Podcast: Allan Brettman: The Columbian

Podcast: Allan Brettman: The Columbian

Covering Business in The Couve with Allan Brettman

Allan Brettman has been working at newspapers in Portland and SW Washington for more than 30 years. Hailing originally from the Chicago area, he was drawn to the Northwest by its abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, or as Allan says, “for the same reasons you’d choose a summer camp.”

He began his local newspaper career with the Longview Daily News and then in 2000, joined The Oregonian as the business news reporter in the paper’s Clark County bureau. During his 17-year career with The O, Allan also covered the region’s sports business, digital media and PR industries. Last September, Allan returned to covering SW Washington news as business editor for The Columbian.

During this episode of the PR Talk podcast, Allan and host Amy Rosenberg talk about his time at The O, Vancouver’s status as an up-and-coming area, and a few tips for getting coverage in Vancouver’s hometown paper.

Creating a Digital First News Organization

Amy begins her interview by quoting Therese Bottomly — editor at The Oregonian/OregonLive — who credits Allan with helping The O pivot to become a digital-first news organization. Allan politely deferred, saying it was a team effort that included other O influencers like Steve Woodward, Mike Rogoway, and breaking news editor Karly Imus.

The structural challenges facing the newspaper industry are great, and a shift of that magnitude required lots of experimentation with all the available tools in the digital toolbox, while at the same time, remaining true to traditional news values. Allan said it helped that he was covering the digital landscape at the time and had developed some familiarity with the topic.

 

Vancouver Rising

Things are a bit different at his new home at The Columbian. The print product is still healthy and the paper is working on growing its digital footprint.

Allan was hired as business editor in September 2018 and manages one other dedicated business reporter. Together they cover a growing region that has changed immeasurably since Allan last had the Clark County business beat back in 2000.

The waterfront is currently being redeveloped to include public spaces, restaurants, luxury hotels and condominiums, and other mixed-used offerings. When it’s completed, the area will rival any of Portland’s new neighborhoods. Vancouver also features a growing tech center and a thriving real estate market.

 

Searching for Good, Local Stories

All that growth means there are lots of potential stories to tell, and Allan, and business reporter Anthony Macuk, are always looking for pitches. As Allan tells Amy, if a story has a Clark County or Vancouver angle, and has some news value, the pitch will definitely be considered.

One story Allan thinks is going untold is about the 60,000 people who go from Clark County to Portland every day for work. He thinks there are more stories to be written about Portland companies through the eyes of their Clark County employees.

PR pros with local business-centered pitches can reach out to Allan by email at [email protected]. Anthony Macuk covers everything, but specializes in hi-tech and real estate development. He can be reached at [email protected].

General story ideas can be directed to metro editor Mark Bowder at [email protected]. He’ll know how to divvy out stories to the right Columbian reporters. Sports pitches can go to sports editor, Micah Rice at [email protected]. Amy Libby is digital editor and can be reached at [email protected].

 

Tips for a Good Pitch

Now before you go lighting up all those email addresses, Allan shared a few of tips he’d like PR pros to consider before contacting a Columbian reporter.

  • Ideally, PR pros will have a relationship with a reporter, know the kinds of stories they’re looking for and reach out directly with a pitch. If that’s not the case, try contacting an editor first. Do not shop a story around to multiple reporters.
  • People can feel free to email or phone Allan with story ideas but he wants them to put some thought into their pitches first. So write it all down before you pick up the phone.
  • If you email your pitch first, Allan would appreciate a courtesy phone call with a heads-up. One of his biggest news stories of the year came through this way.  
  • It’s also important that your news releases are 100% accurate, especially with name spellings.
  • And of course, Alan recommends getting a Columbian subscription so you can get familiar with the publication to know exactly what stories they cover.

 

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Allan and Amy talked about much more during their conversation, including his favorite stories during his time at the Oregonian, the biggest business news to hit Vancouver in years, and his PR pro pet peeves.

Click through to hear the whole interview, or subscribe to PR Talk podcast on Stitcher, iTunes, or the Google Play store.

About the guest: Allan Brettman

Allan Brettman is a detail-focused journalist with creative edge recognized for developing, honing and delivering inventive, quality content, strengthening brand and engaging diverse audiences. He is currently the Business Editor at The Columbian and spent 17 years at The Oregonian after 12 years at The Daily News in Longview, Washington.

 

Connect and follow Allan on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Podcast: Kaia Sand: Street Roots

Podcast: Kaia Sand: Street Roots

Celebrating 20 Years of Street Roots with Executive Director Kaia Sand

Street Roots vendors are a Portland institution. You’ve probably passed by them at some point, maybe outside a New Seasons or Powell’s. These vendors tend to stand out because they are experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty, yet they partner with Street Roots to sell their papers. This partnership allows them to pocket much more than a profit, but also dignity in an honest day’s work and connection with their customers, who are people like you and me.

In this episode of the PR Talk Podcast, host Amy Rosenberg sets out to learn more about this important publication and how it can fit into a PR professional’s media plan during an interview with Street Roots executive director Kaia Sand.

A Social Justice Focus

Despite only being in her current position for a year, Kaia Sand has had a long relationship with Street Roots. Back when it was known as the Burnside Cadillac, Kaia worked as a staff reporter covering housing issues. She went on to write poetry (you can find her books at Powell’s), work as a community organizer, and teach in universities. She’s also worked in conjunction with the paper and its vendors on projects related to the ethnic history of Portland’s Old Town, now known as the Pearl. Today, she manages the organization’s day-to-day operations and its fundraising efforts.

Some community members have the mistaken impression that Street Roots is written by people experiencing homelessness. But that’s not the case. As Kaia explains it, the newspaper is staffed by a team of professional reporters. And while its coverage is certainly rooted in issues of housing and homelessness, Street Roots’ reporting has evolved to cover all types of social, economic, and environmental justice issues.

 

Providing Vendors a Hand Up

Every week, Street Roots publishes 10,000 print copies which are distributed throughout the city by its 180 vendors. In a relationship that’s common in the newspaper industry, vendors purchase papers from Street Roots and then sell them to their customers for a profit. What makes Street Roots unique is that its vendors are made up exclusively of people living on the margins.

The paper’s commitment to producing quality journalism on topics that are often ignored by other media outlets, along with a business model offering a lifeline to vulnerable citizens, has earned Street Roots a loyal readership around town. However, the paper’s readership is also growing throughout the state, due to its ongoing Housing Rural America series. Thanks to funding provided by a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust’s Affordable Housing Initiative, Street Roots sends journalists outside the metro area to places like Ontario, Lincoln City, and Bend to explore housing issues from a rural perspective.

 

Reliant on Individual Donors

Street Roots operates as a nonprofit, and as such, relies heavily on the support of individual donors. Through the end of 2018, Street Roots will be featured in Willamette Week’s annual Give Guide, which highlights some of Portland’s most impactful nonprofits. You can also help support their mission by clicking the donate button on the Street Roots home page.

Plans are also in the works for a larger summer event recognizing the paper’s 20th anniversary. Kaia says she wants the event to celebrate Street Root’s longevity and its positive spirit of bringing housed and homeless people together.

Street Roots volunteers work stuffing newspapers with donation envelopes

Street Roots volunteers work stuffing newspapers with donation envelopes

Is There a Place for PR?

While Street Roots is doing important work in the community, Amy wondered if its focused coverage leaves much room for the PR professional. Kaia explained that if PR pros are working on issues related to social, economic, or environmental justice, they’re encouraged to contact executive editor Joanne Zuhl. The paper also features extensive coverage on local culture, celebrity news, art, music, and entertainment. So smart PR pros should consider Street Roots as part of their media mix.

 

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Kaia ended her interview with something of a rallying cry for the newspaper’s supporters, readers, and vendors.

“Just when you think that print might be dead, somehow we’re on the rise. There’s something really powerful about people meeting people in a public space and exchanging news. And we’re determined to keep that.”

To hear the entire interview, including a discussion of Portland’s ongoing housing and homeless crises, download this episode today. To hear future episodes, and to access the catalog of previous episodes, subscribe to PR Talk on Sticher, iTunes, or the Google Play store.

About the guest: Kaia Sand

Kaia Sand is the Executive Director of Street Roots. She has worked as a poet, artist, community organizer, and university professor. Beginning two decades ago as a volunteer, much of her work has focused on economic injustice and homelessness.

Connect and follow Kaia on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Podcast: Sunny Sea Gold: High Profile Health Writer

Podcast: Sunny Sea Gold: High Profile Health Writer

Glamour, Seventeen and Redbook—Oh my!
Sunny Sea Gold Spreads a Message of
Body Positivity Among Them All.

On this week’s episode of the PR Talk podcast, Amy Rosenberg sits down for a revealing conversation with author and content creator Sunny Sea Gold about her time working in the world of New York fashion magazines, how her personal struggle with binge-eating and body dysmorphia led her to advocate for change within the industry, and tips PR pros can use when pitching to these often-intimidating organizations.

Change Comes from Within

People like Sunny Sea Gold are the reason we’re seeing a more body-positive attitude in the media. During her years working as an editor at well-known publications like Glamour, Seventeen, and Redbook, Sunny pushed behind-the-scenes for better representation for people of all body shapes, and that led to real change. Today, women like Jess Baker, Tess Holliday, and Jessamyn Stanley are appearing in the most famous fashion magazines in the world and helping redefine what the words health and beauty really mean.

But it didn’t come easy for Sunny. When she landed her first big job out of college in the early 2000’s editing the health and wellness coverage for Glamour magazine, the industry had only just begun to reckon with the negative impact they were having on the culture. Sunny has been open with her struggles with binge-eating and body-dysmorphia — which was the subject of her 2011 book, Food: The Good Girl’s Drug — and at times struggled working in such an image and diet-obsessed environment.

Ultimately her experiences led her to begin advocating for change and speaking up about what she saw in magazine culture. She didn’t always get her way, but she was always listened to, which helped advance her larger cause. For Sunny, these efforts are about reflecting real people, because “every single person — no matter what kind of body they’re in — deserves our respect and deserves to be seen.”

 

A Difficult World to Break Into

This is a PR podcast, of course, so Amy was very interested in hearing Sunny’s tips for how PR pros can get the attention of editors in a very competitive New York magazine market. Sunny began by reminding listeners that the publishing world has changed pretty dramatically over the last few years. There have been lots of layoffs and lots of magazine closures which means compressed staffs are being asked to do more than ever before. As a result, it could take months before some staff members can even respond to an email. So if you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. They’re just that busy.

When you do pitch, Sunny recommends putting a lot of thought into what you’re sending to make sure it really fits what the publication produces. Sunny cited Reader’s Digest as an example. Since they publish a lot of listicles, pitches that take this into account stand a much better chance of being accepted than those that don’t.

Beyond that, Sunny believes it comes down to connections. She recommends that PR pros do whatever they can to land “desk-side” meetings with lower-level editorial employees: titled editorial assistant, assistant editor, or associate editor. As Sunny puts it, these people typically “are open-minded, hungry for relationships, and hungry for ideas.” Desk-side meetings also provide PR pros with the opportunity to put a face with a name, and they can often get better responses from someone they know in person. And if you do land a desk-side, make sure to diligently maintain your contacts because you’ll never know who that young staffer will end up becoming.

 

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Though she’s no longer directly employed by the magazine world, Sunny continues her advocacy and education work by writing about parenting and body image for publications like Reader’s Digest, health.com, Elle, Parent’s Magazine, and Refinery 29. She also works with clients on branded content and helps clients make connections with people she still knows in the publishing industry.

To hear the entire interview, including more about Sunny’s struggle with binge eating and her life in the New York magazine world, click through or subscribe to PR talk on Stitcher, iTunes, or the Google Play store.

About the guest: Sunny Sea Gold

Sunny Sea Gold is a sought-after journalist and book author with expertise in women’s issues, health, psychology, obesity, body image, and parenting. She has more than a decade of experience telling stories and leading editorial strategy for some of the country’s largest and most well-known print and digital publications including Glamour, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, Parents, WebMD, and O, the Oprah Magazine. As a consultant, she leverages her journalistic sensibility and deep understanding of the social, digital, and print-media landscapes to craft strategic communications plans for select corporate clients and thought leaders.

Connect and follow Sunny Sea Gold on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Podcast: Dan Cook: Wikipedia

Podcast: Dan Cook: Wikipedia

Stop Fearing Wikipedia: Dan Cook’s Advice on this Powerful Platform

Over his thirty-year career, Dan Cook has worked as a staff journalist in five different markets, including stops at the Portland Business Journal and Reuters. That work put him in regular contact with public relations professionals of all stripes, and as he notes early on in this interview with PR Talk host Amy Rosenberg, “I’ve learned how to find the ones who can really deliver and I hang onto them for dear life.”

These days, Dan wears many hats. He covers healthcare and benefits trends for BenefitsPro and Benefits Selling Magazine. In this role he works closely with PR pros and throughout his conversation with Amy offered important insight on how they can work collaboratively with the news media.

Dan also works as a communications consultant for To the Point Collaborative, spending most of his time helping clients navigate through the murky waters of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia as a PR Tool? Dan Says YES!

As a Wikipedia consultant, Dan teaches clients how to ethically write and edit their own articles on the world’s online encyclopedia. Most PR pros understand how valuable a good Wikipedia listing is for their clients, but avoid the platform altogether because of its intimidating environment. But instead of fearing the site, Dan feels strongly that PR pros should learn how to use Wikipedia correctly.  

As Dan explains, Wikipedia is run by a group of volunteer editors who take great pains to ensure that every new article and every new edit meets a tight set of community standards. It’s not uncommon to see poorly written or improperly sourced articles pulled down from the site, or for unscrupulous paid editors to receive outright bans.

Proper sourcing is everything on Wikipedia and many paid editors run into trouble when they try to support what they’ve written with external links. According to Wikipedia’s rules, an article cannot link back to a company’s web page. However, if an article can link to sources that were written and edited by a credible third-party–such as a news outlet–it has a great chance of staying live. In Dan’s view, this is where PR pros can shine.

Whenever possible, PR pros should include important factual information in their press releases like the number of employees, key clients, services areas, etc., even if they’re not related to the main subject of the release. That way, any resulting press coverage could potentially be used to support a company’s Wikipedia page.  

Dan offered these additional tips for PR pros interested in getting started on Wikipedia:

  • Contrary to popular opinion, conflicts of interest and paid editing are NOT banned on Wikipedia. In fact, volunteer editors appreciate paid editors who approach the platform correctly.
  • With this in mind, paid editors should be transparent on Wikipedia by choosing their own usernames and not logging in using client accounts.
  • Articles should be written objectively and refrain from sales messaging.

Through To the Point Collaborative, Dan offers Wikipedia training programs that walk clients through the process of creating a transparent Wikipedia account, writing an ideal article draft, or implementing changes to an existing article. Dan also holds occasional Wikipedia “edit-a-thons” where he walks a group through the process of writing an article from start to finish.

PR pros who would like to add this important skill to their communications toolkit can reach out to Dan for more information.

About the guest: Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a writer and researcher. He is a former Portland Business Journal Editor and Reuters reporter. Was on staff at nonprofits Morrison Child & Family Services and Special Olympics Oregon. Currently, he works with To the Point Collaborative as a copywriter, editor, Wikipedia consultant and communications strategist.

Connect and follow Dan on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Podcast: Megan Conway: Travel Portland

Podcast: Megan Conway: Travel Portland

Selling Portland to the World:

An Interview with Megan Conway of Travel Portland

Local businesses and PR people learn how they too can jump on the Portland bandwagon

Travel Portland operates as the tourism and marketing agency for the City of Portland. And as the organization’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Regional Strategy, it’s Megan Conway’s job to sell our fair city to the wider world. Amy Rosenberg recently sat down with Megan to learn more about what it’s like running PR for an entire city and how local small businesses can tap into Portland’s growing reputation as a travel destination to increase their visibility with tourists.

A Growing Reputation

Newcomers may find it hard to believe, but there was a time before all the food carts and luxury condos when Portland was something of a tourism backwater. In those days — some ten years ago now — Megan would bring a map to her New York media meetings to show editors and publishers exactly where Portland was located. But oh how things have changed.

Today, Megan finds that most media members she talks with — both domestically and internationally — have either visited the city themselves or read about it as a destination. And that makes her job much easier. “Because Portland just continues to evolve and be a better and different version of itself as it goes,” Megan says, “we keep having these amazing things that we can hang our hats on that we can pitch and have conversations about.” Whether it’s a chef, or a maker, or another uniquely Portland brand, it’s Megan’s job to find, what she calls, their Portland story and share it with the wider world. So how does she do that? It really comes down to old-fashioned PR.

 

Looking Outward

Another byproduct of Portland’s recent emergence as a travel destination is more and better PR. In the old days, Travel Portland was the only game in town. Now, restaurants and hotels often work with their own PR agencies, which gives Megan lots of opportunities to collaborate.

Megan says Travel Portland works with other PR pros to amplify their messaging in a more organic than scripted way. Several times a year, Travel Portland communicates with PR firms about outbound events they’re planning, with an eye for collaborative opportunities. In some instances, a firm may be looking to break into a specific market that Travel Portland already has a foot in, so they’ll help facilitate those connections when possible. For Megan, it’s all about creating what she calls an aligned front, as they promote everything the city has to offer.

Another big part of the Travel Portland mission is selling the city to media and publishers in New York City. Every January, Travel Portland reps attend the International Media Marketplace event, which Megan likens to “one-on-one speed-dating appointments with media.” During the trip, Travel Portland also schedules 3-4 days of desk-side appointments with publishers and editors. These used to be strictly educational trips, but now take on a what’s-new-in-Portland approach.

Travel Portland also frequently collaborates with partners who are having their own events in the city and then mix-and-mingle with media members in attendance. In one unique event, Travel Portland executed a Portland takeover of a four-story house and designed every room to be about a different Portland maker including brands like Steven Smith Tea and Orox Leather. Powell’s Books also included a bookshelf dedicated to Portland authors that attendees could take home. For Megan, these events are designed to give editors a feel for Portland’s unique style and attitude, so they’ll then send a writer out to cover Portland for their readers.

Megan tends to focus on travel and lifestyle publications during these media tours, but they’re beginning to talk with more business-focused brands like Fast Company and Inc. to look at big business stories coming out of Portland and focus on growth brands.

It all comes down to packaging Portland’s most compelling features into consumable stories that will excite media members. A process all PR pros instantly recognize.

 

Forging Local Business Relationships

But selling the city to the outside world requires Travel Portland to have an extensive knowledge of what’s happening here on the street level. So the organization is motivated to stay connected with the local businesses that make this city so vibrant. In addition to promoting Portland, Megan sees Travel Portland’s role as an educator in the small business space as they work toward helping local companies scale and drive visitor traffic through upcoming classes on marketing and PR.

The organization also conducts outreach efforts, like its Travel Portland 101 event, which helps local businesses gain a better understanding of how the business operates and where they might best fit in. Travel Oregon partnership representatives also hold bi-weekly neighborhood tours so the staff can get out and see what’s new in the city.

Megan’s door is always open for businesses looking to connect with Travel Portland, but she also recommends they become well-connected within their neighborhood association. Simply offering to host a monthly neighborhood meeting in their space is a great way for information to trickle out and up to the folks at Travel Portland.

 

Opportunities for PR Professionals

Because collaboration is so important to Travel Portland, the organization is very receptive to meeting with new agencies or freelance PR representatives. Megan said they also appreciate being copied on press releases because they provide an easy way to catalog and access all the important new developments in the city.

Amy and Megan cover many more topics during their conversation, including how Travel Oregon vettes requests from bloggers and influencers, editorial opportunities within Travel Portland publications, and tips for college grads looking to break into the hospitality industry. So click through to hear the rest of the interview.

About the guest: Megan Conway

After starting her career in consumer products PR in the midwest, Megan Conway moved to Portland. For the last eight years, she’s worked as Travel Portland’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Regional Strategy.

Connect and follow Megan on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Featured image by Cat Mapper (Max Ogden) on Unsplash

Podcast: Nigel Jaquiss: Willamette Week

Podcast: Nigel Jaquiss: Willamette Week

Reporter of “Last Resort,” Nigel Jaquiss,
Talks Investigative Reporting

And Why It’s Important to Invest in Relationships with the Scary Reporters

Perhaps the most well-known journalist working in Oregon today, Nigel Jaquisstwenty-year career at Portland’s alternative weekly newspaper, Willamette Week, has been prolific. Nigel is the reporter who took down Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber for using his position of power to benefit his fiance’s business, resulting in the first resignation of an Oregon Governor because of a scandal. He broke Portland Mayor Sam Adams’ romance with his 17 year old intern. And most notably, he won a Pulitzer Prize for unveiling the years of sexual abuse Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt inflicted on a 14 year old girl when he was Portland’s Mayor.

Nigel came to journalism rather late in his career, working first as a crude oil trader for some of the biggest investment banks on Wall Street. So as we began our conversation, I was anxious to ask him how he came to leave that career in favor of something so different.

“I’m Interested in Telling Stories”

When Nigel was in his early 30’s his father died unexpectedly, and his mother succumbed to lung cancer not long after. “That really focused me on the obvious fact that life was short,” he said. After the birth of his first daughter, he began asking himself if he was really doing what he wanted to do. Ultimately he decided that the answer was no.

He’d always loved writing, so Nigel decided to leave his oil trading career and try his hand at a novel. But like any good oil trader, he had a back up plan ready in case it didn’t pan out. For Nigel, it was journalism school. “My backup plans turned out to be my plans,” he joked.

After earning his Master’s Degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1997, Nigel was hired at Portland’s Willamette Week and began turning out the high level investigative journalism he’s known for today.

After landing in journalism, Nigel stumbled into the investigative side of things, saying that he came to journalism wanting to write pieces he was interested in and that readers would be interested in consuming, which is more of a features reporting approach. “I’m interested in telling stories,” he said.

His first cover piece was about the best high school basketball player in the state who was playing with only a .81 GPA, which was acceptable at the time. After the story was published, outraged school board members changed the standards under which students could participate in extracurricular activities.

“I realized from that one sentence that you could change policy or change lives in some way,” Nigel said. “That’s what focused me on the idea that trying to find out things that people hadn’t known or didn’t know and bringing it to their attention could be really powerful.”

 

The Reporter of Last Resort

What would arguably become Nigel’s biggest story came to him almost as an afterthought. Neil Goldschmidt’s ongoing sexual abuse of a young girl while he was Portland’s mayor was something of an open secret among Oregon’s rich, powerful, and well-connected. The allegations were also known by certain members of the Portland press.

In 2004, as Goldschmidt began to reemerge into Oregon politics, reporters at the Portland Tribune and The Oregonian were given parts of the Goldschmidt story, but weren’t able to bring it to press for a variety of reasons. When I asked Nigel how he was able to put the pieces together after so many others had failed, he said it had a lot to do with Willamette Week’s unique position in the Portland news market. “I think it was the case of me being the reporter of last resort,” he said. “People tried other things and it didn’t work and so they’re like, ‘okay we’ve got nothing else to lose so let’s go to Willamette Week.’”

Now, nearly 15 years later, Nigel still finds himself thinking about the story that has defined so much of his career. “I often think about the number of people who knew about it and didn’t do anything about it, and the corrupting effect that would have on their lives,” he said. “They knew they were harboring crime and they knew they were benefiting from it. So how did they feel about that? How did it change their lives? How did it change the way they conducted themselves? It’s a terrible thing to know something that evil and do nothing about it.”

 

“That’s Not When You Want to Form a Relationship”

Of course, because this is a PR podcast, I wanted to talk with Nigel about how he interacts with PR professionals during the course of his work. He was quick to point out that Willamette Week’s journalistic emphasis doesn’t lend itself to traditional PR pitches. “The strength of many organizations is focus, and our focus has always been more about accountability and less about general news,” he said.

To get the paper’s attention, Nigel advises us to think outside of the traditional pitch. “So we’re not going to say, ‘hey new product launch in Washington County for a tech company,’ but a tech company in Washington County that is getting cross-wised with the county assessor’s office over an assessment is something we’d be interested in.”

But that’s not to say that PR pros should ignore the Willamette Week altogether. Quite the opposite. “The way that a relationship between a person in the PR business and the news business can work is if there’s a real relationship,” Nigel said. “Where there’s an understanding on both sides of what the other person does.”

This relationship becomes especially valuable for a PR pro finding their client on the opposite side of Nigel’s reporting.

“Even the most ethical, the most upstanding corporation or nonprofit in this city is someday going to do something they wish they hadn’t done,” Nigel said. “Or they’re someday – through perhaps no fault of their own – going to be on the wrong side of the news. It’s going to happen. It happens to everybody. And when it happens, you’ll have to form a relationship when you’re at your most vulnerable. That’s not when you want to form a relationship.”

Nigel has more to say about the relationship between PR and the press, so click through to hear the rest of my interview.

About the guest: Nigel Jaquiss

Nigel Jaquiss is a reporter for Willamette Week, an alt-weekly newspaper in Portland, Oregon. He received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his story on Neil Goldschmidt’s long-hidden sexual abuse of a young girl while mayor of Portland.

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This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.