Chris Schroder, Founder & Publisher, The 100 Companies
Like many idealistic journalists, I thought I’d always stay in my lane, improving my lot as reporter and eventually as editor of daily newspapers. Then I was offered my first full-time reporter position – earning $150 a week. At the third stop on my itinerant tour, my wife was expecting our first child so I maneuvered over to the copy desk, earning $220 weekly.
As a circumspect journalist, I was always wary of salespeople. They wore cologne, dressed fancy and drove nice cars. One day, a woman from marketing walked up to the copy desk and asked if I’d ever considered going into management. “Newsroom management,” I said, warily.
“What about marketing or advertising?” she asked. “Not for me,” I quickly replied.
“You’ll make more money,” she whispered.
“Okay, I’m in,” I quickly caved.
Thus began my journey into other lanes of the media business. Promotion, marketing, advertising – I even delivered newspapers on two walking routes.
A few years later, during a downturn, The Charlotte Observer’s GM asked me to transfer three of my 28 creative department’s employees to sales. I countered: “Don’t take them, just transfer me.” So I began wandering the streets of uptown Charlotte, talking to business owners and surprisingly discovered that I loved sales.
A few years later, working at my sixth and final daily newspaper, I found myself covering two jobs: in the morning, I’d work on an IBM laptop upstairs as advertising director and then, in the afternoon, I’d wander downstairs to the newsroom to my other job as news design director, open up an Apple laptop and start designing the next day’s issue.
One day I confessed to my family that I’d evolved into someone I never expected to become: a “bi-sectional,” working both sides of the media aisle. Ever since – through starting my own neighborhood newspaper company and later launching a PR firm – I’ve cherished and felt more fulfilled using the left and right sides of my brain as a columnist, salesperson and CEO.
Ten years ago, I counseled a group of high-profile reporters taking the buyout at Atlanta’s daily newspaper to launch a journalism website, eNewsletter and social media platform. Once we established the platform for the journalists to file 500- to 1,000-word stories, I switched to the other side of my brain, helping to establish a revenue stream through which local corporations and non-profits could post their Thought Leadership blogs alongside the well-read columnists and funding the enterprise.
A few years later, when I noticed attention spans shrinking and readers not clicking through to “Read more” as often as they had previously, I launched The Atlanta 100 and shortly afterwards, establishing what we believe to be the world’s first PR publishing network. Now publishing in 21 markets, The 100 Companies’ eNewsletter, website and social media platforms feature exactly 100-word articles, videos and podcasts. We’ve been able to replicate the success of our editorial formula from Denali to Dubai by featuring a mix of informational, non-promotional brand journalism topics such as history, restaurants, luxury retail, business, non-profits and public policy. We fund it through sponsorship or content marketing packages.
Today, I’m CEO, but in reality I’m a full-time salesperson, visiting companies across the world who want to raise their profile as thought leaders in their markets, publishing their own media channel to offset the unfortunate collapse of the traditional media industry. So as I continue veering seamlessly from one lane to another throughout each day, I realize, as Tony Lip says in the movie, Green Book, “that it’s a complicated world.” At least I’ve found my happy place in it.
About the Author: Founder and publisher of The 100 Companies and The Atlanta 100, Chris previously founded PR firm SPR Atlanta in 2002, before selling it in November 2017. Prior to that, he worked at six Southeastern daily newspapers, serving as creative director, promotions director, reporter and editor – winning awards for his reporting and print advertisement design. He established his own chain of Atlanta neighborhood newspapers in 1994, selling them to real estate developer Tom Cousins in 2002.
A fifth-generation Atlantan, Chris is a graduate of Westminster and the University of Virginia and the creator of Moments on SaportaReport.com where he was a founding member. He serves on various community boards and advisory committees when he’s not riding his bike, attending music festivals, traveling the country meeting potential PR firm members or visiting with children, his granddaughter, family and friends.