A journalist changing careers into public relations is nothing new. While both sides may have their negative stereotypes of each other, PR practitioners need similar skills. They need to be able to write well. They need to know how journalists and editors make news judgment decisions. They need to know what their target audience wants to read (or, in the case of television, see) and how to present it to them in as succinct fashion as necessary.
For a variety of reasons (most of which are very typical of other journalists who have done likewise), I made this career change. And I found out very quickly that this bridge, while still very crossable, is a lot longer than it used to be.
PR is not the same as it was even five years ago. While the traditional media pitch is certainly still used, it has decreased in importance. Good PR practitioners these days need to know how to use social media and other web-based tools to engage your audience directly. People increasingly get their news from non-traditional sources. And they increasingly want to be engaged directly. You need to know what the tools are for doing so and you need to know how to use them correctly. These tools are only one part of your marketing mix, but they are becoming an increasingly important part.
At the time I graduated from college and entered the working world, blogging was a relatively unknown concept. Facebook was brand new and limited to college campuses. Twitter didn’t even exist yet. And while larger traditional news media outlets were beginning to embrace the web by the time I started looking to change careers in mid-2007, smaller publications had not. So even though I had more than three years of work experience at that point, I was still behind new college graduates who majored in PR and had been trained in those tools already.
My advice to any journalist trying to make this switch today is to get as much experience as you can with blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools. Take a class at a community college if need-be. Use these tools as much as you can professionally and personally. Save examples of successful uses of these tools the way you save clips of your articles.
The bridge from journalism to PR remains in place. You just need a somewhat better car to cross it.
A former newspaper sports reporter, Joshua Brett is currently a Communications Consultant for Topaz Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in Horsham, PA and a Masters Degree candidate in Communication Management at Temple University. Additionally, he has worked in various marketing and branding capacities for a hospital and a medical devices manufacturer. Be sure to check out his pharma blog, which discusses PR and social media, and follow him Twitter via @joshdbrett.