Lessons from the News Desk

Long before I founded Bell Public Relations I worked on what you might call the “other side of the fence.” From humble beginnings at a weekly, small town newspaper to Kansas City talk radio, my journalism career spanned more than a decade. During that time I had the honor of serving as President of the Kansas Associate Press Broadcasters and building relationships that have lasted to this day. When I shifted, as many journalists do, to the PR “side of the fence,” I brought with me the lessons learned at the news desk.

Reporters don’t get into their craft for the vast earning potential. While a popular talk show host or cable news channel personality may clear a lot of cash, most reporters do what they do for the love of telling a story. Of course investigative journalism and crime reporting are part of the job for many, but at its heart, good reporting is about painting a picture for the reader, listener or viewer. Truth be told, I enjoyed doing human interest pieces much more than covering a violent crime. Those are the stories that bring us together.

Now that I’ve been in the PR world for a number of years, those lessons from the news desk still resonate. When a client is able to help me uncover a great story about their business, we almost always get media coverage. I’m not talking about free advertising, of course. In a way that’s what news coverage provides, but no reporter is interested in promoting for the sake of promoting. What will get their attention are the stories within the story of who you are.

One of the most successful media relations campaigns I’ve run had to do with a client in the field of senior living. In talking to the retirement community’s sales and marketing team, I uncovered that they’d hired a down-on-his-luck cook with a checkered past. In the years since they gave this prodigal son an opportunity, he’d become one of the most beloved members of their staff. Residents adored him and his life had gone from mess to masterpiece.

The coverage we obtained for the community was, of course, a great way to promote them and get their name on the local news. It wouldn’t have happened, however, without that story beneath the surface of a local business giving someone a shot at redemption. Reporters loved it, a wonderful story was shared and the retirement community was promoted in a positive way.

That’s just one of the many lessons I learned at the news desk.

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