In the past week, I’ve heard from three individuals in the news media who want to pursue jobs in public relations. I’ve been pretty direct with my personal point of view regarding such a switch: It’s possible, but increasingly difficult.
While many Boomer and GenX PR pros began their careers as reporters (myself included), the PR profession has changed dramatically since the days it was largely focused on writing and media relations. Today, PR has become more of a “science”–far broader than media relations. One of the journalists said my feedback was “depressing to someone so desperately wanting to switch careers.” Normally the optimist, I was afraid I might have been too negative, so I tried to respond with a game plan for the long-term journalist who thinks PR can fill the next phase of his career.
First and foremost: Network. Anyone thinking about a career change should talk with as many people as possible who are doing those jobs. I encouraged him to volunteer with local organizations where he could both network and gain some PR experience. A resume without PR experience doesn’t get much traction in most agencies, unless the journalist has a well-recognized name and can bring something other than PR savvy to the job. I also cited the only examples of journalists who have successfully made the transition to PR–and most of them did so over 10 years ago. Others entered PR by working for government agencies that they formerly covered, and one ex-reporter who covered banking was hired to help meet an agency’s specific need to service a financial client.
Just when I didn’t think I had much more to share with the journalists, I came across a Ragan Report article last night that offers these seven critical questions that should be answered by anyone contemplating a jump from journalism to PR:
- Are you comfortable being the seller instead of the buyer?
- Do you speak marketing?
- Can you toe the corporate line?
- Can you practice diplomacy?
- Can you manage your hours?
- Can you see the bigger picture?
- Can you serve many masters?