The path between journalism and PR has been well trodden for many decades, but as the role of PR broadens, the skills a journalist can bring to a PR agency are more relevant than ever.
Regional media are facing an exodus of talent headed for PR and this can only be good news for our industry. Below are our top seven reasons why PR agencies should embrace journalists*.
*Confession – written by an ex-journalist
The most obvious asset a journalist brings is the ability to create exemplary content. But forget images of hacks sat behind their desks typing reams of copy – the job is much more complex. These days reporters are sourcing news, researching, interviewing, capturing video and photographs on their smartphone, writing and editing their own copy, editing the video and photographs before uploading to the website and pitching to a news editor for space in a print edition – all before the story is published and then shared across multiple social platforms.
Campaigns are the lifeblood of local media – often prompted by a burning issue affecting local communities, but sometimes simply to create news when there is very little happening (seemingly cynical, but true). An experienced journalist can plan a campaign with longevity that works in print, online and across social media platforms. A campaign that resonates with its target audience and prompts them to lend their name to the cause. PR relies on engagement and journalism knows how to deliver it.
This is a fundamental function for a PR agency and few people will have had more exposure to PR crises than time-served journalists. They will consider every angle, pre-empt reactions to each development and be able to advise all parties on how they can emerge with their reputation intact. They will also anticipate the media’s reaction to a crisis and work alongside them to foster a spirit of collaboration, all in the name of protecting the client’s reputation. There’s a good chance they have been on the receiving end of their fair share of crises too – everything from libel accusations and debates over privacy to defending staff cuts and cover price rises.
LAW AND ETHICS
As brands and individuals become publishers in their own right, knowledge of media law and ethics are an asset to any PR agency. A fully qualified journalist will have a solid understanding of the laws around defamation, contempt of court, privacy and copyright, all of which are so often flouted across social media. Not only can a journalist help clients to avert a crisis, they can also deal with breaches by others which affect the client.
Journalists cannot survive without commercial acumen. Gone are the days when they operated in an editorial bubble, on a crusade to share news while the ad reps worked separately. As their employers seek out new ways to turn content into cash, journalists and ad teams regularly pitch joint projects and generate sponsored content to boost online revenues, while striving to maintain editorial integrity. They organise awards ceremonies, events and additional publications to boost income. Just a few years ago, journalists making the switch may have struggled to comprehend the PR agency’s need to make money. Now they are only too aware that their livelihoods depend on their ability to generate profit.
To truly understand the workings of the media, you need to have worked in the media. Journalists are best placed to meet the demands of 24/7 news. They appreciate the need to always be available, know how and when to speak with media contacts and more importantly, when to leave well alone. Nothing infuriates a news editor on deadline more than a PR agency calling to ask if their press release is going to run.
We’re a fairly unflappable bunch. After years of dealing with people in extreme situations, good and bad, calmness comes as standard. The pressures of agency life and of the newsroom are remarkably similar and a journalist will take both in their stride.
Of course, not every journalist is cut out for the world of PR and there’s a whole lot more to learn once you join an agency. But PR agencies will benefit if they open their minds to recruiting from this pool of talent. Give them credit for the experience they bring, aside from their writing skills and help them to flourish in their new career.
Liberty PR is expanding rapidly and we’re always keen to talk to potential new recruits. If you’re working in PR or journalism and looking to make your next move, email firstname.lastname@example.org