I woke up the morning of July 10, 2009 a little lost. It was the first day since I graduated from college 25 years earlier that I was unemployed. Had no job to go to, no immediate deadline, no meetings to attend or emails to answer. Twenty-five years as a journalist, and my career abruptly ended when my position was eliminated.
It was scary. Grown man with a family of five. Hadn’t looked for a job in years. Had to update resume, LinkedIn profile, begin networking.
Six months later I was connected to Nick Vehr through a mutual friend. The three of us had breakfast. Nick and I stayed in touch. The two of us had breakfast again, mostly talking about the work environments we liked to create, the kind of people we liked to hire, the qualities we looked for in co-workers, our shared philosophy on building and maintaining relationships.
In March 2010, Nick offered me a job. On April 5, Reds’ Opening Day, I started work with Vehr Communications – a new company for me in a new profession. Nick called it strategic communications.
It’s been seven years since I started work here, which seems inconceivable. I was pretty sure I’d be a journalist all my life, eventually as editor of a paper, maybe a publisher.
Now I work for an integrated marketing agency.
And you know what? This world has not been all that different from my previous realm.
I use reporting, writing, editing and story-telling skills every day. There is no substitute for the ability to report and write. Whether it’s for a website, social media, a corporate report, crisis communications plan or newsletter, you must know how to put together words, use grammar properly, convey key messages and, for heaven’s sake, use spellcheck.
Getting to know you. As a beat reporter, you try to learn everything about your beat – from the people to trends to the back stories. It’s the same with clients you have been with for years. As a general assignment reporter, you quickly become an expert on a new topic with deep research, a commitment to learning and asking good questions. It’s the same when you get a new client in a new industry.
Relationships are critical. As a reporter, you want your sources to trust you and tell you things they might not tell others. As a strategic communications counselor, you want your clients to trust you and share business goals and objectives with you so you can give them the best possible guidance.
As the media industry continues to evolve and adjust to survive, so, too, does the agency world. The changing media landscape affects us and our clients. Changes in all sorts of industries mean we must provide different kinds of services. Almost a year and a half ago, Vehr hired its first full-time designer (now our creative director). Then we hired another designer. We’re constantly evolving, preparing for the future and anticipating our clients’ needs in the future.
Take pride. Always. In everything you do. That’s true whether your byline is on a story, you helped edit it and make it better for a co-worker, or you are working to make your client look great. It’s all the same.
A little more than a year ago, I wrote a three-part series of blogs about the transition from journalist to PR professional, the commonalities, differences and transferable skills. (See them here: part one, part two and part three.)
Here I sit shaking my head that it’s coming up on eight years since I left journalism. I feel grateful, energized and motivated.
Happy 10th anniversary to my boss and our company.
Always excited to see what comes next.