The Digital Landscape – Then
20 years ago I got my start in the field of communications working directly with the media, pitching stories, writing features and tracking media coverage in press clippings. In the early 1990’s we had to be entrepreneurial and creative in our approach if we wanted our clients to receive any press coverage. We had to tell a story, compel the media to interview our subjects and give them a reason to step out of the newsroom to capture images and footage of a groundbreaking of a bridge overpass, grand opening of a museum or meeting the young family getting their first home from Habitat for Humanity.
My agency days in Sacramento were the years I built the foundation of all I am today. I was truly in the trenches – working 70 hours a week, writing constantly, meeting with clients on-site, attending events, sitting on committees, putting together media kits late at night. There was nothing out of reach those days and we had no technology to ease the chaos. We picked up the phone, we attended luncheons, we invited reporters to coffee, we got to know them as people and colleagues. We knew every detail about our clients because we sat with them, read through their printed materials and talked to their employees. We were hands on, high-touch and insatiable.
I got my first email account while at the agency. We did not yet have a website and social media did not exist. My training ground taught me the value of human interaction and building relationships. I learned how to research, present in large and small groups, connect with my audience and create efficiencies. I faced rejection, consequence of errors, sexism and exhaustion. But I not only survived – I thrived – and I was forever transformed because of it.
I left Sacramento in 1996 and was fortunate to take that foundation and build on it in the years since. I grew up with the digital age – starting with the likes of Prodigy, aol, Compuserve. I transitioned from WordPerfect to Microsoft Word. I was an expert in Aldus Pagemaker before it became Adobe InDesign. I moved from film to digital, blueprints to digital proofs, and long docs to landing pages. I transitioned from press clipping counts and column-width ad equivalencies to search engine optimization, user path analysis and Google Analytics as a way to measure campaign effectiveness.
And now, 20 years later, I have new opportunities in entrepreneurial journalism and bridging the gap between public relations and journalism – providing my students with greater knowledge, best practices and effective tools to not only connect with journalists, but to work alongside them to tell the best, most intriguing and engaging stories possible. In conjunction with story is engagement, distribution and reach through social media, mutual exchange for shares/likes/comments and broad reach via blogs, integration of photo and video, websites and published articles and multimedia reports.