On the beat: public affairs

Much that goes on in politics, the government, and corporate America can potentially fall under the rubric of "public affairs." What political scandal, product recall, or lobbying effort doesn't have an interesting public communications aspect to it?

Much that goes on in politics, the government, and corporate America can potentially fall under the rubric of "public affairs." What political scandal, product recall, or lobbying effort doesn't have an interesting public communications aspect to it?

This wealth of potential stories gives a reporter whose beat is public affairs plenty of options when it comes to choosing stories to cover. Certainly, scandals are fun.

Interesting, too, are those big bucks contracts that public affairs firms sign with foreign governments with dubious human rights programs. Certainly, expensive promotional or educational campaigns merit coverage, but so do innovative, viral campaigns conceived of and managed by volunteers. These campaigns can involve online media or be of the old-fashioned word-of-mouth variety, whether the audience the public affairs campaigns seek to reach are the American people as a whole or the just a few hundred key "influentials" in Washington, DC.

Where then do story ideas come from? From just about anywhere, including conventional news stories that invariably have a "communications" angle worth exploring, to DoJ filings and other public databases to - most important - tips and off-hand comments from public affairs professionals who pass along word about the latest RFP, contract win by themselves or a competitor, or interesting trend they have noticed. Those tips best flow during lunch, coffee breaks, or happy hour. Anyone free?

In addition to choosing entries for PRWeek's 2007 Book of Lists, PRWeek reporters provided individual overviews of a year within their beat. "On the beat" columns are also dispersed throughout the Best of Lists 2007 PDF.

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