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Hack turned flack

Why More Firms Are Hiring Journalists As Content Strategists

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If you read this blog (or any other) regularly, then you’ve almost certainly noticed lots of recent reports that seem designed to create a few new creases in your average journalist’s brow.

Reporting may have scored a small victory in moving from America’s worst job to its second worst job for 2014. But whether it’s a failure of media salaries to keep up with inflation or a study revealing that fewer people now say they want to write news for a living, there’s plenty of evidence that journalism still hasn’t quite decided what it will look like ten years from today.

Firms know this, of course–and they’re responding in turn. For example, in order to address the communications industry’s focus on content, content, content, San Francisco agency Bateman Group recently hired former USA Today tech writer Scott Martin while promoting veteran journalist and content practice leader Elinor Mills to VP of content and media strategy.

We asked Martin and Mills for their thoughts on the state of the media and the hack-turned-flack phenomenon.

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5 Secrets Every PR Pro Should Know About Reporters

old reporter guy

For starters, they don’t all look like this because technicolor is a thing.

In the fabled world of public relations, it amazes — well, really, disheartens — me how few flacks take time to get to know reporters. Forget the national ones who are on everyone’s bucket list. I’m talking the general assignment reporter in their own backyard.

These are the people that can make or break your effectiveness as a PR professional and not once is there an attempt to humanize these folks. I should know. As I have shared a few times in this blog, I’m a proud hack-turned-flack. I have good friends in the media, and I suppose that is why I can understand the jitters when pitching a reporter who answers the phone (intentionally) like a brash horse’s patoot, “NEWS!”

For that, I offer this list for you: 5 secrets every PR pro should know about reporters. Enjoy and share with your team.

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Yahoo Says PR Is Replacing Journalists. Wait, What?

PR + mediaMost journalists are highly skilled at what they do — research, reporting, writing and telling an intriguing story to the public. They represent both sides of a story without bias. They are able to see angles to a story that help educate and inform in a tangible way. Some went to school for journalism. Others went to school for English.

In short, they all know what they are doing and how do it.

So, how strange would it be if PR took over the news world? Very. According to Yahoo! Education, there are five jobs “nearing extinction” due to a combination of outlying reasons and other professions that “will take [their] place.” 

Yep, you guessed it. And you can probably guess how we feel about it too. More after the jump…

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Here’s Your Favorite ‘Hack-to-Flack’ Twitter Wedding Proposal

When we first saw this social media wedding proposal yesterday we thought “that’s too personal to blog”. But then we realized that ABC News tech journalist Joanna Stern tweeted it not only to her now-fiancee Michelle Barna of Deep Focus but also to her 35,000 followers.

It was literally a case of a “hack” proposing to a “flack” over Twitter. Oh, and the flack said yes.

Also: it was far smoother than our own proposal.

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Bob Schieffer on the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Death: ‘There Were No PR People.’

Junior Reporter Bob Schieffer (left) with Russ Bloxom in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newsroom, 1963

Junior Reporter Bob Schieffer (left) with Russ Bloxom in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newsroom, 1963

With sincere apologies to all my journo friends, TV news broadcasting will never be like it was in the heyday of the three national networks, when the family gathered ’round the tube for the nightly news.

Rather. Jennings. Cronkite. Brokaw. Smith. Brinkley. Murrow. 

Those were the biggies, but in my fair burg of North Texas, there is none more regaled and respected than the great Bob Schieffer.

The guy has a school of journalism named in his honor for crying out loud. Simply put, he’s the shizzle in Dallas/Fort Worth. And all year long, he has been in the news for what he experienced 50 years ago — reporting the assassination of John F. Kennedy in his own backyard

In a riveting interview from The Daily Beastthe lovely Eleanor Clift writes about Schieffer’s memories from that fateful day near 50 years ago, November 22, 1963.

Among the gruesome descriptions and hearkening memories, Schieffer says something that should strike all of us flacks to the core. More about that after the jump…

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Public Relations: The Journalist’s New Frontier (Part 1)

Andy CToday we bring you the first post in a two-part story by Orbit Media Studios founder and content marketing specialist Andy Crestodina (find him on Twitter and Google+). 

It’s inevitable. Every time I speak about content marketing around the city of Chicago, I’ll be approached by a journalist-in-transition who was sitting in the audience. With each passing month, they make up a larger percentage of the crowd.

Honestly, it’s a bit sad. These are, after all, people who chose to pursue a career in news, a noble profession that requires long hours and has never paid all that well. But at least until the last decade, it was one that provided some job security.

Not anymore, reports Holly Regan of Software AdviceSince 2000, newsrooms have laid off 25 percent of their workers, and many have closed entirely. Regan cites some depressing numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts a further drop of 6 percent between 2010 and 2020. That actually sounds optimistic.

According to the American Society of News Editors, there were 40,600 print journalists in 2012, with the number expected to dip below 40,000 this year for the first time since 1978. But there’s hope for erstwhile journalists because, as Regan says, “there is still a large and growing demand for journalism skills.”

After the jump: The Content Marketing Career Explosion

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Hack Turned Flack: Former NYT Editor/Current PR Pro Weighs In

Get the scoop, see?

Here’s something we wish we’d found earlier. For the past 11 months Gorkana, provider of database and analytics services designed for both sides of the PR/media equation, has run a series on its company blog called “Moving to the Darkside” in which media professionals describe making the transition into public relations. A month ago they featured our own contributor Lindsay Goldwert, and for their most recent post they spoke to former New York Times assistant metro editor Nicole Collins Bronzan.

This one is particularly interesting because Bronzan previously represented gay rights group Freedom to Marry and now works as director of communications for non-profit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, whose revealing stories about corporate misdeeds feel designed to make PR people sweat.

Here’s a key quote about journalists considering a career change:

…many people turn to PR as an easy out – and give the profession a bad name – without really considering whether some whole other career would make more sense for them. In a nutshell: If you see PR as a “way out,” take a little time and think more deeply about it.

Don’t hear that point made often, do you? The whole series is well worth a look.

Time‘s Rick Stengel Named America’s New Publicist

Time magazine managing editor Rick Stengel is leaving journalism for a job at the State Department. The very likely title is Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, one we’ve characterized before as “America’s Publicist“. Stengel, the oft-face of magazine on shows such as Morning Joe, and nominee of many National Magazine Awards (including a win for Magazine of the Year in 2012)  has the following job description:

The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs leads America’s public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. Government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism. The Under Secretary oversees the bureaus of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs, and International Information Programs, well as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, and participates in foreign policy development.

Stengel replaces Tara Sonenshine, who served under both Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. The position has been occupied by a number of big names in recent history including James K. Glassman, Karen Hughes, and Judith McHale.

[h/t Capital New York]

Hack Turned Flack: Former Journalist Explains the Transition


Some in the media world are under the impression that journalism and PR are basically much one and the same. While that’s obviously not true, the two disciplines require some of the same skill sets, so the differences are well worth noting—especially if you’re a journalist looking to make the transition or a PR pro who wants a better understanding of the journalist’s perspective.

In a recent post on Contently‘s Content Strategist blog, former journalist and current director of content and media strategy at Bateman Group Elinor Mills explains those differences in greater detail. It’s well worth a read, but we’ve picked some highlights:

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Let’s Make June ‘Be Kind to a Journalist’ Month

Hack to Flack is a monthly column by Lindsay Goldwert, a senior program executive at Hotwire, a global tech PR firm. Before she leapt to the dark side, Lindsay worked at the New York Daily News, ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com, CourtTV, Glamour and Redbook.

If there’s any profession that deserves a little TLC this month, it’s the print and online news business. Pink slips flew at the New York Daily News, buyouts reigned at the Post and the Village Voice imploded. The DOJ is breathing down the AP’s neck. Rumors are flying about layoffs at ESPN. I doubt there’s more than handful of newsrooms in the country where reporters and editors feel confident that their jobs, as they know them, will be there in 2014.

There’s been more than a few things written about how the PR industry needs to change in the face of the shrinking newsroom. But in a field that’s supposed to be built on “relationships,” I haven’t seen much empathy for the laid-off journalists. Strange, since we rely on their news judgment, good moods and spare moments to consider our stories and ideas for publication.

Consider what journalists do: They make it known that they’re interested in hearing about, say, new fitness apps. Then they get a deluge of emails from PR people who pitch them everything from fitness water, to fitness DVDs, to fitness instructors. “Maybe for a future story,” we say. That’s like you emailing your friends seeking a good housepainter and getting hundreds of responses for floor guys, electricians, roofers and custom closet makers “just in case.” That’s not good work — that’s telemarketing.

We all talk about “cutting through the noise.” Hail Mary pitches that only push your client’s agenda and don’t propose any real value to a reporter or editor are noise.

Here are some ways to make lives easier for journalists that can only benefit you and your clients in the end:

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