accountable while giving a voice to the powerless. A variety of factors led to my jump to “the dark side.” I’ve come to find out, however, that the light is much brighter over here, in terms of morale, attitude and an encouraging company culture. Here’s to another year of working collectively and creatively with my colleagues to help our clients achieve their goals.


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