The newsroom and the public relations desk have traded talent for decades.
Recently, most of the talent has headed one way—away from the newsroom and into the PR field. As newspapers shed talent, journalists seek another field where writing, interviewing, and critical thinking are valued.
While journalists change titles, they retain many of the skills that made them successful newshounds, bringing some hard-news focus to the often softer PR world.
Here are some of the skills successful journalists are finding success with at public relations firms:
Hard facts, no frills
Press releases are notorious in newsrooms for their superlatives and wandering descriptions. Journalists, many of whom have spent half a lifetime editing the frills and non-news from press releases, are experts at cutting the unnecessary and delivering the facts.
It’s a skill that delights gutted newsrooms, which often repurpose a press release penned by an ex-journalist without changing much of the language.
A nose for news
Journalists who have years of practice pitching story ideas to their editors understand what gets a brief mention in the paper and what makes the front page.
They know how to fold a client’s public relations message into a larger trend story or a current events piece, without making it sound forced or hyped. It’s something that former reporters understand innately after sitting in hundreds of editorial meetings weighing what constitutes news.
That eye for genuine news enables an ex-journalist to pitch a press release that fits into a newsroom’s thought process or sparks a new, genuine news story that the newspaper, magazine, or website will feature prominently.
Critical thinking and client relations
Often, what a client wants to see in a press release, and what a magazine, newspaper, or website wants to see in it, are wildly different. Ex-journalists at a PR firm can speak with authority to clients about the flavor, facts, and focus of a press release that will get it noticed by news organizations. A hyped-up press release that pleases the client, but gets no press traction, helps no one.
David Bunker is the former editor of the Sierra Sun newspaper in Truckee, Calif., and a freelance writer whose work has been published in business, travel and lifestyle magazines across the West. He currently develops and writes press releases, case studies and web content for Abbi Public Relations in Reno. Nev. A version of this story first appeared on the Abbi Public Relations Blog.