Podcast: Bruce Williams: KGW Media Group

Podcast: Bruce Williams: KGW Media Group

KGW’s Ultimate Gatekeeper, Bruce Williams, Tells it Like it Is

Assignment Editor turned “Content Discovery Editor”

I would consider Bruce Williams to be THE source at KGW. A million years ago I would have called him the “Assignment Editor,” but in a world of tweets, chats, and millennials, Bruce’s title has changed to Content Discovery Editor. This is because his role has shifted beyond what you see on TV to include duties for social media and the KGW website.

Back in an easier time, the Assignment Editor was the person I envisioned to be somewhat in charge of the newsroom’s operations for that day. It was their job to scan the news and determine what was going to be covered with the entire team’s input. The Assignment Editor would then “assign” the stories to the reporters and cameras available to them for that day. Basically, this was the person you needed to talk to the day you wanted your story to run for last-minute news.

The Reimagined Role of the Assignment Editor

And….drumroll please….fancy title or not, Bruce is still the person you need to talk with. As I strutted into Bruce’s domain, he showed me his command center, which used to be called the “assignment desk” and now I believe it is called something cooler, but I don’t remember. Centered in the middle of the newsroom, a circular desk equipped with various computer systems and police scanners is slightly perched above the other newsroom desks so they “can yell out across to the other teams.” Wherever you are, whatever you’re working on, if it’s TV news, this is the desk you are calling and the person who answers is the person you need to speak with to garner “day of” or sometimes next day news. Do not confuse this person with the receptionist.

As I kicked off the interview, completely flabbergasted by Bruce’s new title, I wondered how I would communicate that I needed the “assignment editor” now that the long-standing term used in newsrooms across America was no longer valid.

Bruce clarified a new term for me. “You need to know who your gatekeeper is.” Yes! That is exactly it! Bruce went on to possibly confuse us further by saying that the gatekeeper varies from newsroom to newsroom—mentioning that there are a group of gatekeepers at KGW depending on what the story is. Bruce tells us you could go straight to a reporter if your story aligns with a specific beat, to an Executive Producer, or to the web team. But I’ll just add, when all else fails or if you aren’t sure, go to someone like Bruce, whom I consider the ultimate gatekeeper.

Bruce Williams KGW Desk

The Sacred Morning Meeting

Even though no two days are the same in the world of news, envisioning Bruce’s daily schedule might help you wrap your head around how a newsroom operates. Arriving at work before 5:30 a.m., he checks in with the sunrise team to see what they are working on, searches twitter and Facebook, along with the mountain of new emails, and formulates a plan to get available crews out the door covering stories.

The infamous “morning meeting” happens at 9:30 a.m. This is when all the crews come in to discuss story ideas and a plan is formed. If you want day-of news you need to get your information over to them before this time and make sure they are discussing your news at the morning meeting. Of course you would email the information to them, but you can’t assume they received it. I find that a phone call works better than telepathy for checking in. Bruce assures us that he’s happy to take phone calls, saying that he’ll even give you a read on if he thinks something will get covered if you call at the right time—between 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. Do not call at 9:30 a.m. (during the morning meeting) nor at 2:30 p.m. because that is when he’s off for the day.

 

The Newsroom Email Address

Bruce reminds us that every newsroom has a generic newsroom email address. KGW’s is [email protected]. If you send your pitch here and it’s compact enough, incorporating a coverage date, it will likely be put in a file for future coverage.

 

The Best Time for a Press Event

Speaking of timing, next I asked Bruce my second favorite question. When is a good time of day for a press event? Sure enough, he answered 10 – 10:30 a.m. if you want to get on the noon news and possibly subsequent shows throughout the afternoon and evening. For general news he said that nighttime events don’t work well, unless the station has a live field reporter (but that wouldn’t be general news, now would it?), or it’s really unique or visual.

 

The Self-Directed Newsroom

Bruce also reminded us that if the event is visual, but stations can’t make it out, you can shoot your own video and/or take your own pictures and send those over for TV stations to air. He assured us that what you capture doesn’t need to be perfect. “Think about what you see on social media, it’s not perfect.” We can submit those through Dropbox or a YouSendIt file.

 

The type of stories Bruce is looking for

  • Things people are talking about.
  • What people are sharing on social media.
  • Local ties to a big national or international story.
  • Is there a visual aspect?
  • Incorporating real people the station can talk to.
  • A benefit to the audience.

 

Bruce’s PR pet peeves:

Luckily for us, Bruce is a pretty easy going guy but he was able to come up with a few PR pet peeves, when asked.

  • PR people that reach out to the press with story pitches, only to be unable to be reached soon after. If it’s time sensitive, make yourself available!
  • PR people who don’t want them to show up with a camera (after sending a pitch to a TV station!?!).

Even though social media and the internet have turned TV news operations into a 24-hour cycle, Bruce’s main function remains the same. In the same way, Bruce’s advice for PR people mirrors this concept. If building relationships and doing whatever it takes to help your contacts sounds like a lot of work, it is. Just as the internet hasn’t yet created a way to take the hustle out of PR, it certainly hasn’t augmented the role of the traditional Assignment Editor quite yet.

About the guest: Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams is the Senior Assignment Manager for the KGW Content Discovery Center at KGW Media Group. Bruce has been with KGW for nearly 10 years and has been in the media world for three decades. He is a(nother) graduate of the Washington State University broadcast journalism school and a huge Cougars sports fan. He’s also the gatekeeper, leading the decisions on where cameras and reporters go.

Connect and follow Bruce 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 courtesy of Tim Mossholder

Minicast: The 3 Keys to TV Success

Minicast: The 3 Keys to TV Success

3 Keys to TV Success

What do you do after you come back from a successful work campaign? You record a podcast to tell the world how you did your job, right? You do if you are the host of PR Talk Podcast and want to share your knowledge with the rest of the world…or at least the percentage that listens to your podcast.

For this one, it is pretty straightforward. Here are the three keys to TV success:

  1. Visual – create a visual element and present that to the TV stations in your pitch.
  2. Charity – tie-in a charitable element or a charity into your campaign.
  3. Timing – hold your press event at an ideal time for TV media. That is typically 10:00 AM on a weekday.

Seems pretty simple. It is…and it isn’t. We have been doing this for a long time, but if you have these three elements in your pitch, you are on your way to a higher probability of success.

This approach just landed all four local TV stations sending a camera (two also sent a reporter along) to record Logical Position donating school supplies to the Blazers’ Boys & Girls Club. Here is one of the segments:

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: Julie Gustafson: Pearl Magazine

Podcast: Julie Gustafson: Pearl Magazine

All Things Pearl: Julie Gustafson,
PDBA Executive Director

Julie offers a crash course on community relations after explaining the Pearl Business Awards and The Pearl magazine.

 

Julie Gustafson, Executive Director of the Pearl District Business Association (PDBA), stops by Veracity for a podcast interview right in time for the Pearl Business Awards’ nomination deadline, which is this Friday. The fourth annual Pearl Business Awards feature 15 categories that recognize individuals and businesses that are making a difference within Portland’s flourishing Pearl District. While the PDBA is a membership-based organization, you do not have to be a member to be recognized but you do have to be based in the Pearl. Any PR person can nominate any business or person for free here.

Sidenote: If you are interested in examining the benefits (or hindrances) of putting an awards strategy together for your company or clients, please join me at Pregame this Wednesday in the Pearl (of course) at 11 a.m. I have two slots available to non-Pregame members. Email me at [email protected] to get on the list.

The Pearl Magazine

Beyond the upcoming awards, Julie and I talk about other PR opportunities that the PDBA brings, including The Pearl magazine, which is produced quarterly by SagaCity Media. Julie has her finger on the pulse of the Pearl bringing story ideas to the SagaCity team. The team then infuses trends and newsworthy happenings into the ideas to bring an editorial slant to articles that mostly highlight PDBA members.

Always on the hunt for a good story, Julie keeps tabs on the community by constantly walking around the Pearl and connecting with community members. She’ll even prod her membership for story ideas — mentioning that she’d like members to connect with her if they’ll be hosting a charity drive for the holidays so that she can highlight it in the next issue. She encourages members to reach out to her with story ideas 3-6 months out to keep up with The Pearl’s quarterly production.

The Pearl gets around. Not only can it be found in almost every hotel in the city, it chills at the airport, the convention center, and more. It’s also mailed to Portland Monthly subscribers.

 

PR Opportunities Abound

Other PDBA PR opportunities include two monthly newsletters: one that’s delivered to members only and one that’s meant for the public (also produced by SagaCity). Since these are produced monthly we can breathe a little easier with shorter lead times.

Members and Pearl happenings are also highlighted online at explorethepearl.com in an engaging story-telling way. Business listings featuring each member’s profile — including that oh-so-important link back to the business’s website — are also included here. Businesses can even update their profile content as they see fit, for instance adding their upcoming First Thursday events.

 

Community Relations versus Public Relations

What’s the difference between Public Relations and Community Relations? Julie’s past experience as Community Relations Manager for the Portland Streetcar highly qualifies her to dig into this conundrum with me. As we do so, we learn a little bit about the Streetcar’s fascinating history in Portland and what a community relations manager’s role might be in getting the word out about things like service interruptions and new offerings. She even expands upon what it was like to knock on the doors of local businesses that would be affected by construction surrounding the expansion of the line.

About the guest: Julie Gustafson

Julie Gustafson is the Executive Director of the Pearl District Business Association which produces The Pearl Magazine.

Connect and follow Julie and the Pearl District Business Association 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

Minicast: How To Operate Like a Newsroom

Minicast: How To Operate Like a Newsroom

Taking your own photos and videos, how to get those assets to the press and when to hire a pro

First, a caveat, if you can bring a professional photographer, do it! If you are good at taking photos and videos, skip to the parts about how to submit them or what makes for a good photo opp.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Could we be focusing on the wrong thing with all this text? Would you rather have a big picture on the cover/homepage of the New York Times or an article inside? We want both, of course, but the photo is what gets more attention from our audience!

If you are as uncomfortable as Amy, a self-admitted terrible photographer, with taking photos and videos, don’t be. We have had photos and even iPhone videos, taken by this terrible photographer, run on TV.

Of course, you still would rather have the media come (you are more likely to get the story to run), but what if they don’t? You have to fill the role of the reporter even more. Let’s call it HARO, Help a Reporter Out…maybe that’s already taken.

Operating Like a Newsroom

If the news won’t come, serve as an extension of their newsroom by:

 

Taking & Submitting Your Own Photos & Videos

 

Photo Tips

Taking photos on your smartphone is easy. Taking really good photos is not. Follow a few basic tips and you will be getting pictures that are good enough to share with the media. Here is a list of what to look out for:

  • Be aware of your lighting. If you are outside, know where the sun is and how that will affect your shots. If you are inside, try to have natural light come in by being by big windows or you may need to supplement.
  • Shoot horizontally (turn your phone sideways).
  • Zoom the old fashion way. Meaning do not pitch and squeeze to zoom in on your screen. Walk closer to your subject to zoom in. If that is not possible, you should make sure you are taking high-resolution photos (see next tip) and crop after.
  • Use the “HDR” setting for high-resolution photos.
  • Use the “exposure lock” feature. Amy mentions in the podcast that she doesn’t know what this is and doesn’t use it. Simply hold your finger on your screen for what you want to stay focused on so the camera doesn’t zoom in/out on its own and lose focus on what you are capturing.
  • Turn the “Live” feature (for iPhones) off.
  • Most important rule: there are no rules, as Amy says,

“Take the damn photo!”

Other general (non-technical tips):

  • Action shots are typically better than smiling faces.
  • If you can get a company logo (perhaps on a t-shirt or a banner in the background), that’s great.
  • No Selfies!

 

Video Tips

Tips for taking videos with a smartphone are basically the same as photos, with a few added suggestions:

  • Use a tripod (or improvise something to keep your phone steady) if you can.
  • If you are capturing audio, use a microphone, lavalier mics are great for interviews and speeches.

See Tips for Creating iPhone Videos for more details or watch this how-to video:

When & How to Submit Photos/Videos

Here are guidelines about when and how to submit your assets:

When to Submit

TV

Submit photos and videos right away to TV, as soon as you can. News gets old really fast and TV typically has a 4 – 5 p.m. air-time, meaning you want to submit by 2 p.m. at the latest. So, if you can, hold your event/photo opp early in the day to give you time to submit to TV.

  • If it’s a weekday and your news didn’t run the day the news occurred you have a lower chance of it running the next day.
  • But if the news occurs on a Friday and they didn’t run it you have a higher chance of them running it over the weekend.
  • Follow up/resend & call over the weekend.
  • No means no!

Print/Online

It is still best to send the day of, but not as imperative. You can be a little less aggressive and send later that day or the next.

 

How to Submit

  • Upload videos & photos into Dropbox or a shared Google Drive and send links that are clearly labeled and accessable by the media, meaning make sure they can view and download.
  • Don’t overload them with too many junky photos.
  • Attach photos if you only have a few that are small. Emails with large attachments are often blocked and more likely to go into spam folder.

 

Photo Resolution

Pixels are more important than file size, however:

  • A photo that is 500KB (.5MB) is usually big enough (unless for magazines or billboards).
  • 3000 pixels wide is probably good enough for any outlet.
  • By default, most iPhones will take an image at 72 DPI.

 

Photo Opp Ideas

When Amy talks about using events a lot for getting photos and videos for press coverage, it does not have to be what you’d traditionally call an event. Any time something is happening that is worthy of a photo or video opp, that’s an event.

If you don’t have a cartload of crazy clowns moving into town to promote your thing, you may have to get a little more creative. Here are some ideas that provide good photo opps:

  • Groundbreaking for new construction
  • Ribbon cutting for new office/location +
  • Oversized check presentation +
  • Public art unveiling
  • Art installation
  • Exhibitors moving into a tradeshow
  • Special performance for children (remember you need a photo release if you are taking photos/videos of kids)
  • The measuring of a race course
  • Large scale event set up/move-in
  • New building/structure tours
  • Moving days for notable organizations
  • Volunteering or doing something active in the community
  • The event itself (along with or instead of a pre-event photo opp)—don’t forget the event you’ve been hired to promote is a photo opp in and of itself
  • Large-scale donation of food, clothing or other physical item drop off
  • Any other thing that you can make visual or active

+ Add more to it: incorporate other important things. Talking heads—such as politicians, VIP, donors—talking about important things are always good but visually thin. What can your photo opp players literally DO during their 20 minutes of fame?

 

When to Bring in the Professionals

While we have explained how easy it is for anyone to take photos and videos for the media, there are certain times you really should call a professional photographer/videographer.

  • Products – always use a pro for product shots.
  • Big Events/Fundraisers – many large events and fundraisers will already have a hired a pro, be their friend, get their photos, give credit.
  • Reoccurring Events/Activities – do you do the same type of volunteering every year? Hire a photographer at least one year to get really good photos you can reuse.

 

Photo Captions: A Press Release in a Sentence or Two

Photo captions are like mini press releases that can get you additional exposure and recognition. Follow these tips when sending to the press:

  • List who’s in the photo from left-to-right.
  • Include job titles only if they are very important or you don’t have much else to say about the organization.
  • Add a sentence that incorporates the results of what was happening in the photo if possible. X pounds of garbage collected; X dollars raised; or new office opened in X community.

With these tips and a little practice, you will be operating like your own newsroom in no time!

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: 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.