Switching from old paper master to PR apprentice

|| December 18, 2019

By Scott Thompson

55 comms director

This was written for 55 comms' e-newsletter Sourced.

A little milestone has just been reached for me.

After three decades in traditional news media, mostly newspapers, I have pinned my ears back and plunged into the world of public relations. I've just completed my first full calendar year with 55 comms as a "rookie’’ director.

A number of my old newsroom mates didn’t waste any time in geeing me up: “So Scotty you’ve finally joined the Dark Side’’ or ‘’how’s the spin doctoring?’’ 

After all my working life on the Light Side of the communications, content news and information universe, I must admit I initially felt somewhat awkward, like Yoda with chopsticks. 

Much like the ‘’Force’’, news is omnipresent and the editing of newspapers is highly seductive. Journalism is not a job - it is a way of life and a part of who you are. The news antenna is up 24/7. You live your life in adrenaline bursts chasing the next scoop or deadline, awe-inspiring picture or thinking up a cracking headline for that Page 1 splash that will grab readers by the eyeballs.

From the local newspaper in the seaside town near where I grew up, and then being privileged to edit the biggest newspaper in Queensland, running a large network of community papers and editing the lively daily tabloid mastheads in Cairns and the Gold Coast, newspapers always gave me meaning, direction and purpose.

I remember a respected editor once told me…’’with editorships, it is not so much what it is, but what you can actually do … no matter the size of the paper, the community or the city’’. 

Would I get the same personal and professional satisfaction from public communications?

Twelve months on I have to say "yes", yet it’s a different kind of satisfaction. At 55 comms I’m thankful to be working and mixing with former journalists and editors, social media producers and graphic designers.

Our office even has the vibe of a small newsroom and the broad client mix means anything can happen on any day and you have to know a little bit about many things _ if you don’t then you find out by asking questions and researching.

Here are eight things which I learnt as an editor that have helped me adapt in my new career

As old mate Yoda would say, do or do not read this list. There is no try 

1. It’s still about the story. Great storytelling will win over audiences.

2. It’s still about the ‘’people angle’’, and making them interesting, important, exciting and relevant.

3. It’s still about the creativity. I have worked with some brilliant editors. They were also the best marketers because they created the content that created audience demand.

4. It’s still about the who, what, when, where and why. Communications that are clear and concise will always resonate with audiences.

5. It’s about appealing to emotions…and pride is one of the biggest audience engagement drivers.

6. It’s still about ‘’sniffing the breeze’’ for the public mood or water cooler conversations and having a feel for community issues.

7. It is still about human connections. Whether it’s news media or social media, the channel and platform on which it is consumed is secondary.

8. And it is still about listening… twice as much as you speak.

Next month I will reveal the things you should ask yourself before pestering an editor with your press release.

Until then, may ‘’The Sourced’’ be with you…Scotty