It’s been three years since the newspaper I worked for unceremoniously shut down after pumping out news for 150 years.
Since then, I’ve redirected my skills to help reinvent myself in the world of public relations. Along the way, many myths I’d believed about PR have been disproved.
Here’s a list of some misconceptions that I, along with many of my fellow journalists, have had about PR professionals:
PR pros don’t work hard. In jumping to the PR world, I’ve seen firsthand how hard my colleagues work for clients. The idea of clocking out is just that, a nice idea. I’ve done PR work from the side of a road in Spain, in a classroom hallway at my son’s back-to-school night, and outside a restaurant on a date with my wife to celebrate our anniversary. The work never stops. At least in the newsroom, there was a lull after deadline.
There are no deadlines in PR. Deadlines rule journalists’ lives. They also rule the world of PR. In a crisis, kiss your family and any plans goodbye—it’s a steady stream of deadlines to create strategy, respond to the media, monitor social media and recap everything for the client.
There’s no stress. The same issues that keep a reporter up at night—a changing media landscape, declining business, unreasonable expectations—make for sleepless nights in the PR world, too. Our profession, like journalists’, relies on finding ways to get our clients’ stories to the right audiences. There’s an added layer of stress: Showing our clients that what we do is valuable and requires expertise and experience.
PR people don’t know how to write. It’s not unusual for me to write several thousand words a day, from press releases, to white papers, to strategy documents, to crisis plans. And it requires more insight and creativity than simply documenting what happened at a city council meeting. Plus, there’s not a team of copy editors to review everything. We have to be our own reporter, editor, copy editor, and headline writer. Sometimes we have to be our own publisher.
PR pros couldn’t make it as journalists. The line between a journalist and a PR person is very close in terms of skills. I’ve seen both worlds, and I know firsthand that many of my PR colleagues would make top-notch journalists. They know how to tell a story, ask the right questions, and can be uncompromising with their standards. They also have to have the tact to offer strategies without coming off as know-it-alls, and they stand up to clients when necessary.
PR is just spin. To the contrary, PR at its core is about getting newsworthy information to audiences, and working with the media to get the facts right and creating some balance where there is none.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor with 20 years of communications experience. He heads up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.