PR advice from NBC New York’s Michael Gargiulo: ‘Always be upfront. Always be honest.’
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
In advance of our exclusive “Meet the Media” event with NBC New York’s Michael Gargiulo on Jan. 23, PRSA-NY’s senior director of marketing Lisa Marzullo spoke with Michael about his job, his life outside the newsroom, and his advice for communications professionals.
A transcript of that conversation, lightly edited, is below.
Lisa Marzullo: As a native New Yorker, what type of local stories spark the most interest for you?
Michael Gargiulo: Like any news reporter, we look for interesting, local stories. That could be anything from the new hotel at JFK airport to a story about a medical breakthrough. It can be a story about a new business practice or what a company is doing to help people in need. It is really a pretty wide range.
LM: I see that mentoring is very important to you. What advice would you give to those with an interest in news, and how should someone go about finding a mentor of their own?
MG: This is something that I do a lot of. Right now, I work with at least a dozen people ranging from high school and college students to people starting out in their careers. I mentor one man in his 40s, who was an intern when I was a Washington correspondent back in the 1990s.
I like to work with people throughout the whole realm of their career. The toughest thing right now is that the business is changing so much. When I started in 1984, it was just television, radio and print. If you worked in television like I did, you started off in a small TV market and then moved to a bigger TV market until you got to New York, Chicago or LA, or possibly a network. And that was it.
Now, is it better for someone to go work at a website with an online talk show as opposed to working in smaller media markets? I’m not sure! When starting out now, especially in news, it is about what's going to distinguish you – are you a former pilot, doctor, lawyer, businessman, NBA basketball player. What real-life experiences make you special?
LM: Given our current news cycle and how tumultuous it has been, how hard is it for you to predict what your day-to-day looks like?
MG: I look back to when I was working on September 11th. I was a morning news anchor in Washington, DC. The top story that morning up until that point was that Michael Jordan was coming back to basketball.
I know this is an extreme example, but any day you can be at work and something could happen - the governor resigns, there's a fire or steam pipe explosion, there's an impeachment… it’s just the way it is. You can never plan. People who do what I do like the unpredictability.
LM: As a father and a husband, what tips can you share or things that you do that help you with regards to work life balance?
MG: Working crazy hours and getting up in the middle of the night allows you to be home earlier in the day for your family. I've been fortunate enough to be home in the evenings with my children. I get up 1:30 a.m. and I work with people who work overnights.
There's no easy answer. I'm a New York City kid. I grew up here, and it is the greatest city. But, it's one of the most expensive cities to have children. However I think making the sacrifices for what you want out of life is totally worth it.
LM: Do you accept PR pitches and if so, do you have any personal do's or don'ts?
MG: Yes, I get dozens of pitches a day, but in all honesty I would say I zip through about 90% of them. Our assignment and planning editors get pitched, but most of them are things I can't cover.
Really research the people that you're pitching, and what they do. A good example of a recent pitch is the auto show, as we worked with the PR firm directly since it is a private event. I would say it is definitely all about personal relationships and knowing someone’s likes and dislikes.
Personally, I'm interested in movies. I got a pitch recently for a company that is doing a new podcast about the story behind some iconic movies. Since I was immediately interested in it, I went to the assignment desk to pitch it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t book this particular story, but the publicist came back to me with a story on sports injuries, and as both of my kids were high school athletes, I was able to cover this and arrange interviews for the final piece.
LM: How does social media play into your role? How important is social media to you?
MG: It's something that's very important because people follow us and we are breaking news through social media. We also talk about ourselves through social media. But we keep people up to date on big stories and maintain audience relationships. I think we're all still learning how to use it in the most effective way.
LM: Any parting wisdom?
MG: Always be upfront. Always be honest.