Hi, I'm Margie Newman. I blog about public relations, social media, careers, productivity and geek stuff.

Four tips for journalists crossing-over into PR

Hello there, talented journalist!

I’m often approached by print and broadcast reporters and editors like you for tips on transitioning into a career in public relations. After years—even decades—of researching, reporting, investigating and doing your best to file balanced, accurate and timely stories, you’re contemplating making the move to the dark side.

Congrats! You’re really going to love it over here. That is, unless you take a job you have enough years, but not the experience for; assume you are still going to see your name in the paper; or negotiate a salary that does not take into account the overtime you’re about to give up. Yikes!

Never fear, I’m happy to help. Here are the pitfalls and pick-me-ups you’ll need to remember in order to rock out your new career:

Your decade of newsroom experience does not equal a decade of communications management experience.

Public relations isn’t rocket science, but it is a learned skill set. Just like “talking to reporters” everyday doesn’t make me a great journalist, “talking to PR people” doesn’t translate into mastery of project management, strategy and proposal memos, event planning, running a client’s budget, dealing with corporate bureaucracy and crafting and implementing a media relations campaign.

If you walk into a room of experienced PR folks and declare that although you’ve never done their job, you’re awesome at it, they will turn on you so fast it will make your head spin. And you need those flacks because you’ve never done this before…

Accept that you don’t know what you don’t know—then, seek out an employer who understands that.

Take a job at a public relations or public affairs firm that understands that although you come with a highly-valuable skill set, you must be trained in—and given time to learn—the actual craft of public relations.

I strongly encourage you to NOT make your first communications gig a “Communications Director” for a company, or any place that expects you to be a one-woman show. Read More…

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FlackRabbit guest posts wanted!

A couple months back, I called for guests posts offering up your take on PR, social media and communications; I received a delightful response and I’d like to do it again. This time, I’m looking for submissions on four topics:

The importance of internal communications

How a mentor has shaped your career

The trials of being someone’s “replacement” at a new gig

What’s next in journalism

I’m interested in thoughtful posts that are no more than 400 words; please include a short bio, too. You may email your submission to margie (at) flackrabbit (dot) com. All opinions are welcome–even by folks who already have their own blogs.

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I just paid $60 for journalism

Nothing makes you appreciate something more than having it taken away.

I’ve been in D.C. for a year now, but Tennessee is still home. Every morning, I still scan my Google Reader for TN political news, Nashville happenings and what my former clients are up to. Over this past year, I subscribed to just about every major political blog in the state, but I truly relied on SouthComm’s A.C. Kleinheider.

Not only could I spell his name without looking it up, I trusted he’d serve up the odd, timely and important things I actually needed to know–24-7. I’d wake up on Sunday morning to at least ten new posts of political whatnot that had come to light in the middle of the night. It was magical.

But then, SouthComm sACKed him. (Don’t even get me started on what a strategically poor idea that was.) His former site, Nashville’s Post Politics,  is still up and doing fine, but the person I assumed would always be there to keep me up-to-speed is “taking a break” and I’m left desperately trying to fill my TN politics/odd stuff void.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been speed-dating with various blogs. I’m getting by. But am all scared to get attached to these folks again.

What if they go away?

To prevent this informational tragedy, I’ve decided I’m going to start doing my small part to be sure the people I rely on to get my news stay employed. Read More…

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Maura Casey: write with a purpose, think like an editor

{Today’s guest post comes from former New York Times editorial page staffer Maura Casey. She’s sharing tricks of the op-ed writing trade, folks. Pay attention!}

The rise of the Internet and the struggles of print journalism in recent years have made opinion – your opinion – more valuable than ever. Some of the most influential websites such as Slate and the Huffington Post rely heavily on opinion for their broad appeal.  And newspapers, seeking to cut budgets wherever they can, have stopped publishing many syndicated columnists.

Yet newspapers have to fill those pages with some form of commentary. Therein lies the opportunity. You  don’t have to be George Will or Maureen Dowd to get published. Just don’t expect to get paid, since most newspapers pay little or nothing, And remember,  whether your target is my former employer, The New York Times, or the Laramie Boomerang,  you still have to say something interesting. So here are a few pointers to get your pearls in print: Read More…

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NYT wants to charge me for online content. Cool.

The Gray Lady wants to charge folks to partake of her online work; you know, because she likes having a staff, a budget and paying rent.

We live in a world that loves now and expects free.  I admit to fueling that fire, but we get what we pay for. I’m tired of shoddy reporting–I’ll not call it journalism. It’s not that reporters want to write poorly or get stuff wrong–no one enjoys being factually incorrect. It’s that there are like three people left in America’s collective newsrooms. With one part-time copy editor.

A newspaper can’t do amazing stuff like this, or make folks cry like this, without experienced journalists and a budget.

For some reason, we want to be paid for our own talents and services, but can’t seem to wrap our heads around why newspapers would require–or even desire–compensation. It blows my mind.

So, newspapers of the world: charge me. I’ll pay it in a heartbeat if it helps reinstate a well-stocked newsroom, thoughtful editorials, heart-pounding investigative work and a fact-checker or two. I admire The New York Time‘s move and hope other papers follow suit posthaste.

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Stop. It.

I’ve subscribed to the Bad Pitch Blog and the like for years. I even had a (nervous) laugh when the flack spammer wiki came out. I read these online offerings because they teach sound lessons on what not to do, BUT this is just public humiliation for humiliation’s sake.  It’s getting old and pissing me off.

Here’s the thing, blog ranters: WE DON’T CARE about how many bad pitches you get a day or how much you hate pr people who suck at their jobs. We really don’t. Why? Because every profession has bad apples. Including journalism. And blogging. But I can think of about 107 things I’d rather/need to be doing than wasting my time ranting about poor journalists/bloggers when there are plenty of great ones out there I need to be getting to know. I guess you ranters just don’t have that much to do?

More importantly, I don’t think that I’m such a flippin big deal that people who aren’t good at their jobs no longer have the right to talk to me. Even if the conversation is irrelevant to my gig.  It’s called a delete button. Push it.

Yes, it’s fun(ny) for journalists/bloggers to hold up a PR flack’s mistake under the fluorescent lamp of the Internet and giggle. Especially at the flacks who lack a lick of common sense, bless ‘em. But if you’re commentary isn’t doling out something constructive for your readers — other than the fact that you hate pr people — please don’t bother. Arrogance is not your color.

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Flack attack

Apparently, I’m supposed to cringe at the word “flack” as used to describe PR professionals like me. But, um, instead I kinda named my website after the term. Sorry!

From the PR News blog:

Technically, most dictionaries will refer to flack as a press agent/spokesperson. But we all know it’s not the preferred name for a spokesperson, for a communicator, for a PR executive. Yet it’s used all the time.  Whether behind your back or to your face…

…it’s a sad story — or a sad state of affairs — any time bona fide PR professionals (and I am assuming the PR dept at AIG is legit) are referred to as “flacks.”

Okay, true. It’s not my preferred name, but the use of the term flack is not the least bit offensive to me. Furthermore, I’ve had many a journalist and PR pro ask me what the word means, as they have never before heard it used to describe a communicator or spokesperson.

Now, I do agree with the blogger on several points. The NY Post was being less than professional and showing complete bias by recently referring to a spokesperson as a “flak.” I would roll my eyes if I was quoted that way, especially if it was spelled incorrectly like that.

But the bottom line is this:

The NY Post’s printed flack attack only speaks to the complete lack of trust the reporter has in that spokesperson. This is not something that can be prevented by one good response to a question. A solid media/flack relationship develops over time and boils down to how much respect you’ve earned (and keep) as a PR professional.

It’s that deteriorated media relationship, not word choice, that is so troublesome.

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