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Why We Have a Reporter in Residence

By Rudi Davis 26 August, 2016

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Last year, we at Publicize launched a Reporter in Residence (RIR) scheme, putting our clients in touch with real life journalists for important lessons and learnings for best PR practices. Here’s an explanation as to why we did it:

Reporters, still, continue to form the backbone of news organizations and media outlets the whole world over. Even with talk about robotic news platforms and algorithms that could one day write the news, nothing will replace the quality and hard work that dedicated reporters bring to news publications.

The RIR Program

Publicize first announced its Reporter in Residence (RIR) scheme in 2015. It was, to put it simply, our interpretation of the Entrepreneur in Residence programs used by a host of Venture Capital firms. While the Entrepreneurs would offer the very best in business advice, the reporters would do the same for media. Easy.

As a program for transitioning journalists (the post is for six months), the first RIR at Publicize was Rebecca Grant, freelance startup journalist and a former Venture Beat writer.

At the time, Grant told TechCrunch, “The RIR program was interesting to me because when I was at VB and after, I had so many people ask me for advice about reaching out to the press.

“I felt like if more entrepreneurs were informed and empowered to do their own media outreach, then I would have a more direct channel to find and report stories.”

And there you have it, the first RIR was born. Grant has since moved on, making way for our latest RIR, Forbes contributor Frederick Dawson. However, the question remains: what prompted Publicize to launch RIR in the first place?

Why bother with RIR?

Well, the idea is that having the RIR program – something we truly believe – is a huge benefit to both the media and tech industries. Companies that are large and small almost universally seek media advice, and there are also lots of experienced journalists who could also benefit from the option of, let’s face it, earning some extra money.

The fact is that the media is struggling. Which means that journalists are also struggling. Last year was the first time this century that circulation revenues were greater than advertising revenues. Put simply, this means that advertising is not providing media sources with the revenues they desperately need. Digital media sources produce just 10% of the advertising revenue of newspapers as print and, as statistics show, mobile is winning the war for consumer attention.

Outside of media hubs such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., US newspapers are haemorrhaging reporter jobs. In total, one in four reporter positions – a total of 12,000 empty desks – has been lost. The disruption is not limited to newspapers in the US, either. In the UK one national newspaper, The Independent, was forced to announce that it will no longer produce a print publication, instead switching permanently to digital.

The fact is that, if adopted by a variety of businesses and incubators, journalists could benefit without having to make a full transition to PR if they don’t want to. Obviously this will not appeal to all journalists, but the program, we feel, will benefit both industries.

One other benefit is the boosting of ethical PR. This means supporting credibility, transparency and truth telling, as well as combatting ‘spin’ in all its shapes and sizes. Public Relations is often held as a less than honorable industry, packed full of people that will do and say anything to get the results they need.

Having committed journalists on board helps us to properly advise clients as to how they should conduct their PR campaigns. No, you should not send 100 emails to journalists with your news story. No, you should not fabricate or exaggerate truths in order to make it onto a publication – you should be entirely transparent about the strength of your announcement, from start to finish.

The Bottom Line

Journalists help because they have an authority that is respected. Obviously, while we try to advise the right roads to take as firmly as we can, hearing the truth straight from the horse’s mouth is something that can be incredibly helpful for clients.

Were there worries about conflicts of interest? Of course, but these were very quickly, and carefully, addressed. “I would never write about or pitch any startup I met through Publicize,” Grant continued. “As the RIR, my role is about educating and informing about journalism, not trying to get startups press coverage, and to me, anything that raises awareness about the role and importance of journalism is good.”