Prior to moving into PR, what was your perception of the industry?
When I was a TV producer, I had mixed views of the industry – some PR folks were fantastic and some just simply didn’t get it. Those who were great knew what types of pitches were relevant to my show, how to pitch a story (just the nuts and bolts, no fluff), and when to call me (before or after my show, not during). Then there were pitches that were difficult to decipher, even in English. Between all the PR jargon and gobbledygook, I couldn’t make out what they were pitching or even why they were pitching me most of the time.
What lured you to the dark side?
After more than 13 years in journalism, I wanted to get out of the day-to-day TV routine and try something different. I narrowed it down to tech and consumer, two industries I was familiar with, having already produced hundreds of interviews with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. And public relations opened that door for me.
But just as important, I realized that most PR agencies had little idea how to work with TV and Radio outlets and so I saw an opportunity to join a firm and build out a new practice group focused solely on broadcast. Former journalists offer invaluable insights to the industry so I was surprised to meet so few broadcasters in the field, especially in tech. After all, no one knows TV better than a former producer or reporter.
What annoyed you most about PRs when you were a journalist?
Getting re-pitched the same story even when I’d turned it down for weeks. Or demanding an answer as to why I had turned it down. Journalists get bombarded with hundreds and hundreds of pitches a day and if they spend their day answering every single email they wouldn’t be able to do their job.
But now as a PR professional, I completely understand why clients would want to know why they were turned down – what was wrong with the pitch, how can they do better, etc. It requires a real tricky balance between pleasing clients and not annoying journalists.
How did your journo colleagues react when you told them you were moving into PR?
My journo colleagues were all very supportive of my move, especially since the industry has seen mass layoffs and huge budget cuts. There is this deep understanding of why journalists would want to move to the other side given the changing dynamics of the news industry.
What has been your biggest surprise about PR?
The difficulty of pleasing many bosses. In television, you really only have one – and that’s your executive producer and to a larger extent, your network. But in PR, every client is your boss.
What lessons did you learn in journalism that are easily transferable to PR?
Newsworthiness: Knowing what makes for a good pitch and getting right to the heart of the story (the lead) right at the beginning. Why do I care about this story?
Immediacy: Responding to journalists’ requests right away because they’re on such tight deadlines, even if it’s a “I’m checking on that request for you!”
Logistics: It helps to know how TV interviews work logistically - where to look when you’re on set or at a remote studio, when to show up for call time, how to dress, etc.
What will you miss most about being a journalist?
I’m still a journalist at heart so I miss covering breaking news!
What advice would you give to other journalists considering the change?
The key question to ask yourself is whether you feel comfortable pitching to your former journalist friends. If you’re fine with that, then do it! Nothing is more rewarding in PR than helping a struggling startup get national media attention for an innovative product.
What is your top tip for PRs when dealing with hacks?
My top tip? Pitch journalists succinct story ideas that are relevant to their beat. Don’t pitch a cooking segment to a business show!
We have an unusual name. What do you think Gorkana means?
Is that a character on Game of Thrones?