Reporters Have the Worst Job in America

Ever since I was in 8th grade, I wanted to be a reporter.

It was an easy choice. I like to write, I am naturally curious and I hate math!

The Columbia Journalism Review recently reported that reporting is considered the worst job in America. Had that been written during my college years, it would not have affected my career choice at all!

I worked hard for my journalism degree at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, which was, at the time, among the top ten best. It probably still is.

I knew the competitive difference between me and the other wanna bees was publishing clips.  And publish I did, having my own column in my hometown newspaper while a high school student and getting my first paid freelance gig during my sophomore year at OU.

My career move from journalism to public relations has been more lucrative. I still write articles on occasion because I still love the art of the dig and my editors know it. They tell me it is hard to find old-fashioned reporters who are willing to work hard. And I still cannot resist the thrill of the chase, finding answers to the tough questions or a getting the exclusive. Journalists have always understood branding. Their byline is their brand. (If you want to see my latest articles, please visit Work Samples.

Public relations folks with reporters’ battle scars instinctively cut through the bull. We are friendly skeptics for our clients who ask the tough questions. We instinctively know what readers want to read. And personally, I continue to produce materials that would pass objective journalistic standards. It allows me to maintain my integrity while helping my clients build credibility.

Reporting is the worst job because it is very stressful — deadlines, ensuring accurate information, and sorting through agendas — and it does not pay well. We always say we do not pay our teachers enough but journalists, the educators of current events, make less and generally lack union representation.

At the same time, journalism is a very rewarding career. As the great historian Paul Johnson says, (my paraphrase) the journalist is the historian of the present.  I have had the honor of watching the workers’ compensation industry evolve and improve. Soon, I will be writing about the history of workers’ compensation since my nearly 25 years in the insurance industry. In the meantime, you might enjoy the article I wrote for John Burton’s Workers’ Compensation Policy Review called, “The Evolution of Integrated Benefit Delivery Systems in the United States.”

Be kind to the journalists you know, they have the worst job in America.

Marketing Mistake 1: Not Knowing the Audience

Companies waste millions of dollars on ineffective marketing and communications efforts. While I cannot back this up with a study, anecdotal evidence and firsthand observation are on my side.

To stop the nonsense, I offer my list of the top five biggest marketing mistakes I’ve seen. Enjoy!

Biggest Mistake #1: Not knowing the audience and their needs well enough.

To reach your targeted audiences, you have to know them. Do you?

One of my clients thought they knew. My research, however, revealed that the company’s client needs vary by circumstance (such as company size, corporate philosophy and outsourcing appetite). I suggested tailoring services and product offerings not just by category, but by situation. Developing customer profiles helps assure you are reaching the right audience with the appropriate message.


Do your materials help your prospective and current clients see why
they must have your products and/or services?


I interviewed another client’s customers to discover their perception of its products and services. The customers were indeed very satisfied with the product and customer service. But, due to a merger, they were confused about the client’s name. The customers did not care. They were happy to know who to call to get what they need. Such results still call for a branding effort.

What do your clients need? What are they worried about? Of course they are looking to save money and time while boosting the bottom line. Who isn’t? But what particular challenges do they face? Does your message and supporting material clearly show — not just tell— the value you add?

Can you explain the value-added of your wares in a clear, succinct and specific manner that transcends empty buzzwords and promises?

Too often, marketing and communications materials are written from a general and corporate point of view. Do your materials help your prospective and current clients see why they must have your products and/or services? Have you actually satisfied the questions your customers want answered?

As an outsider looking in at my customers’ operations, I have the fresh look of their customers’ perspective. I write material that aims to give satisfactory answers. What is more customer-focused than that?

These basic customer questions are:

1) What in heck is it?
2) Why is this a must-have for my business?
3) What is so great and special about it?
4) How will it make my job easier?
5) How will it improve or support a better bottom line?

I often suggest graphic representations as another way to get your point across. People with high spatial intelligence are likely to get the point more quickly with effective graphic representation near the text.

For example, consider the insurance agent who is trying to sell more umbrella coverage. First, of course, he must describe what umbrella coverage does and why many people need it. But he can communicate the need more effectively with a graphic that shows the limits of auto and home insurance and the more comprehensive coverage that results from an umbrella policy placed over the others. (Here I refer you to Aartrijk,, which specializes in branding and public relations for insurance agents.)

(To learn more about thinking like your customer, check out my blog on customer empathy

Next week, I will cover Top Marketing Mistake # 2: Spending Too Much Money.

In the meantime, have fun!