While most journalists and PRs have good working relationships, there can occasionally be tensions. Despite that, some journalists make jump into communications and thrive, while others find that it’s simply not for them. We spoke to three journalists who moved into comms then made the shift back to the media and asked why they decided not to pursue a career in public relations.
I LOVE SOME THINGS ABOUT PR
Becca Caddy, freelance tech journalist
I did an MA in PR and worked in an agency for a few years, then went over to copywriting. From there I realised the main thing I love about PR is writing, so became a journalist for Reputation Online (a sister site of New Media Age) and it went from there in terms of journalism. I was Editor of ShinyShiny, contributing to The Observer, The Sunday Times and loads of other places. I then took a full time role as an Editor for MSN’s viral site in the US called MSN NOW (now defunct).
I loved the writing element, being creative and writing proposals, but just didn’t ever really gel with the sales-y side of PR.
The site shut down and I took on a content and media relations role at a PR company afterwards. I loved the writing element, being creative and writing proposals, but just didn’t ever really gel with the sales-y side of PR. To be honest I see myself as a bit of a hermit creator, isolated and writing and creating stuff – networking, calling people constantly and pushing products I didn’t 100% believe in felt so foreign to me. I’m an introvert and prefer alone time. While in this role I was offered the job of a Publisher at ShinyShiny again and took it for a year. I then went freelance and now write about tech for Lifehacker UK everyday and contribute features to Wareable, Gizmodo, Gadgette and a few more. I also did a few months of news writing for Wired to cover them between new hires. I also do some freelance consultancy for brands now – all the stuff I loved about PR, so writing, creative concepts and strategy but then hand all that over to brands so they can do the activations and chatting to the press.
I’D NEVER WORK IN PR AGAIN
Sean Farrell journalist on The Guardian’s city desk
Going into PR was the wrong move for me. I suspect it was partly me and partly the company. Other people seem to have enjoyed making the switch but I should have quit after a month instead of staying two years.
I was lucky to get back into journalism at the Independent, even though I arrived just as the financial crisis was erupting. I’d never work in PR again. Apart from anything else, I hardly ever felt like I’d achieved anything.
MY PR EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY HELPFUL
Willard Foxton, Development producer at Sundog Pictures & Tech Writer, Daily Telegraph
I was a journalist from 2006 until 2010, starting at a mix of music and trade mags (I was the editor of lawyers mag Chambers report, and wrote for things like Rock Sound), and then latterly as a producer and reporter at the BBC. After a stint of dangerous foreign reporting, my girlfriend at the time asked me to do something that paid better, and had less risk of me being shot; PR seemed like a natural move. Plenty of PR companies love hiring journalists, it turns out.
journos have a keen idea for what PR tactics to get noticed work, and which ones are incredibly annoying.
Why? Because journalists often bring a keen eye for what does or doesn’t make a story, and a good eye for the specifics of their organisation (which applies to other, similar orgs too). In particular, having been in TV, I had a keen idea of exactly what was required to be visible to guest bookers, who was best to speak to, how best to make general approaches and so on. Without wanting to be that journalist – journos have a keen idea for what PR tactics to get noticed work, and which ones are incredibly annoying.
no-one I’ve met really looks down on people who were PRs
I enjoyed PR, but after 12 months at a really good agency, I got itchy feet (the relationship had ended) and I decided to head back into TV journalism; a year later I popped back into PR for a stint at a friend’s startup as Head of Comms (That firm, MarketInvoice, has now done of £650 million of business, so I must have done something right), and moved back into TV journalism at the end of that, as well as starting to write regularly for the Daily Telegraph. I found it easy to move from one to the other; no-one I’ve met really looks down on people who were PRs (or at least people who were good at PR, anyway!)
As a TV producer, I found the PR experience has been incredibly helpful in securing access to high-profile institutions; having been on the other side of the fence, I know what PR’s need in order to convince their clients a long-form television documentary is in their best interests. Just knowing things like an account exec is a junior person, and an account director is a senior person, makes a huge difference in working out the best route through an organisation. I’ve always found seeing PR’s as potential allies (not typical, especially in TV) has been a huge help.