Member Spotlight: Lorri Rishar Jandron, MBA, CEO of Edge Partnerships and 2013 PRSA Health Academy conference chair.
Lorri Jandron has been a member of the PRSA Health Academy since 2005, and serves on the PRSA Health Academy Executive Committee. Below is an excerpt from an interview in the article The Transition from Journalist to Public Relations Practitioner; featured in the Fall 2012 Health Academy newsletter, with Lorri Jandron and Ellen Beth Levitt, communications chair, PRSA Health Academy and senior communications specialist, Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Interview with Lorri Jandron:
EBL: You made the transition from being a newspaper editor to politics/government and then to the Sparrow Health System. Why did you make that transition?
LJ: I made the transition from journalism to public relations and marketing due to a number of factors. The management at the newspaper that I was working at made a calculated decision to minimize news content and maximize ad placement. While I appreciated that ad revenue was critical for the newspaper to exist, I believed a more balanced and effective approach would attract both readers and advertisers.
At the same time, I was being recruited by a highly respected state legislator to work at the Michigan House of Representatives’ communications office. After some serious soul searching, and a considerable pay increase, I made the leap into public relations.
The first 30 days of the transition proved very difficult for me. As a professional journalist, I was accustomed to flushing out stories, interviewing sources and writing a balanced story. In the public relations world, it is not unheard of to draft the stories, complete with quotes, and get approval from the issuing party. To this day, I still believe the best public relations is balanced, truthful and can very much include real quotes from real sources.
EBL: What skills that you developed as a journalist were valuable for working in Public Relations /Communications or as a spokesperson?
LJ: My roots in journalism definitely enhanced my communication skills, both written and verbal. The interviewing process is a great exercise in developing pertinent questions, speaking to an array of people from diverse backgrounds, triple checking sources, detailed editing and meeting deadlines. These skills have proven valuable in my public relations and spokeswoman roles. They continue to serve me well as the CEO of Edge Partnerships.
EBL: Was there a learning curve? What adjustments did you need to make? What did you find out about public relations that you didn’t realize as a journalist?
LJ: As mentioned earlier, the transition to public relations was a bit bumpy for the first few weeks. Simply stated, putting words in other people’s mouths proved to be most difficult. So, I went back to my journalist roots to make every effort to capture the source’s voice, double check facts and serve as a valued resource for journalists seeking information.
EBL: Do you think that journalists may not appreciate the skill and depth of knowledge that public relations practitioners need to be successful?
LJ: I believe that journalists recognize and value the work of effective public relations practitioners who serve as reliable resources and respect the role of the journalist.
EBL: You hired journalists to work for you when you were at a health system. How did you help them make the transition? Do you have any advice for public relations managers who are planning to hire journalists who don’t have public relations experience?
LJ: Good writing is good writing. As a former journalist, I am always looking for skilled writers who also excel in verbal communication. The two go hand-in-hand.
I have a special soft spot for former journalists. They know how to write well, check their facts, work on tight deadlines, ask great questions and welcome media inquiries.
Be aware though, because they also know how to push back if they don’t see the value of a story or tactic — it’s in their DNA. This will take some coaching but, ultimately, it can be developed as an asset to you and the organization.