Many people, myself included, make the career switch from journalism to public relations. After college, I worked as a multimedia journalist for a local CBS affiliate in Twin Falls, Idaho. This summer, I’m experiencing the world of agency PR as one of Franco’s PR coordinators. Now that I’ve worked in both industries, I’ve noticed several similarities between the two careers.
Journalists and PR professionals take their jobs very seriously and hold themselves to high ethical standards. Journalists follow the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, whereas public relations practitioners follow the Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics. One of the biggest values that each society shares is truth and accuracy.
Journalists work on deadline every single day. Whether it’s a breaking news story due that day or a long-form feature due in a few weeks, journalists always adhere to a deadline. Public relations professionals also abide by deadlines, both for the client and internally. Constant deadlines ensure work gets done in a timely fashion – journalists have their pieces ready to go for the newspaper or broadcast, while PR practitioners provide continual support to their clients.
Similarity: Faced-paced environment
It’s not a secret that journalists work in a fast-paced environment. When I was a reporter, I created a minimum of three versions of two different stories a day with a deadline of 4:30 p.m. to ensure it was ready for the 5 p.m. newscast. I drove myself to locations, shot my own footage, came up with my own interview questions and edited my own video. At the end of the day, I edited my broadcast script into a traditional news article to accompany the broadcast clip for the website. On any given day, I might front my story live in-studio or live in the field for the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts.
After working at Franco this summer, it’s clear that agencies also operate in a fast-paced environment. With multiple client needs, I find myself constantly switching my focus throughout the day. I might work on social media content for one client, then compile a media list for a completely different client, then media monitor for a third client and jump back into social media content for a fourth client. Although I’m not leaving the office during the workday as regularly as I did when I was a journalist, I’m wearing many different “hats” to adhere to the clients’ needs.
Similarity: Every day is different
As a journalist, most of the time I didn’t know what I would cover when I walked into the office. Although PR is more structured than that, juggling different client work means each day looks different. If an unexpected opportunity or a crisis arises, that shifts a PR practitioner’s day as well.
What’s the difference?
One area I find different are the audiences each profession seeks. Journalists generally appeal to one large, general audience. Although there are niche news outlets, journalists at local and national news outlets report the news for everyone. Public relations professionals, on the other hand, often do work that targets specific publics. For example, the social media audience for downtown Milford differs from the social media audience for American House Senior Living Communities. When doing media relations, the B2B team pitches to outlets with very different audiences than the nonprofit team.
I think the most important similarity lies in the ethical values they share regarding high standards of accuracy and truth. Journalists use the information from a pitch or press release sent by a PR pro in their news story. Therefore, it’s crucial that everything is factually correct for the journalist. Journalists and public relations people couldn’t do their jobs without the other. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship in which everyone wins.
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Jess Knight was a public relations coordinator at Franco.