Every few weeks another journalist calls or emails me asking for advice on making the leap from news to public relations. I’m glad they ask, because most don’t have a clue.
It’s a sign of the times and shrinking newsroom staffs. Business desks have been particularly decimated since real estate companies and related advertisers slashed their ad budgets. Reporters, and even editors, can feel the breeze from the swinging axe.
I’m a reformed journalist, myself. Having successfully made the transition from news to PR, I can offer a few points to consider before you dive into a PR career.
Reporters are not your friends. This is PR 101, folks, and it holds true for former journalists-turned-PR-pros. Your newsroom relationships may help get your calls returned or your emails read – for about 30 days. You’ll find that your chums at the paper or station will begin to hold you at arms’ length, at least they will if they are professional journalists. Get used to it.
PR is not a path to riches. In most markets, unless you own a successful agency or are at the top of the corporate ladder, PR is not a lucrative career. If you want big bucks, try sales or invent the next game-changing technology. Be sure you know what the market pays for the role you expect to play in PR.
Be an advocate. Moving from the observer role to that of an advocate is not a natural transition for most experienced journalists. The concept of objectivity is ingrained in your psyche, if you worked in real news. It helps to think like a reporter to craft a message for your client, but the publicity function of PR requires a proactive, promotional mindset.
Learn what you don’t know. Creating a PR strategy, developing a crisis communications plan, providing media training for spokespeople, and knowing the tools of the trade are a few aspects of PR that must be learned. You won’t step out of the newsroom knowing this stuff. Seek out the public relations organization in your area and take advantage of workshops and certification programs.
Journalists develop excellent skills during their news careers that are relevant to a public relations career, but don’t think you’re already equipped to be a PR pro. Make the commitment to learn what you need to contribute to the profession, or stay in the newsroom.