In this month’s Insider Interview, we speak with Art Swift, managing editor and chief of content at Gallup. He serves as the architect of daily and long-range multiplatform content strategy for the 80-year-old worldwide media outlet. He manages a newsroom staff of 20 writers and editors. As news director, he leads the process of story creation, from inception and assignment to final editing. Swift also serves as an adjunct professor at American University.
PRSA-NCC: Art, thank you for taking the time to join us. Obviously there are many facets to your role at Gallup. Please describe a typical day (if there is one).
AS: While there is variation every day, I’m generally reviewing stories that we’re publishing that day, and planning stories that will be occurring in the next days, weeks and even months. I’m also working with writers in developing themes for future stories. I’m meeting with our practice leads to discuss the marketing and public relations content we can build around.
PRSA-NCC: What kinds of stories excite you the most?
AS: The great thing about Gallup is that we run the gamut from politics to the economy to education to international affairs. I like elements in all of them. The stories I like the most are two-fold: in-depth political analysis of what America is thinking about and what concerns Americans. I also enjoy stories about growing companies, and employer and customer engagement.
PRSA-NCC: What is your favorite aspect of your position?
AS: I am fortunate because I have the opportunity at my job to shape the voice of Gallup. I was brought on to give our news and marketing materials a more commercial, journalistic sound. I can see the results as we penetrate the media landscape. It’s all about having that strategic vision that we’re striving for.
PRSA-NCC: Speaking of the media landscape, as you know, it’s rapidly changing. How has that affected you and your team?
AS: You’re right. It’s changing all the time. Therefore, we have to write shorter stories, use more video and everything now contains a multimedia component. It is constantly important to keep pace with the culture without compromising brand integrity. As long as we stay true to our data and don’t resort to gimmicks, we’re in good shape.
PRSA-NCC: How has your past experience as a reporter with NBC’s Today Show and CBS’ The Early Show helped you?
AS: Working as a reporter/producer in network television taught me the value of meeting deadlines and flexibility. I got to see things on the national level and what stories and topics appeal to people at large. This has critically helped me with respect to the planning process at Gallup.
PRSA-NCC: What factored into your decision to leave journalism to enter the field of public relations/public affairs?
AS: I like the idea of advocacy and working on sustained campaigns. With PR, I can see projects through their completion and over a long period of time while not rapidly moving from one story to the next. I also really like writing op-eds and crafting PR materials.
PRSA-NCC: What would you say to others who are contemplating making the same move you did?
AS: If you have a passion for business and long-range campaigns, PR and public affairs is for you. I believe it is excellent to have a journalism background because it allows you to get used to meeting deadlines, getting the facts straight and writing in the inverted pyramid style—all the essential traits for being a good PR practitioner. Being in journalism also gives you a sense of what the media is looking for, which helps immensely in media relations.
PRSA-NCC: Please discuss why you decided to join the National Capital Chapter of PRSA?
AS: Living and working in the D.C. area, I wanted to connect with like-minded professionals who share many of the same experiences I have. I’ve already met several chapter members and I see it as an opportunity to learn best practices and take part in a multitude of programs. I am looking forward to becoming more involved.
PRSA-NCC: What do you enjoy doing during your spare time?
AS: I enjoy working out, hiking, boxing and listening to classic rock music. I like to travel to two of my favorite places, New York and Miami. I grew up in New York and have family and friends there. Miami has just become sort of a home away from home. Over the years, I’ve developed a number of friends there as well, and love the beautiful beaches and cutting edge nightlife.