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Moving to the Darkside with Lindsay Goldwert
20 August 2013

Lindsay Goldwert, Senior Program Executive at HotwirePR and former journalist at New York Daily News, on finding the sexy angle, the myth of the darkside and tips for dealing with hacks.

Prior to moving into PR, what was your perception of the industry?

I must confess, my conception of PR wasn’t a good one. That said, there were a few PR pros who stood out as total heroes, for sure. One saved the day by staying until 10pm to get me high-res nail art images during hectic Fashion Week. Another helped me locate two neurologists willing to speculate on the nature Hillary Clinton’s recent brain clot – on New Year’s Eve, no less. Another one just had a knack of pitching me good stuff that she knew I would like.

What lured you to the dark side and to Hotwire PR in particular?

I had a moment during Hurricane Sandy. I was working from home and missing my co-workers and the camaraderie. It suddenly hit me that I needed a change. I’d worked in journalism for nearly 13 years and felt like I was spinning my wheels. For many of us in journalism, this past decade has been grim, in terms of layoffs, sudden changes in strategy and low morale. I was fortunate to be introduced to Leslie Campisi, our US Managing Director and to Becky Honeyman, our New York director. I was bowled over at how kind and generous they were and how they were willing to take a chance on me. I took the storm as a sign and made a leap of faith.

What annoyed you most about PRs when you were a journalist?

I was constantly bombarded with emails and phone calls, often from well-meaning but seemingly clueless publicists and PR pros, who didn’t seem to know my beat. Looking back, I realize that it must have been hard to figure out what I was working on, since I wrote about everything from fashion to health to celebrity beauty. Heck, I didn’t know my beat half the time!

How did your journo colleagues react when you told them you were moving into PR?

They were mostly shocked. But many were curious. Many journalists, in their glummest hours, contemplate it, thinking the grass is always greener. I’ve gotten quite a few phone calls and emails from frustrated former colleagues seeking advice on whether they should make the switch. I’m always honest: It’s a lot of work but you will learn more in three months than you’ve learned in years.

What has been your biggest surprise about PR?

I like getting excited about things. I get a kick out of being able to say, “Check this out, this is awesome.” You have to be objective as a reporter. It’s a nice change of pace to be genuinely enthusiastic about a product or ethos that you believe in.

What lessons did you learn in journalism that are easily transferable to PR?

Don’t be boring! Every journalist has been handed a study or a press release or attended a dull event and had to find the sexy angle. PR pros have to do the same thing. It’s also handy to know how to juggle data, conduct interviews and become an “instant expert” on a topic.

What will you miss most about being a journalist?

While I’m enjoying being on the PR side, I’m not sure I’m done with journalism yet. I still find myself shouting, “That’s a story!” and “You should pitch that!” I still have some stories I’d love to tell, mostly about women’s health and sex health. But most of all, I miss the journalists. They’re the funniest people I know.

Will there be time for the occasional freelance story?

Maybe next year. I’m enjoying focusing on my job and giving it my complete attention.

What advice would you give to other journalists considering the change?

You don’t have to feel like you’re abandoning the noble art of journalism because you want a change of professional scene and to learn new job skills. The whole idea of “the dark side” is a total myth since so much of journalism these days is product shilling and celebrity worship. I would tell them to pick a PR job that lets you promote something you believe in. Get ready for a big change and embrace it. I would also tell them to get used to journalists treating you like dirt. There will be karma. And it will be harsh.

What is your top tip for PRs when dealing with hacks?

Never call during a daily deadline. Tailor your pitches to the writer or editor. Update your media lists. Don’t harass or stalk. Check your spelling. Avoid huge email attachments, too many emails or sending emails that don’t provide useful information. Keep your pitches short and sweet. Don’t be a phony. Don’t abandon your principles.

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