Over the course of my 12-year television news career, I reported for five stations in three states and filed stories everywhere from the CBS bureau in Rapid City, South Dakota, to Good Morning America in New York City. I learned many valuable lessons that ultimately benefited my entrepreneurial endeavors and are helping me in my CEO role.
1. Ask good questions.
Journalists know the path to uncovering a balanced story is paved with quality questions-; questions that are inquisitive, comprehensive, and relevant. Walter Cronkite, famed CBS news anchor once voted "the most trusted man in America," said, "In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story." For the last few years of my news career, I was an investigative journalist. I often spent weeks or months on stories digging for information and tracking down experts who could validate or refute my findings.
When I started my company, I had an idea to change the public relations industry and a journalistic belief: any answer was attainable if you found the right person to ask the question to. Like many entrepreneurs, I didn't have formal business training, so I sought out advice and best practices from business experts and leaders. People are surprisingly generous with their time if they are sharing their expertise for the purpose of helping someone else. Business leaders who ask quality questions and are adept at gathering data make the most informed decisions. There is rarely a downside to getting curious, asking quality questions, and gathering as many facts as appropriate prior to making an important decision or crafting a key piece of communication.
2. Communicate with context.
I worked at a TV station where managers preached the concept of the "traveling salesperson." It meant any local newscast would likely have viewers who were in town for one night, and we had to consider that audience when we wrote our stories. It had to make sense to someone who did not have a lot of context.
Business leaders often fail to remember that their internal and external audiences grow and change. New employees can struggle to feel like they fit in, so sharing outdated stories or making inside jokes can make them feel like more of an outsider. New customers may need reminders about who you are, what you do, or even how and why you started. Consider reading each piece of communication from the perspective of someone who doesn't know anything about your business.
3. Expect "breaking news."
In the newsroom, breaking news could happen at any minute and upend the plans of dozens of people. The stakes were high because the public relies on accurate information in a crisis. Also, news managers do not want to get "scooped." Teams that performed most effectively in breaking news situations often beat the competition in the high-stakes ratings game.
Entrepreneurs can benefit from expecting, rather than avoiding, rapid change. When a crisis happens, and it will happen, it must be approached with extreme care, and other plans must be held loosely enough they could be thrown out if something more critical or pressing occurs. We encourage all of our clients to have a crisis communication plan. The most prepared companies practice real-world scenarios so every team member feels more comfortable in a crisis. The last 12 months have illustrated how critical it is for entrepreneurs to be nimble and ready to pivot.
4. Check your sources.
A journalist's story is only as accurate as the information gathered from sources. For many entrepreneurs, the road to success is lonely and grueling. Make sure your sources-;those closest to you-;are encouraging, uplifting, and pushing you to be better.
Even though the fields of journalism and entrepreneurship may not seem to have much in common, there are a lot of lessons to be learned between the two. Applying the best practices I learned during my time as a journalist to my growing business has not only been extremely beneficial, but critical to my company's success.