“So, what will a typical day look like?”
I remember laughing as my former – and future – colleague Taylor Durden asked me that question a little more than a year ago.
Like so many other longtime journalists, Taylor was thinking about making a leap into a new career outside the news business. We’d spent months talking about her goals, and several weeks talking more seriously once it became clear my company might be a fit. So now she just had one simple question left before making a decision. The reason I laughed is that I knew the answer was more complicated, less definitive, and a lot more interesting than she bargained for.
I absolutely understood why she’d ask the question. As fast-paced as the news business might be, and as much as assignments might vary, the basic format of most days is pretty much the same. The deadlines and the expectations have changed dramatically, but for most people in news – at least television news – their day is still pretty much sandwiched between an editorial meeting and a newscast. Get your assignment, gather your story, put it on TV (and online, and social, and lots of other places), then head home. For anyone who’s spent their entire working life in the news world, it’s hard to imagine a world that isn’t built around those milestones.
I tried to explain to Taylor how a small consulting firm like ours has the freedom – and the obligation – to be much more fluid. At any point in the day, we might be working on a report for a client, helping a reporter work a story, building a relationship with a potential future customer – or pivoting to react to any of number of issues that might come up for us or for our clients.
“Does that answer your question?” I asked. “Not really,” she responded.
Somehow, she still took the job. And a few months later, she completely understood why it was so difficult to give her a neat answer. In the PR/communications world – at least at a boutique firm like ours – you constantly get the chance to do something different.
For me, that’s the best thing about it. But I totally understand how that concept could be unsettling for some – especially a journalist who’s thinking about leaving “the business.” So I think I’ve finally found a better way to answer Taylor’s question. I’m going to run down one actual, normal day – last Thursday, to be exact – to show all the ways we go about the business of telling stories.
8:00 – I’m getting an early start these days because I drop my daughter off for school just around the corner – our ninth year on the same route. Our building has a top-notch coffee shop, so I stop by to order “the regular” (a dry cappuccino), then head to my office to dive into the day.
The first items on the agenda today are all related to the Give for Good campaign. We’re contracted to line up and coordinate media coverage of the organizations who are participating, which involves making – and managing - dozens of connections.
With just a narrow window of time before my first meeting, I firm up the interview schedules for two TV stations, finish distributing the PSAs we helped produce, and nail down a couple of contracts for paid media.
Our mission is telling stories about people and companies who are making the community better, so this is the perfect gig for us because we’re supporting more than 500 organizations focused on community impact.
8:30 – While the rest of the team gets their day started, I split off for a regular check-in with the Executive Director of Imagination Library of Louisville. I helped launch ILL five years ago and still serve as its president, but they aren’t a client – which is what makes this time so unique. Because community service is part of our mission, we support and even encourage our team to dedicate time to their passion projects – even if it’s during the workday.
10:00 – Our office sits inside Lodgic Workspace, which means we sometimes get to be part of bigger team. On this day, Lodgic is doing a photo shoot for its own marketing, so we step up and pitch in. We spend the next hour posing as a happy-go-lucky team of coworkers enjoying all the amenities our space has to offer. It’s not much of a stretch, plus we get to eat the prop food. We also manage to actually be productive while we’re looking productive - and have a little fun at the same time.
11:30 – My wife has an opening in her day, so I pop over to Logan Street Market for a quick lunch with her. It’s a luxury I almost never got while working in news.
12:15 – One of our clients refers us over to someone who may be looking for some PR help after some negative media coverage. We don’t know if it’ll lead to business (it doesn’t), but we quickly research the background and plot out some potential strategy so we can move quickly if we get the call.
1:00 – I’m technically not part of the weekly status call with Ronald McDonald House, but I’m just across the room, so my ears perk up a few times and I roll my chair over to join in. We brainstorm about creative for the upcoming end of year campaign, run through plans for an upcoming event with the Governor, and cover all the other topics of the day.
2:00 - Taylor and I have an initial meeting to pitch a potential client. It’s an international company so it’s a great opportunity, and it seems like a good fit from the beginning. By the end of the call, our contact says, “I feel like I’ve struck oil, so I can quit digging.” It can’t go much better than that, so we schedule another call for next steps.
3:00 - Taylor, our new teammate Meg and I head over to Portland to meet with Canopy KY – an organization that certifies companies for engaging in “good business” practices. Canopy was the very first client Taylor met with when she joined FDLC a year ago, and we’re excited to be working on a new project with them - another opportunity for us to be involved with lots of companies doing good. As a bonus, we hear a great joke about Descartes and a horse who walks into a bar – which I will now be inflicting on anyone who will listen.
4:15 – As our Canopy meeting wraps up, we walk across the street to Rockerbuilt, where our colleague Zak has already been meeting with their team. In addition to some more traditional PR efforts for their upcoming events and the companies who occupy their studio space, we’re working another project with them that shows just how varied our jobs can be.
We’re helping them spread the word about their new business line customizing Airstream trailers for food and beverage clients. Taylor has already produced a video showing the first one one rolling out, but now we’re building out scale models with potential client logos. Who knew the communications business would include shopping in the toy catalog?
5:00 – After a quick tour of Rockerbuilt’s complex for Meg, we wrap the day and head home. It’s far earlier than I ever would have ended a day in news, and I feel like I’ve had a bigger impact. We made connections, built some business, and helped people tell their stories. While it’s sometimes hard work, it’s a heck of a way to make a living.