PR Job Stories: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Newsroom

PR Job Stories: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Journalism and PR


In 2001, after more than two decades working a PR job in television news, both in front of the camera and in news management, Ann Pedersen, Director of Strategic Communications and Public Relations for OBI Creative, chose to use what she knew about media for the benefit of others. Her first post after the news was working for an online market research company to gain further knowledge of the process, followed by a year in corporate communications.

Ultimately, she chose agency work because the interaction with different clientele was what she found most enjoyable.

We sat down with Ann to pick her brain about her career working a PR job and in the news media. We asked her how it helps her succeed in the often cutthroat and always changing world of advertising. And how she has seen PR jobs and PR change over the course of her career.


How does a background in TV help you innovate, strategize and execute in advertising and PR jobs today?

“I spent almost three decades in television news working as a reporter, photographer, producer, anchor, assignment editor and news manager. Adaptability isn’t one of my top five strengths, but it’s close. That background has given me a wealth of experience in being able to quickly adapt to the situation at hand. Responsibility is in my blood; I suppose that comes from a lifetime of meeting deadlines.

“Still, the experience and strengths I draw on most now are the strategy and communications skills I developed during my news media days. In the newsroom, we developed content daily, strategized as to the best newscast on which to air the content, identified target audiences depending on the day and practiced being extremely flexible in making changes depending on outside influences.

“Now, I use what I’ve learned in my PR job — to identify target audiences, appropriate content, place strategic messages on the channel where we will most likely reach our audience while also finding the best way to present our clients to their audiences — be it internally to their employees or to the public at large.”


How have your professional strengths helped you adapt to change in the PR industry and thrive? Are there particular strengths ideally suited for PR job seekers?

“Being strategic is quite possibly one of the best strengths for someone seeking a PR job or working in this business. There is never just one tactic to use in public relations. As we’ve said in previous posts, we use the PESO model at OBI — Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned content and media — to guide our efforts. We have to weigh the benefits of each and often use all to reach our target audiences. We have to be able to spot relevant patterns and issues and figure out a way around them.

“Being an achiever is probably another key strength that helps professionals succeed in public relations and communications. This business requires stamina and the desire to work hard.”


We’ve been talking a lot about the PESO model lately. How does it help you do your PR job most effectively?

“I love the PESO model because it shows how the four elements of public relations are interconnected. It’s not enough to just get earned media for your client and call it a day. That’s a one-and-done approach that just isn’t sustainable. But if you leverage earned media with paid media or amplify a blog post through your social media, then the likelihood of reaching a broader audience grows exponentially.”


How has the emergence and rise of social media changed the nature of the PR job?

“Social media has allowed us to truly engage with our audiences. We can carry on a conversation rather than just push out information and trust that it is relevant and useful to our target audience. We can receive a response (often instantly) and respond in kind, creating an open feedback loop. As long as we’re open-minded and let our research-based strategy guide us, we can tweak our messages and ultimately, drive better results.”


Has the Internet or social media changed the way journalists and PR professionals interact?

“Social media has afforded journalists and PR professionals another channel by which to communicate. Pre-Internet, PR professionals developed one-on-one relationships with reporters and assignment editors, calling them on the phone or coming to the paper or station to meet with them face to face. While that is still beneficial, reporters don’t have the time for that kind of interaction anymore. By using social media to have conversations with reporters about what is important to them and not just the PR professional, we are able to develop mutually beneficial relationships.”


Despite PR jobs changing over time, what has stayed the same?

“A lot has changed in PR over the years, but building relationships is still key. Maintaining trust with your audiences will never disappear. Being honest with members of the media should always be a guiding principle.”


What are some major challenges you foresee for PR in the coming years?

“If newspapers continue to disappear, the number of journalists will as well. The relationship between PR professionals and journalists has always been one of checks and balances. It will become incumbent on PR professionals to maintain the highest sense of ethical standards. PR professionals also need to understand that social media, while powerful, is still a platform or a media channel, just as print and broadcast media are. Communication is the key.

“Building on that idea, the need to make a direct connection between the content we develop and amplify through traditional and social channels to a business outcome remains as important as ever. We can’t and shouldn’t say, well it’s PR; we can’t make a direct connection to your business results. Believing that is a disservice to ourselves and our clients. One of the reasons PR hasn’t always been in the running for big contracts is because we don’t provide strong metrics. That has to change. PR people have to stop saying we don’t do math. If we don’t now, we darn well need to start.
“We also need to pay better attention to some of the new buzz words being tossed around. If we don’t think AI can ever replace us in the area of developing content, we’re fooling ourselves. Technology can be used for a lot of things. According to a recent blog posted by Christopher Penn on Spin Sucks, corporations are working on technology that can create blog posts that are credible, fact-checked, optimized for search traffic and ready for publication. We need to be on our toes.”           


What questions do you have about PR jobs or the PR industry and how to see success in it? Let us know in the comments!