For years, ‘what have you been reading lately?’ has been my favorite question to ask when interviewing a potential Matter employee, to the point where I am often teased by some of my colleagues for asking that very question. Nonetheless, I have always believed that the question gives you real insight into what a person offers beyond the ABC’s (writing, organization, press and client relations) of PR.
Today, our culture (led with great gusto by PR super-consumers) is producing and processing more content than ever. Yet it appears that we (and I include myself) are actually reading and learning less, and therefore extending an age-old ‘mile-wide, inch-deep’ cliché for many professionals. Physically reading a newspaper/magazine/book forces consumers to read things that may not be of direct interest to them, but has the potential to open them to unconventional, yet effective, writing styles or perhaps under reported new trends that are exploding a continent away. At the very least, reading more physical media will broaden one’s knowledge base, which contributes to a well-rounded individual who can see angles/stories/trends that a more narrowly focused consumer cannot. Thanks to RSS feeds, blogs, Twitter, simple online news sites, Facebook… far too often content is filtered, skimmed and regurgitated, rather than understood, explained and taught. This is a shortcoming that is detrimental to most, but particularly damaging for the PR professional.
Often what distinguishes the average from the good in the game is a professional’s insight on what messages, stories and trends that are gaining traction in the media and how to match them with the various assets of their clients. A combination of both old-school (fiction of all kinds, long-form journalism, The Grey Lady aka The New York Times, metro alternative papers, local broadcast outlets) and new-school (tweets, TechCrunch’s rude boys and girls, vlogs) content will give you the context, understanding and perspective you need to be a better PR practitioner.
Below is a sample of what I regularly read, both online and otherwise.
By the way, what are you reading?
* Boston Herald, ‘The Inside Track’ – Boston’s top gossip collection. No one admits to reading it, but everyone talks about it…
* The Daily Beast, ‘Cheat Sheet’ – Tina Brown’s latest venture offers up a quality collection of the top five newspaper articles of the day
* New York – Yes, I live in the Boston area, but there’s always an article worth reading in every issue.
* Fast Company – The top press target out there. Smart, insightful and always different.
* Vanity Fair – Beautiful photos, thicker than a door stop and always a number of must read long-form, non-fiction articles
* The Given Day, Dennis Lehane – Labor unrest, race relations and Babe Ruth in 1919 Boston.