Long before the thought of being a public relations pro entered my mind, I had one dream: To work in television and radio. When I started as a member of the media, the landscape was very different. The internet was fairly new. Smartphones? Not very smart. You were lucky enough to not have a call drop. Pagers were still the rage and you could get news and sports updates on them, just not very quickly.
What hasn’t changed, though, are the traits that (still) make a good reporter, producer, and anchor. Trust, reliability, tenacity, and focus. These same traits can be seen in the best PR and marketing pros and social media community managers.
The great thing about having started my career in radio and television is that it set me up for success in PR. I truly believe I would not be where I am today without those experiences. There were three stories that really helped shape my then-future PR career.
“How about we start over?”– I was lucky enough to do field producing during my time in Philadelphia, especially when it came to hockey. I love the sport, so walking into the Philadelphia Flyers locker room was always a thrill and honor. Eric Lindros was one of the top players in the NHL and I interviewed him many times. One afternoon after practice, I was asking him some questions and we both stumbled through a few questions and answers. He politely stopped me, laughed, and said, “How about we start over from the beginning. We both aren’t having a good day!” The overarching thing this taught me was that we aren’t always on our game… and that’s ok. Show people that you are putting forth a honest effort and they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Breaking News- When you work in the media, you need to be prepared for everything. During my time at Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio, it was integral to be ready at a moments notice. When the first missile was fired into Iraq in March of 2003, we had to switch our focus from the regular news of the day, within seconds. You always need to be ready for anything. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. This is true in today’s PR and social media world. Don’t have a plan for your social media launch? Odds are it won’t be successful.
First and wrong, last and right- I’ve lived by these words for a long time. Princess Diana died a few hours after I left my shift in Philadelphia with “MSNBC on the Internet.” However, the news was still trickling out that she was only badly injured in a car accident. Since we were a newer operation, I decided to go back into the office and update our web story. I was there for a few hours and there were unconfirmed reports that Diana had died. We could have run with that, but I didn’t want to see our new operation be caught in a credibility trap. Finally (and regretfully), NBC News confirmed that Princess Diana had died. I had gathered all the details from what we knew and confirmed, then published our story to the Philadelphia page. At the end of the day, if Diana had lived and we posted she was dead, it would have looked bad for us and our station. There is nothing more important that being accurate, especially in PR.
When I finally made the transition from television and radio into public relations, I felt that I was well-prepared for anything. Planning, focus, accuracy, and calm; these are all things that PR pros must have to be great at what we do. And if it wasn’t for working in the media, I know that I wouldn’t have the perspective that I do today.