A recent article in Ragan’s PR Daily asked the question “Is PR a fall back for journalist school grads?”
Now, after I got off my high horse (where I was waxing lyrical about the blatant disrespect to our industry), I started to think about the role journalists play in the sector and why – given that more and more journalists are taking on a PR role in addition, or as an alternative to, their journalist career – it is perceived as the consolation prize.
The relationship between PRs and journalists has, for as long as I can remember, been the subject of debate and has at times, not always been harmonious. However to discredit the industry as someone’s fall back when their career dreams fail to materialise is not only offensive those practitioners who value PR in its truest sense, but also shows the continued lack of understanding of what we can actually offer.
Journalistic skills will always have a role in PR – in media relations, copywriting, media training and social media marketing etc. At Consilium, just as in previous roles, we actively seek the advice and support of current or retired journalists in our media relations activity, as their nose for a story and guidance on approach is second to none. However, it’s important to look at the bigger picture.
PR is not just about media relations and creative copy writing. What happens when it comes to strategic communications planning? What about in times of crisis – does the natural journalistic desire for breaking news inhibit or enhance their ability to protect the organisations they serve? What about event planning and implementation? Or stakeholder engagement?
If PR is to be respected as a strategic discipline that sits at board level, it is vital that people see it as more than a practical implementation process and, even worse, a playground for ex journalists!
PRs today come from all sorts of backgrounds. I know some very good practitioners that have emerged from degrees in PR, Media, Marketing, English, Law, Journalism, Business studies, Accountancy, Foreign languages, Computing and even Geography! That’s not to discredit the industry as anyone’s game; it merely serves to demonstrate the breadth of skills that are applicable to the practice in today’s climate.
As publications continue to cut staff, some journalists may need to rethink their career choices. Whilst PR undoubtedly provides a compelling option for many (and their skills do, without doubt, strengthen a PR team when combined with strategic comms professionals), journalists shouldn’t expect to fall back in to a cushy communications role and feel justified in calling themselves a PR.
As the article rightly points out, the industry should not be seen as a fall back but an area of progression for those with journalism skills. The PR industry today is exciting, progressive and challenging and I for one feel lucky to have a career in it.