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From Journalism to PR Content: A Chat with Nancy Blair

The career intersection between journalism and public relations is not a new trend, but today — more than ever —  content is the driving force behind it. A seasoned editor can be an ideal candidate for a role that needs know-how on a variety of skills that come natural to journalists like quick deadlines, expert editorial abilities, digital savvy and effective storytelling.

Nancy Blair made the crossover this month, when she exited USA Today as tech editor to join Access Communications as vice president of content. Her 14+ years of experience has given her the expertise on how to produce content, but this time, it’s with clients and brands instead of the public.

In her new role at Access, she’ll be at the helm of  building a new division called Access Voice, the content development initiative within the Access Studio practice. The in-house resource allows the agency to give brands a platform to polish meaningful and creative stories with curating and creating content, blog posts and guest columns.

“The idea is to work across teams at Access to help clients sharpen their own narratives,” she said.

Before she joined USA Today in 2000 as a personal finance editor, Blair was at Gannett News Service and over the years has covered business news, Capitol Hill and tech. In the last two years, she co-edited the tech coverage at USA Today with San Francisco bureau chief Jon Swartz focusing on consumer tech. She coordinated coverage of big tech launches by Apple and Google, in addition to tech shows like CES, which she still pegs as one of her “favorite parts of the job.”

But it was Blair’s innate curiosity to learn even more that prompted her career shift into PR. “The shifting media landscape certainly inspired me to take a look at new paths that would have the potential to challenge me and provide me with continued growth,” she said. “My USA Today career was spent in the Money section. As a business journalist, you’re always fascinated with the corporate side of the story. This move in many ways is a natural extension of that.”

Journalistic traits are highly marketable when one makes a transition to PR, and has made Blair’s transition that much easier.

“The core skill set is highly portable – finely tuned surveillance radar, passion, adaptability, analysis and trend spotting. And the ability to write and edit clearly and concisely, while not rocket science, can be a big differentiator,” she explained. “At USA Today, I also spent a lot of time coordinating across different parts of the newsroom and with outside content partners. I think that ability to work across teams will also be key for me here.”

Blair does recognize, however, that in the next few months,  she’ll face some challenges as she adapts to the new workflow.

“I think one of the biggest [challenges] for me personally will be to deepen my understanding of the breadth of the storytelling needs of our clients. As a business journalist, you’re on one side of the equation; how does a company/its services/products fit in with the story I am trying to tell my readers. In PR, that equation changes somewhat,” she said. “You’re tasked with understanding all of the client’s constituents, whether that is media, consumers, investors or the broader industry.”

Up to the challenge, Blair looks forward to 2015 as a PR professional.

“I definitely feel as though I have just matriculated into a new school of storytelling from a brand perspective,” she said. “I’m excited to get to know the broad team here at Access and help them deliver content for clients in ways that are creative, fresh and comprehensive.”

About Jenny Wittman

Jenny Wittman is senior editor and features writer for Cision Blog and oversees the daily media updates on the site. She is also senior media researcher at Cision and joined the company in March 2008. She likes being outdoors, going to concerts, traveling and exploring art galleries. She adores all animals and has a fascination for the cosmos. Find her on Twitter @jennywittman.

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