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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Changes at Creative Ink

Starting tomorrow, my career will take a new turn as I embark on my new job as communications officer for the Sisters of Charity Health System. Essentially, I'll be responsible for the internal and external communications of the health system, which include hospitals St. Vincent Charity (Cleveland), St. John West Shore (Westlake), Mercy Medical Center (Canton), Providence Hospital (Columbia, SC); outreach ministries including Early Childhood Resource Center (Canton), Healthy Learners (Colombia, SC), Joseph's Home (Cleveland), Center for Fathers and Families (SC), Caritas Connection (Cleveland); foundations including Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, Cleveland and South Carolina; and eldercare facilities Regina Health Center and Light of Hearts Villa.

The position is a new one and my charges are many, but initially I'll be working with a team to roll out the health system's new brand across all the ministries both internally and externally. This was a unique opportunity to use more than my writing skills in a job that will be demanding and strategic in its scope.

Of particular appeal to me was the mission of the Sisters of Charity to healing not only the physical body, but also the mind, spirit and daily life of individuals. I'm inspired by its commitment to the urban environment and the marginalized in society and I'm delighted by the wonderful people with whom I'll be working.

Why have I gone to the dark side of PR as journalists often say of such conversions?

Over these past few months I recognized that my ability to stay in Cleveland and continue working as a journalist at the level that would match my experience and abilities was extremely limited given the turmoil of the journalism industry in general and the state of Cleveland journalism in particular.

After talking with a number of people who had left journalism, I found not one who regretted the decision. Rather, I discovered that the decision to leave opened doors to using those skills in ways that could have a tremendous impact on an organization. I was inspired by their stories and encouraged by their efforts.

This is good news considering last weekend alone I heard from two SPJ colleagues (one in Phoenix, one in Charleston, SC) who had each lost their jobs after many years at a their respective papers. The bloodletting, I am certain, will continue for the foreseeable future.

And so I've made the leap in PR. The learning curve is steep, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. As one colleague told me last week, being a journalist is the best preparation for a job in PR. Certainly the pay is better.

There will be limited opportunity to continue writing here at Creative Ink. I'm undecided as to what to do with the blog. I won't delete it because it is a record of my thoughts, work and activities over the past four and a half years. However, I may opt to make it private.

In the next few weeks, I hope to have my final KnowledgeWorks book available. The story is a long one (about 10,000 words). I plan to post it here in a serialized fashion. I'm very proud of the work and would welcome feedback on the final product.

Thanks to my regular and occasional readers for your support and encouragement. I've felt empowered here to push myself and grow as a writer. Now I'm pushing beyond writing.

Thanks for reading!


virtuallori said...

Congratulations, Wendy! What a fantastic opportunity to grow and stretch your already stellar skills.

LilaTovCocktail said...

Mazel Tov, Wendy. And to Sisters of Charity, too -- they're lucky to have you!

I hope you do continue blogging here.

Valdis said...

Congrats, Wendy!

Wow, I did not realize they had such a large network! Sounds like a very challenging job for a very good cause. Go get 'em!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Congratulations Wendy. You will do well in your new position. You are a powerful force!

Wendy A. Hoke said...

Thank you, Lori, Lila, Valdis and Michelle! You've given me a confidence boost heading into tomorrow. I'm very excited to contribute unabashedly to something I feel is very important to our community.

Amy Green said...

Sounds like a good move, Wendy. I've been reading your blog now for almost four years. I'll miss you. But it's exciting to hear you're moving on to bigger and better things. Amy

Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Wendy,

Just so you hear one voice from someone who escaped from the Dark Side, after GIE closed the Municipal Edition of Recycling Today I too paid the bills with public relations work.

I hope you'll forgive me for being harsh in what follows.

The money is good. Very good. Prostitution pays well. But I felt my writing soul shrinking with every meeting, every interview, every page of print.

And that was from working for clients I thought had good messages.

I remember my senior year at Ohio University when on the first day of my Journalism Ethics class, the professor asked all of the students in the public relations and advertising sequences to raise their hands. About a dozen students did so.

"What we're going to talk about in this class has nothing to do with you. You don't belong here. You don't even belong in the College of Journalism; you belong in the business school.

"Journalism is about telling the truth. Public relations and advertising are about selling a product. The two have nothing to do with each other."

I do hope you make it back, Wendy.



Wendy A. Hoke said...

Hi Jeff,
I remember that speech well. I heard the same one when I was at OU J-school.

I am conscious of losing my writing soul. Certainly I could not have done this for a corporation. That's why I'm still doing some writing (I have an upcoming piece for UB and two more for Christian Science Monitor and my KnowledgeWorks book) and I'm going to continue to explore more creative stuff here.

I would expect nothing less than your complete candor, so thanks for sharing.


LilaTovCocktail said...

I understand your perspective, Jeff. But in my experience, the journalism/pr distinction has less influence on my happiness than who I was working for and with.

Some messages are better -- in the sense of more truthful, with greater integrity of purpose -- than others. Writing for a crappy newspaper can be every bit as soul-depleting as being a corporate shill.

For me the "soul-test" had more to do with how much I was allowed to have input into the overall communication strategy, i.e. in deciding on what the agency's message should be as well as how it should be expressed.

I found the most painful part of doing pr in a corporate environment was that anything I wrote was then vetted by 17 other people, each less intelligent and less well-educated than the one before.

What would come back was oftenan unholy mess.
One guy wanted Every Important Word Capitalized. Others want "special" words to "go in quotes" even though they didn't "refer to anything."