I recently had the honor of attending the Florida Press Association Convention in Orlando. I have always respected the work of journalists – at one point I even aspired to be one. But these days I focus my time on becoming a PR pro, where I spend a lot of the day emailing, calling, and (dare I say) “stalking” reporters for stories.

After spending 48 hours surrounded by these professionals, I have a newfound respect for the industry and am excited about the many possibilities the future holds for bringing the press and public relations together.

My journey began sitting in banquet halls listening to the highs and lows of being a reporter in today’s digital world. It was here that I learned…

Great reporting can influence change

Given the public’s shifting attitudes about media, I was blown away learning about how much work journalists do, particularly for their investigative pieces.

The first hour was dedicated to an awards lunch, where winners were announced for outstanding stories that impacted society in one way or another. Each recipient was encouraged to share a brief summary of their award-winning story.

While every story that won was impressive, the one told by two women from the Miami Herald has stayed with me. The women spoke of their famous series, Innocents Lost.

The time that went into putting that together, as well as the stories that Carol Marbin Miller and Audra Burch were able to tell through longer narratives in the newspaper, were incredible and inspiring. Carol and Audra concluded their speech by reassuring the audience that steps had been taken to protect children since publishing their articles, but that the fight is never done until every child is safe.

It was at this moment that I realized how great reporting and a dedication to quality storytelling can truly make an impact on society. Without the thorough research to uncover important facts, stories like Carol and Audra’s would never be told successfully.

You can build a brand beyond the paper

The next few sessions were just as educational. From hearing firsthand about how difficult it is to obtain a police report to how newspapers are incorporating pay walls and Google surveys for additional income.

Naturally, the topic of how digital is impacting media was threaded throughout the convention, in particular a session titled “Future of the Industry” by James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News.

He spoke of how the Dallas Morning News is so much more than a newspaper. They have branched out to become a magazine, an agency and even an event planning company.

During this session I learned that the future of journalism isn’t just digital – it’s branding and growing that brand to become a trustworthy, household name that someone can turn to for every aspect of their business.

It’s like we say around here at rbb: A Breakout Brand takes risks, but reaps rewards.

Young talent needs to be developed

One of the last sessions I was able to attend was a discussion focusing on acquiring new talent in the newsroom. While there were a lot of hot button topics discussed – unpaid internships, the unknown future of the industry – the key point that everyone returned to was the need to mentor.

New, young, brilliant talent could walk through a company’s door at any moment, but if they do not take the time to develop that talent it will look elsewhere.

This is yet another similarity between both the press and public relations professionals. At rbb, we are often encouraged to reach for the stars inside and outside of our company, and allowing us to do so furthers our professional development. That’s also why we fully support the scholarship named after one of rbb’s own, the Larry Birger Young Business Journalist Award.

All I had was 48 hours in a room full of journalists, and I walked away with more knowledge and respect for the industry than I could have ever imagined. I look forward to working in conjunction with the media in the future, and possibly incorporating PR into the discussion at the next Florida Press Association Convention.