Transitioning From Journalism to a Public Relations Career

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Photo Courtesy: Brad Weaver, Unsplash

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The transition out of a journalism career and into a public relations job is one that’s made all the time. And while many people make the change very successfully, it’s not without its challenges.

My journey to PR was long and winding. After working in TV news for nearly 15 years, I moved from the newsroom to corporate communications to a successful blog (which lead to a position as family editor of Gluten-Free Living Magazine) to a communications director at a nonprofit. Those roles and the skills I learned along the way all helped lead me to this point in my career with Comprise (first as an account executive and now as COO).

If you think now’s the time to leave the journalism industry for a job in public relations or corporate communications, here are a few thoughts on making it a smooth transition, because that first step outside the newsroom can be a doozy.

Learn Public Relations Jargon

Boilerplate, reactive pitching, media lists, editorial calendars, thought leadership, Cision, MuckRack, Meltwater? Do any of those terms ring a bell? If not, it’s time to get to know them. And once you know more about Cision, MuckRack and Meltwater, you’ll see that those companies have been stalking you for some time.

Understand GSuite, iWork and Microsoft Office

There is life beyond the newsroom software you’ve used for ages. It’s time to turn the page to Google Sheets, Google Docs, Pages, Keynote, PowerPoint and Excel. Need help learning how to use these tools? There are a lot of free courses online. If you’re moving out of a journalism career and are unfamiliar with these programs, take a course. Other platforms like Slack might be something to read up on as well since many companies use this to streamline communication.

Prepare to Manage Client Budgets

If you’re jumping into agency work or managing a communications department, you will be working within budgetary constraints. Particularly in the agency world, where — as an account lead — you will work directly with clients that have goals within an agreed-upon budget. You’ll learn quickly to be efficient with your time while getting results.

Leverage Your Experience

Instead of dwelling on the skills you might still need to work on, focus during your interview on how your experience brings value to this role.

  1. Providing a media insider perspective could be helpful. Think back to the pitches you received that hooked you for a story and why.
    1. Were they short?
    2. Were they in line with your beat?
    3. Did the PR contact deliver an expert that added value to your story?
    4. Was pitching through social media an effective tactic?
  2. How does social media impact editorial decisions (which could shape how an agency pitches a story)?
  3. Are you active on social media? Talk about it.
  4. If you are good at interviewing and on-camera presence, let the person interviewing you know. Leveraging that expertise to lead media training sessions might be in your future.
  5. As a journalism industry insider, you understand deadlines better than most people!

Working in public relations is a balance between reaching your client’s goals and providing value to reporters and editors at media outlets. What is it that you bring to the table that will provide that value?

When I got into TV news, I never thought I’d leave. I loved it. But eventually, the time came and I saw that life doesn’t constantly revolve around the 5 o’clock newscast. If that time has come for you, don’t hesitate to reach out via LinkedIn with questions.

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