Do you have to be a former reporter or have a background in journalism to succeed in public relations?
Not necessarily, but it sure does help.
One of the more fascinating aspects within the public relations industry that I see is the growth of the ranks of graduates of Corporate Communications or Public Relations majors who have never written a story, let alone a lede. Intrinsically, journalism and public relations are intertwined, as two interlocking ribbons that should never be far off from each other.
The biggest mistake non-journalism or reporter-types make – they’re more apt to believe that their “news” is news. With the evisceration of print newsrooms, the growth of online news outlets and blogs, and the increase of sensationalism in television and radio news, the definition of news absolutely has changed. However, there is a still a litmus test for what even the most green reporter would accept in terms of a pitch.
Understanding what happens in a newsroom or having to a hunt a story down is a big part of providing quality PR counsel to clients; without such knowledge, it’s a tough sell trying to tell a client why Reporter X isn’t accepting your pitch without knowing what’s going through the reporter’s mindset.
Another challenge that those who have come from the world of marketing and advertising vs. journalism is their disregard for style and overemphasis on subjective language which doesn’t play well in a release or advisory. A client may want more “splash” to their releases or the pitches, but knowing what an assignment editor is going to accept in terms of subjective language only goes so far.
One of the assets we provide to our clients is having been on the other side of the coin. When we prep a client for an interview or for a publicity campaign, we put them through an interrogation and sometimes uncomfortable to ensure that no matter the question, they are prepared with the right answer.
And it is because of that reporter instinct and understanding the hustle that our clients are best-prepared for what may lie for them in a challenging interview or public hearing.
As mentioned earlier, if you want to have a career in public relations, you don’t have to have been a journalist. But it does give you a competitive advantage that your non-former-news-folk competitors may not enjoy.