Former Editor Brings Her Storytelling Skills to New PR Venture

By Nicole Chynoweth, contributing writer, CPBJ / Published 17 June 2019

Reporter turned public relations pro turned editor turned business owner: Jeanette Krebs’ path between the journalism and communications fields led her to launch Krebs Communications & Public Engagement in March, a firm focused on covering clients’ media relations, communications strategy, crisis, social media and writing needs.

“I always thrived on creating something new, developing a new department, building teams or coming into a position that allowed me to put my own stamp on it,” said Krebs, who previously worked for The Patriot-News/PennLiveCapitolwire, and Bravo Group. “The idea of creating a business from scratch became more and more enticing to me. I found that it allows me to take everything I’ve learned in my career so far and roll it up into a communications firm that has my own vision.”

A few months into her new venture, Krebs shared some of her insights with CPBJ.

What are the greatest challenges communications firms are facing?

Communications moves so quickly now because of social media and the internet that you don’t have the luxury of time for planning as much as you once did in PR. This is a real challenge when an organization is facing a crisis. I work with clients to think through what is the best way – best channels – to get their message out. Fortunately, there are now so many ways to do that. 

In a crisis situation, I help clients think about how they want to communicate to the public. It once was the case that you might only deal with one reporter during a difficult issue. But now, because reporters quickly post their stories for all to see, you can get inundated with tough questions from multiple media outlets. I make sure clients are ready for all possibilities right from the start. 

Also, explaining to clients the importance of being transparent is so important, in fact it has never been more important for establishing a great reputation and positive brand.

The communications space is crowded, which makes it harder to get your message across. And in media relations, we are finding fewer journalists and they are taxed with so much to do. I try to go to reporters with issues that are relevant to their beat or the community they cover and answer any questions they might have right at the beginning.  
 I tell clients it is important to have a communications plan, a clear strategy and remind them that they need to stay flexible with that plan because things can change on a dime. 

The other thing that is important is to always look for ways to update yourself, learn new skills. I recently went to a training on the latest in social media and traveled to get certified as a group facilitator to help organizations and businesses when they need to work through complex or difficult issues.

What are some of the things you look at when determining how to tell a business or organization’s story? 

Telling a business or organization’s story is one of the more interesting things I get to do in this job. Thinking like a reporter, I pull out what makes them unique, interesting. Everyone has a good story to tell, it just takes someone to ask the right questions to get it. I look at the geography and reach of an organization and business. What are their audience reach and the dynamics of their key audiences?

All of this goes into figuring out how to tell their story. Sometimes it is a straight business story but other times it has such great human dynamics to it that it is more of a feature, a video piece or something that would resonate on a podcast. 

What are some of the lessons from reporting and your previous PR roles that you continue to apply to your work?

I do a lot of writing and because some of that writing is storytelling, I lean a lot on the skills I learned as a reporter: asking good questions, making people feel comfortable to talk openly about issues, writing quickly and a lot of times with brevity. Just thinking like a reporter means you are always curious and asking questions and that I find is a great attribute in this business.

From PR, I am always thinking about ways to get a client’s story in front of the right people. In PR we used to do a high-five and think our job was done when a reporter covered an issue and wrote about it. Now that is just the beginning – I think about how to maximize that media hit through social media and other means.