Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

Should PR people be from journalism?

This is one of the most debated question in the PR circle, some strongly believe that ex-journos add value to the PR business, while some believe that they lack management skills and are very rigid in their opinions, which makes them very averse in accepting changes.

Being a journalist myself I think that a PR person who has been a reporter, have a broader view of an industry than is available from within one organization. They have probably spoken to all of the key players in the space, as well as some smaller ones. They’ve watched trends evolve over time impartially, and they know how each company or product in the field is perceived by the public.

What Makes a Good Story: Journalists have a well-honed sense of what is newsworthy and what is not. This will help any company or group determine the value of their news.

Investigative Skills: A fundamental part of their job as a reporter is to use all available resources to get the information they need in an accurate and timely way. This can help solve many issues and challenges in ways you’ve never considered.

How to Work with Journalists: Finally, having been a working journalist, a reporter will know intuitively how to present information to reporters and what approaches are more likely to be well received, as well as how to respect timelines and deadlines.

Having said that there are large number of PR pros, who are very successful in their chosen career, inspite of not coming from the journalism background.

What is your view on the above? Should PR Companies look at only ex-journos or there should be a right mix of journalists as well as professionals from pure PR background?

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7 Responses »

  1. I have a slightly different take. While I agree that journalists make good PR people, I don’t think it’s all about the writing or the blogging or the inside track on a industry.

    While I did go to journalism school before getting into PR, my previous experience in sales has been invaluable to my career in PR.

    I don’t care how good a nose you have for a story, or how well you know an industry, if you can’t convince someone that it IS a good story, and sell it to them that it is worth their time to write, then all you have is a good idea.

    Plus, as a PR person, you need to have a thick skin and get over the fear of rejection or you won’t succeed. Nothing teaches someone how to deal with rejection, and turn it into opportunity, quite like being a salesman.

  2. Journalistic background would certainly help a person in faring better in the area of PR, as the person very well know what the other side expects.

    There are many cases where former journos made good Corporate communicatorsand vice versa.

    This is all subject to ones individual style of working or inflated ego. I know of a specific case, a very senior executive with excellent experience of advt/pr in an agency, joined a public sector bank in 80s.She had to leave within few months as the working conditions and more particularly her ego came in the way.

    At the same time, another lady, working in banking connected organisation, loking after editing/production of house journal shifted to full time journalisam. After few years joined semi govt.body and now a successful sr. executivefor ress Relations.

    Apart from communication skills, the need is to adjust to new atmosphere and understand the needs of the organisation from different angles (with past experience) will always help to be more successful and make further progress in the area.

  3. I absolutely agree with your views regarding journalists as pr people. My background as a writer and editor has been invaluable in my career as a consultant.

    Now some may disagree but I believe that although you can learn to write, it is an absolute talent that not everyone shares. A journalism background helps to hone that natural talent.

    For the person who loves to write or who has chosen pr as a career path, a journalism background is the best of educations for gathering the necessary technical skills needed to perform.

    Two of my biggest pet peeves are (1) to read a badly written press release and (2) to suffer through a sloppy, unfocused project proposal.

  4. First, the way this is framed assumes that “PR” is primarily about getting a company covered in newspaper articles by journalists. PR today involves, for example, writing a blog targeted to customers/ constituents, engaging stakeholders in social networking, managing Web content, and so on. Interacting directly with reporters may be far down the list of what a PR professional does in a particular position or role.

    Second, many people in many occupations other than journalism, from business analysts to recruiters, develop investigative skills and content knowledge.

    Third, in my experience, the mindset “impartiality” can be an obstacle in PR. I have done more PR than journalism, but I “think more like a journalist.” I can sometimes feel conflicted and uncomfortable mustering and communicating with enthusiasm about something that my “impartial” mind tells me is actually not all that interesting to anybody except my employer! I believe people more suited to PR don’t feel that way and find more satisfaction and integrity in serving people by promoting the employer’s work per se rather than promoting “real” stories.

  5. Well no other view except then to say that atleast Corporate Communications should be spared this agony of having ex journos in the saddle, though an afficianado of some legendary western (read british) editors I still believe that Indian PR industry is yet far from bridging the gap between the demands of an increasingly assertive corporate clientele with an almost reciprocally demure media, as far as PR is concerned well I believe the adage “its theirs to tell us what to do and for us to tell them where to stuff it” (depicting in a sense the typical relationship between a client and the agency) holds true,

  6. My primary degree is in print journalism, from Manipal University. As I began my career in PR while in college, it was then I discovered that I enjoyed being a public advocate for a company, a cause, a product. “Jumping the fence.” However, I believe that the greatest
    strength for a PR pro is in the writing. One has to be able to deliver clear, precise, and memorable messaging when conducting media relations. My journalism education has been absolutely invaluable in my PR career… the training I received in writing for a variety of
    audiences; adhering to deadline; and understanding the media – what they seek, what they want. That exposure to journalism, whether it be from education or work experience, is an attribute not every PR professional possesses – if you do, utilize it to the highest degree.

  7. I was a journalist for six years, and quite dismissive of PR types at the time. Then, when I decided to study PR and try to get into the business, I thought I really wouldn’t learn anything.

    The first thing I learned is how wrong I was. And the thing I believe many journalists don’t understand (or maybe it was just me) is the art/ science of integrating communications into corporate strategy, and understanding how what you do as a flack relates to everything else an organization does.

    The only quibble I have with your argument, Vikram, is that it frames PR essentially as media relations. While the skills you outline are to an extent transferable, there are lots of people doing ‘PR’ who never ‘work with journalists.’ Internal comms, investor relations,
    government relations, community relations, social media work…

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Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed by me in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of my employer or the organizations I have been associated with. I believe in the principle of sharing information. Feel free to link to any of the posts in this blog.
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