What lured you to the dark side and BerlinRosen in particular?
I’m not sure that helping minimum-wage workers spread the message that they can’t survive on $7.25 is going over to the “dark side.” I wouldn’t have left journalism for a PR job anywhere but at BerlinRosen. The firm’s clients are driving the most important social, economic and political conversations in New York City and the country, helping to give voice to poor and working class people all too often left out of public discussion. The chance to get involved in campaigns that are shaping the future of the city and nation was one I couldn’t pass up.
Prior to moving into PR, what was your perception of the industry?
I don’t know that I had a blanket perception of the industry. But in general, I felt that as mainstream journalism undergoes seismic changes, PR plays a perhaps too powerful role in setting the agenda.
Who did you learn most from as a journalist?
I learned a lot from my city. I was born in Washington Heights and grew up in the Bronx. From a young age, the diversity and vibrancy of the city instilled in me the curiosity that any good reporter needs. I remember riding the subway as a kid, taking note of who got on and off at different stops. As I got older, the all-too-present inequality I saw made me want to do something about it and journalism became my vehicle for writing about people who my favorite author Ralph Ellison would describe as in danger of falling outside of history.
I learned a lot at all of my journalism jobs, which ranged from a small Queens newspaper to Crain’s, and from the faculty at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
What annoyed you most about PR when you were a journalist?
They’d always hand exclusives to the New York Times. And that they often didn’t understand what I covered.
What is your top tip for PRs when dealing with hacks?
How did your journo colleagues react when you told them you were moving into PR?
They knew it was an agonizing decision for me and were incredibly supportive. Given the state of journalism, I think most journalists these days have given some thought to what else they might do. I think for some, my move got them thinking harder about their futures as well. I’m sure there are others I didn’t hear from who felt I somehow sold out. But I wanted to get into journalism to help tell stories that needed to be told and I think I’m still doing that.
What has been your biggest surprise about PR?
Seeing a campaign you worked on explode into a national story has been both surprising and rewarding.
Will there be time for the occasional freelance story?
Not yet, but it’s in my plans.
What advice would you give to other journalists considering the change?
I turned it into an agonizing, life-or-death decision. Don’t beat yourself up over it. I was worried about giving up the ability shed light on important issues, but have found that I am still able to do so, often on a larger scale. There’s not a day when I don’t use my journalism skills—the ability to understand what makes a good story and how to tell it—in my new job.