Want to switch from PR to journalism? 5 crossover skills to highlight

Feb 6, 2018
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Want to switch from PR to journalism? 5 crossover skills to highlight

It's not uncommon to see a journalist take their newsroom skills over to the world of public relations.

Aside from having the edge of knowing exactly what editors look for, ex-journos stand to get a nice raise on the PR side: According to 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the median public relations specialist salary is nearly $20,000 higher than the median reporter salary.

But some media professionals who start out in PR realize it's not right for them. I should know: It only took a single three-month PR internship for me to realize I belonged on the other side of the fence. Maybe you can't resist the allure of chasing and breaking a story – or perhaps you'd just like to publish your writing under your own byline. Whatever the reason, you've decided to make the less popular (but equally exciting) leap over to journalism.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the core skills you learn and use in the PR industry transfer very well to the newsroom.

During my time at Business News Daily, we've hired and worked with quite a few PR converts, and all of them made a seamless transition. Whether you're just starting the application process or about to interview with an editorial hiring manager, here are a few key competencies you should highlight if you're moving from public relations to journalism.

1. Writing skills

As a PR pro, a significant part of your day probably involves writing.

Whether it's pitch emails, press releases or ghostwritten content for your clients, your job is all about communicating clearly and concisely. Anyone hiring for a journalism position is going to ask you for writing samples, so have a portfolio of clips ready to show, even if your byline isn't on them. Guest articles you've written and placed on behalf of your clients are especially good to include, since they demonstrate your ability to adapt to an outlet's style and voice.

2. Editorial judgment

Reporters and their editors need to know how to determine what's important to their audience and plan their coverage accordingly.

PR pros are on the other side of this equation, sending pitches that they believe reporters and editors will find timely and newsworthy. Be able to tell a hiring manager where you get your news and what approach you take when building a pitch (bonus points if you can give them an on-the-spot pitch for their publication).

3. Ability to meet deadlines

The newsroom is driven by deadlines, especially in today's 24/7 news cycle, where breaking stories need to be published quickly to gain any traction.

In your cover letter and interview, discuss your experience helping reporters meet their deadlines, and show that you understand how critical it is to have fast, accurate, credible source material for great news stories.

4. Multimedia experience

It's rare to find a modern journalist who only writes. Many reporters are now responsible for gathering and/or creating multiple digital media assets for their stories, including (but not limited to) photos, videos, infographics and social media promotion.

PR pros often have experience in these areas from building campaigns and media kits for their clients, so include any visual or social content you've worked on in your portfolio.

5. Media relations

You've likely contacted countless journalists during your PR career thus far, and with each response (or lack thereof), you've learned the ins and outs of what reporters want out of their relationships with PR pros.

Whether they need a quick quote, a source interview or a contributed article, you know what happens on the PR side to deliver it. Your knowledge of public relations processes and your existing relationships with agencies can come in handy when you need information on the editorial side.

Career changes can be scary, especially in an ever-changing and increasingly uncertain industry like media. But the switch from PR to journalism is a more natural one than you might think, and by highlighting your transferable skills during the hiring process, you'll be well on your way to landing a job as a journalist.

Nicole Fallon is the former managing editor of Business News Daily. She currently oversees B2B copyediting and production for its parent company, Purch. Follow her on Twitter @nicolemfallon.

Photo via Pexels

About the author

B2B copyediting & production @Purch. Freelance writer/editor. Baker. Dancer. Crafter. Dog person.


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