Former Journalists are Uncommon, Valuable Assets to PR Firms
At a recent #FridayForum, several managers of the multi-award-winning PR agency Bospar discussed how former journalists provide a distinctive perspective that’s appreciated by tech PR clients.
Bospar’s panelists included: Curtis Sparrer, principal, co-founder and a former broadcast news producer, SocialMedia VP Mega Jewell, previously a broadcast journalist for KPTV Fox 12, Broadcast Strategies SVP Eric Chemi, a former reporter for CNBC and Bloomberg, and Media Relations SVP Brett Larson, who served as a producer and anchor at Fox News.
Wisdom Gleaned from the “Other Side”
The speakers discussed making the transition from media to PR, why they had done so, and resulting benefits for their colleagues and tech PR clients. They explained how they provide Bospar’s clients with key lessons from their media tenures, shedding light on how discerning, pressured and pressed-for-time journalists operate. Knowing the preferences and quirks of reporters and having been exposed to fast-paced newsrooms, they can effectively advise clients on tactics to employ and avoid, and how not to succumb to bad timing or sound tone-deaf.
The Importance of Storytelling
The panelists emphasized the effectiveness of storytelling. Chemi relayed that as a journalist he would sometimes peruse a pitch without realizing how much “heavy lifting” went into good PR and bringing a story to air or print and how PR pros can arm journalists with integral, verifiable data that they don’t have to hunt down for themselves.
“Many companies have great stories,” Chemi elaborated, “but they don’t always realize it! What companies think of as obvious, journalists don’t know. These are insights PR people have, so focus on capturing those stories and telling them in an ideal way.”
Jewell explained that as VP of social media, her approach is to make a story bite-sized, digestible, sensible, and compelling to the audience so that it’s shareable.
“Storytelling is crucial for tech,” explained Sparrer. “Sometimes tech stories come across as dry. Like Mega, I still consider myself media: I always internally channel the weekend assignment editor in Toledo, Ohio, pondering how to make a story interesting when news is slow.”
Relearning the Language
Sparrer shared an anecdote from his early PR days: “I was in a meeting with someone who said, ‘Ours is the only solution that can scale.’ Coming from media, I was confused, and that was a smart thing to share with her. We have to change the vocabulary when addressing reporters. I advise clients about making the shift when speaking with reporters so we don’t use marketing-speak.”
It’s Not About Connections, It’s About the Story
The panelists explained that having been reporters doesn’t mean they’re chummy enough with journalists to guarantee coverage. It is all about the unique story itself rather than who you know, they explained. Journalists have assigned focuses that can often be narrow, and they work at fast paces rather than playing favorites.
Larson shared that clients may deem something worthy of major media when it’s off-base. Rather than being cynical, he goes back to the client and asks: “Is there something more?How is your customer using this product, and how is it helping them? Give me anews angle.”
Supply And Demand
“The client should be willing to supply what journalists require,” said Chemi. “PR pros can help by encouraging the client. If the client refuses to supply that story, it won’t get covered. There’s only so much bandwidth reporters have, and it is important for PR professionals to keep that in mind. Editors weed things out, and PR pros don’t even get to meet those editors. So, if the story’s not crystal clear, it gets lost. You also must provide quotes and data matching the news outlet’s focus to get results.”
Sparrer wrapped up the #FridayForum with advice on why PR agencies and comms professionals should enter competitions. Since its founding, Bospar has earned many impressive awards for its work that have helped the agency grow.