Not too many years ago, journalism degrees and media experience provided natural segues to public relations jobs. In fact, that’s the transition I made from media to PR, and for many years most of my peers came via the same route. That’s no longer the case today.
Today’s New York Times tells the story about Mary Ellin Arch of The Richmond Times-Dispatch, who lost her newsroom job after working 29 years in the media.
Like a lot of media people I’ve talked with in recent years, Ellin pursued a PR job and found that it wasn’t an easy transition. She quickly realized she was competing with people who had PR degrees and relevant experience. She eventually landed a job as spokesperson for the Richmond-area toll road, and enrolled in a master’s program in strategic public relations at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I’m a real big fan of telling reporters it’s not as easy as you think,” Ellin says. “Working in the newsroom does not prepare you for a job in public relations.”
John Doorley, former head of corporate communications at Merck, a giant pharmaceutical company and currently director of the master’s in public relations program at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, confirms that things have changed dramatically in favor of PR degrees.
Like most of the business world today, John observes that PR has outgrown its second-tier status in the advertising and journalism curriculums where it has often been relegated, and emerged as a social science and business discipline of its own. This development and the recognition of the trend by The Times bodes well for our profession.