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Gary Belsky talks journalism, PR, and telling stories

Connections are funny. And whether we want to believe it or not our personal, physical, soul connections are what make the world go-round. This is an easy thing to forget in our hyper-connected, tech-driven, amped-up world; but it’s absolutely true.

A decade ago (while living in Chicago where I worked with an entertainment development startup) I met a young, talented writer named Chris Sprow who had founded a sports magazine in Chicago. He would frequent events we produced and venues we owned, and I always enjoyed our conversations – funny, snarky, insightful, and sometimes serious.

He went on to sell that publication and has since become a Senior Editor at ESPN. I still see him nearly every time I visit New York, and he has been an integral part of my “grown up life” as an entrepreneur in the PR space.

During my last trip to New York he introduced me to Gary Belsky, ESPN’s former editor in chief, and now columnistfor Time.com. We immediately hit it off, and I see a bright future full of many interesting, compelling, and thoughtful conversations.

So 10 years later, after meeting Chris (and countless hours spent over drinks talking baseball), that connection has lead to this amazing and insightful interview with one of the best in the biz.

Enjoy…and remember…this business, this life, is about relationships.

In your opinion, what is the No. 1 misconception about Journalism?

Gary Belsky: That there is such a thing as a mainstream media…or at least a mainstream media conspiracy. There are, of course, cultural and hiring tendencies in all organizations, but journalism is broadly subject to the same market pressures as other industries. If a bias or perspective is not in demand among large enough audiences, the market will correct for that. This has happened, to some extent, of course. But if there was a demand for more right wing or conservative media outlets, believe me when I tell you, entrepreneurs would be starting them.

What makes for a great story? In other words, what are the key components to a writing something people will care about, be inspired by, etc.?

GB: Tension, foremost, and uncertainty of outcome, along with relevance. In other words, there needs to be conflict and consequence. Which is what drama is about, essentially. There’s a reason they’re called stories.

Do you think the PR industry is “broken?” What would make it better?

GB: I don’t think there is one Public Relations industry, actually. I think there are various different businesses that are grouped together as “PR,” all at different places along the efficacy spectrum. That is, some are more useful and efficient than others; and, oddly, some of the ones in which players are struggling are still the most powerful when they work (i.e. old school media placement). [PR] is harder than ever to do, but possessing of great potential when done right. The same holds true for social media, which is a part of PR. Some of it works, some of it is a waste of time. I have a theory about one aspect of PR, but people pay me a lot of money to help them implement it. I’m too expensive for this interview space, alas.

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What’s in a hyphenated last name? We sit down with Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

Happy New Year! To kick off the amazing-ness that is sure to be 2013, I wanted to take a moment to say how grateful we are for all those who have supported the AirPR journey thus far. In case you don’t know who you are, let me re-mix and re-serve it up: our investors (the […]

How to Score a PR Homerun: Interview with ESPN’s Chris Sprow

The following interview was conducted by AirPR’s Director of Product, Rebekah Iliff. In addition to her role at AirPR, she is a technology/startup blogger for The Huffington Post and has recently been a featured columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Young Entrepreneur.”

If you’re a baseball fan, which I admittedly am not, then you’ll appreciate the blatant attempt to tie-in sports with this week’s blog post as the Giants face some serious competition in the MLB Playoffs. Standard disclaimer: our office is three blocks from the stadium, and I wasn’t even aware they were in the playoffs until this week. Oops.

It just so happens that I spent some time with my good pal and colleague Chris Sprow a few weeks ago in New York, who also just so happens to be part of the stellar ESPN team. Over pasta and vino, we waxed poetic about technology’s impact on everything from customer engagement and content development, to article writing and media relations.

Oh, and there was the occasional act of nostalgia in which we paid homage to the “olden days” back in Chicago when we were both hustling in our respective careers, only to land squarely where we sit now: a muy importante person at ESPN in New York and the Director of Product for a tech startup in San Francisco. Queue slice of humble pie.

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