I’ve been reading PR Daily since I was a junior in college. I had just transferred into Illinois State University’s public relations program and joined the ISU PRSSA Chapter. To this day, I still remember our chapter’s president, Kaitie Ries, telling our group of more than 100 aspiring PR practitioners, “If we’re not reading PR Daily on a regular basis then we’re basically doing it all wrong.”
Fast-forward four years later, April 2016, when I was jumping for joy after winning a free ticket to a workshop led by the publisher of PR Daily and CEO of Ragan Communications, Mark Ragan. Thank you PRSA Phoenix!
The workshop was very inspiring, to say the least, so if you’re looking for all the details then you can read my recap of it here.
But, today’s post is all about the man himself, Mark Ragan – whom I eagerly asked following the workshop if we could feature him for a Media Monday since he spent 15 years in journalism before leading Ragan Communications.
So, Mark take it away!
My first job as a reporter was for the Williston Daily Herald, and I have very fond memories of the experience. I didn't have a journalism degree, but I desperately wanted to be a reporter. Remember, this was the era of Woodward and Bernstein; everyone wanted to be a super sleuth. I wrote for this tiny newspaper in northwestern North Dakota. The editor hired me for reasons I still don't understand.
My first assignment proved that journalism could indeed help the world. I wrote a piece about a homeless woman and a reader responded with an offer of housing. It was a culture shock. I remember covering my first county commission meeting. The head commissioner squinted at me when I asked what a culvert was. "You're not from here, are you," he replied. I knew nothing and I knew I knew nothing. It was great training.
When I reported for The Anderson Independent and Daily Mail, I spent two years covering all kinds of beats. I began as a business reporter but had dreams of taking over the political beat.
I finally got my wish, and I was recruited for the Harte-Hanks political team that covered Ronald Reagan's first presidential election. I got to know the great political strategist, Lee Atwater, during my time there. Lee was from South Carolina, and he was heading the Reagan team in the state.
Other memories of that race: I can remember covering his 69th birthday at The Holiday Inn in Anderson, S.C. In those pre-Internet days, you could actually hide an event, or successfully play it down. Reagan's strategists were worried about Reagan's age so they chose the small town in South Carolina as the venue for this birthday.
Later that year I went Atlanta to cover the GOP nominating convention for Harte Hanks and The Anderson Independent. Those were heady days.
Boy do I feel old!
At Billings Gazette I covered City Hall and did some general assignment stories. It’s my favorite place in the world--to this day. I always miss Billings and will carry it around in my heart forever. I wish I could have stayed.
I covered California politics, for the San Diego Union-Tribune as well as some local city council races and worked as a general assignment reporter. Before taking the reins at Ragan Communications in 1992, I worked as a reporter for Copley News Service in Washington D.C. I covered presidential politics, Congress and filled in on the at the White House beat occasionally.
This brings us to today where I oversee Ragan Communications, PR Daily and Healthcare Marketing and Communication News.
My journalism experience paid off when I took over Ragan Communications, a company my father started in 1968.
With the advent of the Internet — which one might think of as a “free printing press” — I realized that every company could and should be a media company.
I came up with a mantra that underscores my philosophy: "Stop begging the media and become the media instead."
PR people need to begin thinking of themselves as storytellers — not as breast-beating champions of their brand. Journalists focus on one thing always: How do I tell a great story that my audience will love.
Your audience doesn't want to hear how you are a "solutions provider," or how great you are. But they will listen to stories that show them how you can make their lives better or easier or more productive.
So this is our challenge as communicators — how to advance the fortunes of our brand by adopting the techniques of the journalist and simply tell a great story.