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.

Connect and follow Nigel 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.

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.

Again! Veracity is a Top Public Relations Firm in Portland in 2018

Again! Veracity is a Top Public Relations Firm in Portland in 2018

We are humbled to announce that Veracity has again been recognized as one of the top public relations firms in Portland! This distinction comes courtesy of Clutch, a B2B rating and review service. Clutch uses in-depth market research and client interviews to gauge the caliber of services offered by firms to help businesses make informed buying and hiring decisions. After extensive research on the leading PR firms in Portland and interviews with their clients, Veracity was ranked second overall with a perfect 5 out of 5 rating.

Veracity has also been recognized as one of the top 20 internet marketing companies in Portland by Clutch’s sister-site, The Manifest. The Manifest helps firms identify their business challenges and arms them with knowledge, insight, and potential solutions by highlighting outstanding service providers in their area.

Accolades and industry recognition are always appreciated – who doesn’t enjoy being told they’re doing a good job? But that’s not why we constantly push ourselves to provide excellent service; we do it because our clients’ satisfaction is of the utmost importance. We could tell you about how happy our clients are, but why paraphrase when they’ve said it best:

“Veracity is thoughtful, creative and does a great job of staying ahead of what is going on. They have gone above and beyond what they were hired to do. We are very pleased with their work and our relationship with the team.”

Clutch Review Veracity

At Veracity, we are dedicated to helping businesses build closer relationships with their target audiences, and we do so at a level of excellence and thoughtfulness which is unparalleled. If you would like to work with us then feel free to reach out. And if you’re still not convinced then see what else our clients have to say about us on our site or on our Clutch profile.

 

Additionally, Veracity is featured on UpCity

Podcast: Malia Spencer: Portland Business Journal

Podcast: Malia Spencer: Portland Business Journal

Recorded Live at PreGame HQ: An Interview with
the Portland Business Journal’s Malia Spencer

Plus some new PR pet peeves from Malia, and what exactly is a startup anyway?

Malia Spencer has spent the last four years digging deep into Portland’s technology, startup, and entrepreneur culture for the Portland Business Journal. She was originally hired to cover banking technology, but quickly transitioned to reporting on venture capital, private equity, and angel investors because they’re a growing part of Portland’s burgeoning tech sector.

Early in our interview, recorded live at PreGame HQ, I asked Malia for her opinion on Portland’s place in the national tech scene. She breaks the country into three basic tiers, with areas like Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley occupying the top spots, Seattle and Austin in tier 2, and other cities like Denver and Portland in tier 3. In Malia’s view, Portland is trying to move up to tier 2 thanks to its recent growth.

I was prompted to ask Malia about how she defines a startup, because I often ask myself that same question. Could I call my own business a startup and pitch it that way for coverage? While Malia takes a rather broad view of the word in her own coverageoften profiling the abundant maker and food entrepreneurs in PDX – she defines a more traditional startup as a company with a high gross potential over the short term that’s also backed by venture capital funds.

Malia also covers other small companies that might not have a lot of investors, but that often depends on how she believes the story will land with her audience.

The readers who are looking at the business journal are “people who have grown businesses, and can read a story to learn what they can do to help their business,” Malia said. So the stories she gravitates towards are going to include those details.

So what should you do to have your company featured in the journal? Malia was kind enough to share her best PR tips, and perhaps more importantly, what PR pros and entrepreneurs should absolutely NOT do.

 

Malia’s PR Pet Peeves

Always prepared, Malia came to our live podcast interview with a list of pet peeves she’d sourced from the members of her newsroom, which PR Pros would be wise to heed.

  • Malia’s #1 pet peeve is pitchers who don’t do their homework. She says she gets so many irrelevant story ideas from people outside the Portland area that too often turn into irrelevant phone calls. Malia advises people interested in getting PBJ coverage to first read the journal so they understand what’s in it and what the reporters cover.
  • Never ask for an advance review, because no journalist with any ethics would ever send one.
  • If a reporter hasn’t responded to your pitch, don’t do more than one telephone or email follow up. Malia says that if she’s interested in a story idea, she’ll respond to a pitch immediately.
  • And finally, no more than 2 people on a conference call.

 

Malia’s PR Tips

So once you’ve avoided these pet peeves, what can PR Pros or entrepreneurs do to get coverage in the journal? Malia says, it all starts with the story.

  • First there needs to be a news hook. The journal is generally interested in new C-Suite hires that might make a big impact, or if a startup has raised a new round of funding. They also frequently cover businesses that have landed a huge sale or a contract that’s going to change what it’s doing in a big way. So before you pitch, think twice about how you’ll position your story’s news hook.
  • Malia reminded the audience that even if she decides to follow up on a pitch with her own story, the final version could look different than your original suggestion.
  • In response to an audience question, Malia said that pitches don’t have to come in the traditional press release format, and in most cases a regular email is sufficient.
  • Many times, entrepreneurs can get coverage by simply reaching out to reporters personally to let them know who they are and what they’re doing, and then inviting them to talk more about it over coffee.

Beyond feature stories, The Portland Business Journal also publishes other regular content that PR Pros and entrepreneurs should consider.

 

  • One good way to get coverage is through “The Pitch.” This feature is essentially a written investor pitch which combines a company questionnaire with a write up interview about a company’s genesis story. “The Pitch” always runs online and will run in the print edition as space allows.
  • The journal also publishes weekly lists throughout the year, such as The Fastest Growing Private Companies in Oregon or The Largest Architecture Firms in the Portland Metro Area. PBJ editors are always looking for list topic suggestions or business nominations.
  • In addition to lists, the PBJ also publishes regular awards for outstanding businesses and business executives. When this is mentioned, I remind PR folks that clients will love you forever if you get them an award.

About the guest: Malia Spencer

For nearly five years, Malia Spencer has covered the technology, startup, and entrepreneurs beat for the Portland Business Journal. Sign up for her free, twice-weekly newsletter TechFlash.

Connect and follow Malia 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.

Event: PR Talk Live with Malia Spencer

Event: PR Talk Live with Malia Spencer

Join us on June 7th at Pregame HQ in the Pearl

Amy will interview Malia Spencer, the Portland Business Journal’s startup and technology reporter. Get your questions answered and meet Malia — sometimes all it takes is putting a face behind the blind email pitch or press release.

5:00 pm | Doors & initial Happy Hour
5:15 pm | Live Podcast Interview
6:00 pm | Q&A and First Thursday Happy Hour

More info and tickets at pregamehq.com.

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5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

June 7th

Pregame HQ

926 NW 13th Ave, Portland, OR 97209

PR Talk Live with Malia Spencer

At Pregame HQ in the Pearl

Register Now, Free for Pregame Members, $47 for Guests

To learn more about Pregame, listen to our PR Talk episode with Pregame Founder, Ciara Pressler.

Podcast: Zach Dundas: Portland Monthly Magazine

Podcast: Zach Dundas: Portland Monthly Magazine

The Man Behind the Machine that is Portland Monthly

“We don’t expect PR people to read our minds,” Zach Dundas, Editor in Chief of Portland Monthly, assures us during the course of our interview on PR Talk. From his corner office overlooking the city, we covered his role as the head of editorial for Portland’s beloved monthly magazine, how he’s written two books, and his insight for PR people.

As Editor in Chief, Zach is responsible for setting the overarching direction of the magazine and ensuring that the editorial team follows suit. Yet many of the writers on Zach’s team also hold the Editor title, empowering them to make editor-like decisions within their reporting and writing functions. This frees Zach up to ponder how Portland Monthly can morph along with the city’s ever-changing scene and priorities—a task that becomes more challenging as Portland grows. Zach is quick to add that he still likes to get his hands dirty with frequent article writing and reporting.

As we delve into the two books Zach’s written — “The Renegade Sportsman” and “The Great Detective— I uncover that Zach was in the throws of welcoming his second child to the world and had been recently promoted to Editor in Chief during the process of writing his last book. However, deadlines from his publisher and editor helped him see the project through.

“Deadlines are one of the secrets to creativity. Having to get something done is why a lot of things get done in the world,” Zach said. “What we do [at Portland Monthly] is driven by a deadline cycle. An under-rated factor in the creative industry is that there is a machine behind what people are creating.”

 

When to Pitch Portland Monthly

Speaking of deadlines, one of the hardest things to wrap my head around when doing long-lead PR is to think so far in advance. “If you want to see a story in print, it’s not out of the question to pitch something six months out,” Zach said. “But we can turn something around for the website in a day-ish.”

It’s always better to play it safe but new clients and projects don’t have these strict deadlines ingrained into their psyche like we PR people do. So if you can get in front of the team three to four months in advance of when the issue would publish, you’ll be OK.

If you’re really under the gun with a tight deadline you may be able to sneak something in after that time. Let’s take the June issue for example:

  • It confusingly hits the stands in late May (a week or so before the month starts)
  • It goes to the printer early May
  • The details within the stories are conceived and written in April
  • The drop-dead appears to be 6 weeks ahead but I’ve never been known for my computing skills. You do the math.

Keep in mind that the topical ideas for the entire year are mapped out 12 months or more ahead. See this blog post on Editorial Calendars for more insight.

 

How to Pitch Portland Monthly

Zach comforts us that Portland Monthly is always looking for stories. Pitching the right editor is part of the battle and you can’t uncover this by glancing over the masthead. You’ll need to pay attention to the magazine and web content to learn what each editor is covering. “The more closely you can tailor your pitch to each editor’s coverage focus, the better,” he says.

The most successful PR people have a “knack for telling the stories themselves and put thought into what they’re pulling together. The best pitches have elements of story and character,” Zach says.

This comment has me thinking about all the journalists we’ve interviewed on PR Talk who’ve been harping after us to shorten our pitches. “Concision is great but give us a sense of what the story is,” Zach says.

The point that PR people must customize, customize, customize has been driven home again. Not only are we tailoring our outreach efforts for each individual contact and outlet, we must also match our materials to how the medium delivers its news. A TV station that produces quick bites of news isn’t going to be able to digest a long pitch. Whereas a publication embarking on in-depth, long-form coverage might have the stamina for something meatier.

 

What to Pitch Portland Monthly 

You’ll have to pick up a copy of the magazine, peruse the digital content and sign up for a newsletter to discover this for yourself! But if you are reading this in late Spring 2018, when this episode was released, Zach advises that it’s not too early to start talking about next fall and winter.

About the guest: Zach Dundas

Zach Dundas grew up in Montana, published ‘zines, played in bands, and made his start in journalism at the Missoula Independent. After working as an editor and reporter for Portland’s Willamette Week from 1999 to 2005, he wrote for Monocle, Maxim, Good Magazine, and others. His first book, The Renegade Sportsman, was published by Riverhead Books in 2007, followed by The Great Detective in 2015. He is now editor-in-chief of Portland Monthly and a correspondent for Monocle.

Connect and follow Zach 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.

Experienced PR Pro

Experienced PR Pro

Veracity, a boutique PR company based in Portland, Ore., is looking to bring in an experienced PR professional. This is an opportunity for someone who wants to fulfill ongoing, permanent work with a steady workflow & payment coming down the pipeline but operating a bit more independently on a part-time contract basis. You’d be remotely pitching and maintaining media relationships on behalf of a few clients, although in-person meetings can be accommodated.

We will provide the campaigns and parameters you are to place. The success of the job will be measured by how many placements are garnered. A set role of expectations would be fulfilled, measured in terms of PR placements and results. You must have a proven track record of garnering high-profile PR placements, with skills in both writing and media follow through. Also, a history of success while operating independently is a plus.

To apply: email your qualifications and writing samples (press release and blog post) to careers(at)veracityagency.com.

Photo by Lost Co on Unsplash