Recently, the journalism-trade website Poynter.org posed a question to its readers that struck me personally and professionally: Do journalists make the best PR pros?
The question struck me because several weeks ago, as I walked into Weber Shandwick for the first day of my internship, I was a former journalist attempting to become a PR professional.
I’m still making that transition, so it’s far too early to give this question a definitive answer. I’m really enjoying the new experiences and challenges of public relations and here are a few learnings from my last career that are helping me ease into my new role.
- Be ready for anything – It’s a well-worn axiom of the newspaper business that a reporter’s topic will depend on the day’s news. I certainly found that to be true in my three years working for newspapers – in the first six months alone, I alternately covered politics, business and crime. Public relations has a similar variety. At Weber Shandwick, my projects and duties have changed almost daily to reflect the needs of the multitude of clients I’ve worked for. As someone who once believed PR was all about press releases, I am happy to be mistaken.
- Don’t bury the lead – Newspapers emphasize getting the most important facts of a story to the reader as quickly as possible. In most instances, that means in the first paragraph, called the lead. To accomplish that, my editor had a rule that no lead could be longer than 30 words. While I balked at first, she was right (she usually was) and I learned to love that format. PR also emphasizes brevity. I’ve learned to get the most important points of a pitch across in one or two sentences. And as technology and social media expand and evolve, writers must learn to limit their craft to 140 characters. Short, sweet and detailed are words to live by in this business.
- Storytelling matters – In journalism school, I was taught that everyone (and everything) had a story. It was my job to tell it. In PR, I’ve learned that fostering storytelling is an important dynamic to the work we do. In every organization we serve, there exists an opportunity to build and create narratives, and then tell those stories to the world through traditional and social media. Learning what stories to tell, why we tell them, and how to tell them has been one of the most enjoyable and enriching experiences of my short PR career.
Author—Peter Jensen is currently an intern at Weber Shandwick Seattle. You can find out more about Peter on LinkedIn.
Image courtesy of Alex Barth.