Mike Eisgrau is no stranger to the media or to public relations. For over ten years, Mike was the director of public affairs for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York. He was responsible for all public relations and print and broadcast media contact, including acting as the spokesman for the premier, world-class convention facility and as the PR contact with major government, trade show management and convention center officials from around the world.
From the other side of the news desk, Mike has a career’s worth of experience as a reporter, editor and news director in both radio and television. As broadcast news editor for WWOR-TV in New Jersey, Mike was responsible for “Magazine” or “Enterprise” news stories produced by a staff of more than a dozen reporters. As news and copy editor for “Good Day New York” for WNYW-TV, Mike was responsible for writing and editing hourly and half-hourly newscasts on Fox TV’s New York morning show. For over twenty years, Mike served as a reporter, editor and news director for WNEW Radio News in New York, one of the nation’s premier local broadcast newsrooms of the 60’s. 70’s and 80’s. He covered major local and national stories, including the funerals of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Democratic and Republican conventions; state gubernatorial and presidential candidates on the campaign trail; and the 1969 Woodstock music festival. Mike holds a BA in Literature and Speech and Drama from Cornell University and an MSJ in broadcast news from the Medill from Northwestern University.
We spoke to Mike for some additional insights into his life and career:
Q You have worked on both sides of the media desk, serving as a PR professional and as a news editor and reporter. What were the challenges associated with transitioning from news editor to director of public affairs?
A The greatest challenge in the transition to “the other side of the phone” was to realize that, after being the editor and broadcast news director to whom reporters and PR professionals pitched their stories, I was now pitching the Javits Center stories to the news desks in New York and to the publications covering the trade show and convention industry. What you have to remember, whether as the reporter or the PR person, is that you both are basically telling a story—the story has to have a very good “hook” to be considered—and you cannot load up a busy news desk with trivial stuff.
Q Why did you join FPRA?
AI had to cut short my Manhattan career and retire 16 months early so that I could be with [my wife] Betty because of her medical problems. I was able to be with her every day until the end of her life. And so my life changed from being a senior executive, with an assistant and dealing with a 3500-member convention center staff, to trying to carve out a freelance life down here in the Sarasota area. I have friends in PRSA from Tampa to Naples, but it was important for me to make a professional life closer to home. Thus I was delighted to find out about FPRA and to see how seriously your members take their profession. It has given me a chance to make some contacts in the area and, hopefully, drum up some business to keep me active. I’m in my 45th professional year and think I have something to offer.
Q What are you up to now?
A This winter I’m continuing to try to make contacts in the area…I’m picking up my first couple of PR clients—telling their stories in the real estate field and in dentistry. So my writing is pretty eclectic. And I’m open to help out anyone who calls or e-mails (941-460-9464 or MikePR@EWOL.com).
Q Tell us one thing about yourself that we might be surprised to know.
A To get through Cornell, and then Northwestern Journalism grad school, I had my own band and played cocktail piano—had to make a living somehow and didn’t have a lawn mower. I’ve also covered stories from mainland China to the Syrian bunkers on the Golan Heights in northern Israel along the Lebanon border (where the Hezbollah were firing rockets last summer). Finally, in 1969 I was one of two reporters and a New York Daily News photographer dropped into the original Woodstock Festival in upstate New York—by helicopter. First kid I met was stark naked. I whipped out my radio news microphone and asked him “Pardon me young man but don’t you feel a bit peculiar in what you’re not wearing?” He said “Hey baby me? What about you?” And I realized I’d been rushed out of the New York newsroom so quickly that I was standing in the middle of Woodstock—in a tie and jacket. Talk about being out of place!
For more about Mike Eisgrau at Woodstock, click on link below.