Switching Sides: From Journalism to PR

February 4, 2014

If journalists and PR professionals had a Facebook relationship status, it would probably be, “It’s complicated.”
So when I—a third-year journalism major at Northeastern University and a former intern at Boston magazine and New Hampshire Magazine—decided to take an internship in public relations, I wasn’t sure what to think. Now that I’ve worked at Metis for a while, I can safely say that PR is not the dark side, but it is quite a bit different than what I’m used to.
Take pitching, for example. As a health writer for Boston, I used to receive pitches all the time. As a journalist, I knew what I liked in a pitch: email instead of phone, succinct and containing a clear story idea. If it didn’t fit that description, I hit delete without a second thought.
As a newly minted PR intern, I suddenly wish I could go back and answer each and every one of those emails and phone calls, because now I know how much work goes into them—and how it feels to send out 15 pitches and get zero responses. (Although, in my defense, some of the pitches I got were a pretty good crash course in what never to do in PR.)
I’ve also had to adjust my thinking. As a journalist, it’s all about what the reader needs to know, and which expert sources will explain it best. It’s about being objective and letting the reader decide the truth. In PR, I’m looking out for the clients. Being successful in PR takes strategic thinking and constant consideration of a client’s messaging and goals before any information is shared, whether it be with reporters, on blogs or on social media. While many of those goals should and do revolve around education and spreading accurate information to readers, the motivation behind each story is slightly different.
Needless to say, there’s been a learning curve. Moving to PR is like switching teams, and that has come with its own set of challenges, both in terms of skills and mindset. I don’t yet know whether I’ll stay in PR or go back to journalism, but what I do know is this: I’ll be better at either for having tried both.
What are your thoughts on the journalism/PR relationship?
Follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieDucharme1.

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