Q&A with Carolyn Pione, editor turned communications director
Carolyn Pione, the former business editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer, is communications director at CincyTech, a public-private partnership that aims to attract high-tech jobs to that part of Ohio. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Pione talks about her transition from the newsroom into public relations.
Q. Describe your job. What does the communications director at CincyTech USA do on a typical day?
A. The last six months have been a learning curve. The first week I was here, some folks suggested we should have a booth at a local trade show, and it didn’t occur to me for several hours that I was the one who had to set that up. Finally I thought, “Oh, that’s MY job!”
Since I’ve been here, I’ve redesigned the Web site and created an e-mail newsletter, begun to produce our first annual report, garnered significant media coverage for our first two years of activity investing in high-tech startups, and worked on numerous communications and committees with the state of Ohio, which is one of our key funders. I’ve also done some community outreach and speaking engagements and worked to raise CincyTech’s profile in the region as an economic development group with an emphasis on growing the tech jobs here.
Q. How has your experience as a business editor at a newspaper helped you in your current job?
A. Well, it’s definitely been a career change. But as business editor, I had regular interaction with business owners, executives and business and civic leaders. I wrote a column that increased my visibility in the community, so I got a lot of correspondence from readers and businesspeople. Those contacts have been a wonderful asset as I launched into this new field. It was already sort of community relations/good will building, perhaps an unusual experience for a journalist.
Also, having a business perspective and some sense of how businesses think has helped me to transition to this culture, which is a nonprofit but with a for-profit fund we invest in companies and so very oriented around financing and market development. And of course having spent a career in journalism, I think I’ve been able to create pitches that have relevance for the local reporters, and I know what not to waste their time pitching. That insight is helpful.
Q. Earlier in your career, you worked as a copy editor at the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. Do you still use those skills in this job? How?
A. Oh gosh, yes. On every level. I edit my boss’s correspondence, I edit my own copy (as best I can) before posting it on our Web site or sending it out to reporters. I have an eye for detail and an instinct for explaining things as simply as possible. I still rely on the news judgment and sense of urgency that every good copy editor carries with him or her. And on a deeper level — and I hope this never dulls — I have the copy editor’s tendency to question everything.
Q. Many journalists are looking to make a career move similar to yours. What advice do you have for them?
A. Yes, so many of my former colleagues at the Enquirer have been displaced in the last 12 months. Almost to a person, they were in a profession they loved with a passion because they felt it was crucial for the balance of a civil society. It’s hard to accept that you might have to find something else to do with your life.
So I guess my first advice would be to face the reality that you might be one who has to leave. Be proactive. Do you want to leave on their terms or your own?
Once you’re through anger and denial, I think the key is to figure out what you know and who you know. Start networking like crazy right now. Start getting the word out that you’re looking and make sure you have a good idea of what you want. Your contacts, neighbors, family, etc., won’t really understand your skills or what else you can do. You might not either. So figure that out and then get the word out.
Creating your own message, telling your own story, is the way to find a job.