By Mareesa Valentine
Last week, a colleague and I attended the Bateman Group Penthouse Series titled, “Journalists Turned PR Pros” which was held in San Francisco. The panel discussion featured experts in journalism and public relations such as Michael Kanellos of Eastwick (formerly CNET), Jonathan Thaw of Facebook (formerly Bloomberg), Connie Guglielmo (formerly HP), and Rochelle Garner, a freelance journalist and consultant. Each panelist discussed changes in the media industry, the increasing importance of content in PR, and shared background on what motivated them to cross over to the “dark side”. Check out some highlights that just might make PR professionals think twice before working with a journalist again:
- During the discussion, panelist Connie Guglielmo explained that in her experience, many publicists struggle with knowing the product of their client. “If you’re going to drink the Kool-Aid, you have to like it,” she said. “If I ask a PR person a basic question and they don’t know the answer, I immediately lose interest,” she continued. If a PR professional finds themselves stumped on the phone pitching a reporter, Guglielmo recommends that they get their facts straight, and fast, or else they may end up losing a media opportunity for their client!
- Throughout the event, Guglielmo continued to share extremely powerful statements, including: “If you can’t sell it in a headline, you don’t have a story.” PR professionals often find themselves pitching a journalist through email, so it’s important to remember that the subject line can make or break that journalist’s interest and decide whether they will read the rest of your email. Make sure it stands out!
- Facebook’s Jonathan Thaw was surprised at the differences of storytelling while working at Bloomberg versus a company like Facebook. Journalists are more interested in the behind the scenes of a project, Thaw explained, which can be a struggle for publicists to deliver at times.
- An overall consensus from the panel agreed that when a PR professional hands out their business card to a reporter they should be sure to have all their clients’ names written on it. The last thing a journalist is going to remember is which companies you represent. If you want to build a solid rapport with a journalist, making yourself easily accessible and available is key.
Remember that as a PR professional, you must be able to understand what motivates a journalist, which will enable you to find ways to bridge the gap between the two professions and allow you to deliver the best results for your clients. Prior to attending this event, I was skeptical. I was under the impression that transitioning from a journalist role into a PR professional would be difficult, but after hearing the dialogue during the panel I’m convinced that, through a level of understanding and expertise, there doesn’t need to be a “dark” side.