Reporter Career Switch to PR Possible, Not Easy

Q. I have worked in television news for eight years and realize I may have to move a few more times if I want to reach a top job in a major market. I’d rather not move again, so I would like some realistic advice about the potential and process of making a transition into public relations.  

A.  The days of logical and easy transitions from media to public relations jobs are long gone. It’s still possible, but it requires a lot of effort and patience. Since you’ve been working for eight years, you won’t be viewed as a potential entry-level employee since hiring managers will assume you need to be paid at a higher level. Most agencies won’t consider senior level who don’t have hands-on agency experience. Agencies no longer have the luxury of training for the basics. They expect new hires to understand every aspect of agency processes, e.g. utilization, billability, creative, planning and business development.

Small to mid-size firms are more willing to hire non-traditional PR talent and train them to their system. So, you may want to focus your search on those agencies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations where your specific talents and contacts may increase your chances. Depending on the focus of your media coverage, your experience and depth of understanding of certain industries also could increase your chances to leap into a higher-than-entry-level position. Unfortunately, few corporations are hiring PR talent. Instead, they do more with limited in-house staffs or hire agencies to fill in where needed. Still, keep an eye out for corporate openings. Job postings have to be checked regularly since they are not left up as long as in the past–some are posted for only three days, not the 10 days or two weeks as in the past. Hiring managers find that they get the best applicants in the shorter period of time.

So now that I’ve covered the negatives, how would I recommend that you proceed?

A reporter friend recently landed a PR-related job within his own news organization, which will provide experience that will make an easier transition in the future. You also might want to provide counsel to nonprofits, colleges and other organizations. Serving on the marketing and communications committees of nonprofits will provide experience and excellent networking contacts. Offering to do guest lectures for college PR classes will raise your profile with faculty and adjuncts who might be professionally connected with agencies and companies.

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