Why Ex-Journalists Make Great PR Pros

Kelly Thomas

By: Kelly Thomas

When it comes to delivering outstanding PR results, having a former reporter on your team gives you a leg up. Here’s why.

Prior to joining the Godfrey public relations team as copy director, I spent a combined 15 years in print and broadcast journalism. During that time, I covered a wide range of topics – from municipal government to high school basketball games to in-depth investigations. When I made the switch to public relations, I was able to take the skills I acquired working those various “beats” and apply them to the world of PR. Here are just a few reasons why former journalists make outstanding PR pros.

We Understand the Media

Reporters know what real news is and can quickly detect when a pitch idea is not worthy of an article – or their valuable time. They appreciate PR professionals who send new releases or call with story ideas that are meaningful and relevant to their readers. Understanding how the “other side works” also helps establish genuine relationships with editors, since they know you were once in the trenches like them and respect their profession.

We’re Naturally Curious

Journalists are constantly learning. PR pros who have the same thirst for knowledge ensure their clients’ products and services are well represented in the press. This is especially true in the B2B space, since copywriters must educate themselves on complex, highly technical topics and effectively communicate them to their client’s target audience. This curiosity extends to keeping up with the latest trends in PR best practices as well as new industry innovations.

We Go Searching for News

When days are slow in the newsroom, journalists have to get creative. Seriously … nobody wants blank pages in their newspaper. PR professionals who proactively develop client pitch ideas beyond those listed in editorial calendars are demonstrating a genuine investment in the success of their brand. This becomes a win-win when building strong client relationships while maximizing editorial placements. Sometimes you don’t have to look very far – story ideas can even be found within your own organization.

We Let the Experts Do the Talking

Like a teacher with chalk, journalists are rarely seen without a pen and paper or recorder. They want the facts from the most reliable sources and actively seek them out. PR pros should also lean on subject matter experts to make their copy shines. Writers cannot be expected to be authorities on every subject they write about, but they should be able to take what they learn from the real experts and turn it into compelling copy.

We’re Not Afraid to Ask Questions

Having a nose for news means asking probing questions that get to the heart of a story. Journalists know they have to create both a compelling headline and “lead” to draw readers in – otherwise they may lose them. Understanding what’s most important about complex B2B topics allows copywriters to engage their audience quickly and keep them wanting more.

We’re Great Storytellers

Journalists thrive on authenticity. Being an ethical writer doesn’t stop at gathering facts – it actually begins there. Crafting an article that gives readers a complete and captivating story allows them to better understand a brand’s core essence. Journalists take on this mission regardless of the topic at hand and PR pros should do the same for the clients they serve.

We Expect the Unexpected

Reporters are trained to drop everything when a crisis arises. They have the ability to pivot quickly and adapt to an ever-changing work environment. This not only allows them to be agile in a PR environment, but also makes them excellent at prioritizing workloads. Journalists also understand tight deadlines and often produce some of their best work when racing against the clock.

We Keep Our Clients Happy

Finally, because they understand the media, former journalists can typically get more placements for clients. Knowing what and how to pitch not only results in additional coverage, but it can also help build a strong rapport with editors. Journalists turned PR pros may eventually find the media reaching out to them for thought leadership pieces and credible resource. Doesn’t that sounds refreshing?

Former Journalist in a B2B World

Today, I find myself interviewing engineers with highly-technical backgrounds in industries such as heavy machine equipment, building automation solutions and mechatronics. While it’s a bit of a leap from the copy I was generating as a reporter, the innate curiosity that remains has allowed me to deliver clear, concise and relevant content that B2B readers demand.

Journalists who make the shift to public relations can add value to both their agency and its clients. This resonates even more with B2B marketing, where a thirst for knowledge and storytelling expertise isn’t just a redeeming quality – it’s a necessity. Read more insights and best practices in public relations


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