Moving to the Darkside with...Bruce Blythe
Published: May 26, 2014
What is Blythe Communications?
I'll start with what I'm not and what Blythe Communications is not. I'm not a PR specialist, marketer or brand manager. BlytheComm isn't a press release service or something that handles your media calls. This is all about content, content, content. Or, what journalists may refer to as good writing and compelling stories.
What is the purpose of BlytheComm?
Similar to what's happening with the news business in the digital age, marketers are finding the traditional methods to reach a target audience aren't as effective as they used to be. There's a lot of “noise” out there. So you're seeing marketing departments trying to be more like news organizations - or at least adopting some news org elements. This means publishing more often, usually to the web or mobile, and using tight, blog-like dispatches, storytelling techniques, punchy headlines/tweets and other journalistic tools aimed at engaging an audience. These are the kinds of things journalists have been doing forever, so in theory, this “content evolution” should offer opportunities for us ink-stained types.
What lured you to the “dark side”?
Doesn't look that dark to me. Getting laid off from two editorial jobs since the 2007-09 recession had something to do with it. It's obvious the news business has undergone a drastic and permanent restructuring, and most of the jobs that were lost won't come back, at least on the print side. Adapt or die.
What annoyed you most about PRs when you were a journalist?
Failure to acknowledge media inquiries promptly (or at all) is a major irritant for a lot of journos. Even worse is getting that acknowledgement and then... nothing. Don't leave us hanging with a deadline about to crash down on us. Close the loops. The little things matter.
What lessons did you learn in journalism that are easily transferable to PR?
Both professions are fundamentally about communicating effectively and conveying a coherent message to a target audience. The ability to quickly identify the most important information and writing/speaking well are skills crucial to both fields, and, I'd argue, to most anything else.
What will you miss most about being a journalist?
Too many to list entirely here. Seeing my byline at the top of a story I worked hard on and was really proud of is one thing I miss. Another is the first-hand access to news and news makers, and the doors that get opened. When you work at a Bloomberg or a similar place, the buzz and energy from being there as news is being made is impossible to replicate with anything else.
Will there be time for the occasional freelance story?
Absolutely. I'll never stop writing.
What advice would you give to other journalists considering the change? The onus is on you to make a convincing case that your skills and experience are not only applicable and transferable to a PR/marketing role, but also that you offer unique perspective that can give you an edge over someone with a traditional PR/marketing background. This means learning the flack/marketer language (including the clichés and jargon that make journalists cringe). Study job postings for PR/marketing director/manager types, and you'll likely see many parallels with journalism.
What is your top tip for PRs when dealing with hacks?
Before you call or email that pitch, take at look at what's in front of you and ask, “What's the headline?” Figure out how to distill this concept into a 140-character tweet, and then cut it in half. Inherent in the headline question are a few other fundamental questions, including, what's the news here, and why should I care? If you can accomplish that, you stand a much better chance that the reporter will at least hear you out.