During my 16 years as a freelance journalist, I wrote about home buying and selling, home ownership, young professionals, entrepreneurs, business concerns, health and wellness, the environment, school graduations and community happenings. I spoke with adults, children and seniors, including every-day people and government representatives, the financially strapped and the wealthy, the ailing and the fit. It was a privilege to connect with each one of them and share their stories, none of which I took lightly.
While I shared plenty of stories about the things I learned from different individuals, organizations and industries, the work also opened my eyes to insights beyond the resulting content that appeared in print and on digital pages, including concepts that heighten my work in public relations.
- Sources matter.
The person or organization that an individual gets information from—whether it’s the best ice cream shop in town, the low-down on the local shopping mall’s sales event, changes in tax laws or anything else—matters.
Sure, consulting reputable sources, that is, those proven as honest and legitimate, can go a long way in ensuring that shared information will be factually correct, but perspective can color a person (or organization’s) perception of the truth, affecting the individual’s view of the issue at-hand. For instance, a concerned citizen that sees an abandoned building as a safety hazard might declare its removal as a true benefit to the community, while a historian might assert the building’s destruction as being an undeniable loss. Or one diner—a frugal shopper—might name an affordable pizza place as the absolute best lunch-spot in town, while another person might state that a pricier café in town that serves gourmet slices is the area’s indisputable go-to eatery. If you want input on a matter, be sure of your source’s integrity and perspective.
- People care. A lot.
One of the best parts of connecting with so many people was the opportunity it gave me to meet and talk with caring individuals. Our communities are rich in people working, volunteering and otherwise striving to make life better for others. Whether in desperate need or a temporary tough spot, people and families from all walks of life are benefitting from individuals and groups lending their support, from personal contributions to providing financial backing, creating needed programs, working with human services organizations and otherwise helping out. Many people also are working to improve the region’s natural environment, advocate for the care and treatment of animals, increase the visibility and availability of the arts, expand accessibility to medical care, provide housing and so much more. Truly, caring people are everywhere.
- Hard work stems from passion.
The motivation to act could stem from need, desire or even boredom, but nothing kick-starts and sustains an effort like passion does. Meaningful work, where activity benefits people, places or things, often requires a concentrated effort over an extended period. The most successful people and organizations I connected with as a journalist had more than a vision for something desirable. Valued outcomes were rooted in the steadfast passion of whoever led the effort. If you want to make a difference, align with a passionate leader. Those are people that carry an ideal through the hard work involved in ensuring good days and enduring difficult times, long-term.
- Community is powerful.
Certainly, individuals can make a difference, but the collective body of a community can have a powerful effect on the way people live and how they’re governed. Working in journalism has taught me that the might of a community can sway policies, incite action and stand in the way of change.
Indeed, the collective strength of shared values, whether they’re for something like clean waterways, justice for all, regional development or another ideal, generates a tangible and often influential energy that leads to decisive action, just or not. Leaders know this. Hopefully, we all do, too.
Connecting with others through journalism, public relations outreach or even everyday conversations broadens perspectives and unites people. Thanks to lessons I’ve learned along the way, as well as the stellar support of my PR colleagues, keying on effective ways to share ideas, resources and innovations with those that can benefit from them is clearer. And isn’t bringing people together for their common advantage what public relations is all about?