I see journalism and PR as two sides of the same coin. I come from a background in journalism and strategic public relations, based in both education and training. As a former reporter for a daily newspaper in San Diego, I fully understand the need for cultivating relationships, meeting strict deadlines, multitasking and, above all, telling a compelling story. All of these, and other overlapping skills, I believe have aided me in carrying out effective public relations initiatives here at Curator. To illustrate, here are some key skills that may be grounded in journalism, but are just as applicable to the field of public relations today.
If nothing else, my background in journalism has allowed me to understand a basic truth – a good story can speak for itself, so no need to oversell it. The ability to understand the news cycle, and the importance of timeliness and speaking to a particular audience in a voice that resonates with them is completely applicable to the field of PR, though for me was acquired through the daily need as a journalist to bring untold stories to life, ranging in topic from education to entertainment. Public relations professionals should not only possess extensive written and verbal skills, but should also be able to think in terms of headlines and what makes their clients relevant in the media landscape. Understanding how a reporter thinks and aiding them in telling the best story possible by providing access to the right sources, key takeaways and most illustrative photos should be a key priority in telling a compelling story through multiple avenues.
One skill that reporters must possess in order to succeed in unearthing newsworthy stories is to build relationships with key government, education, nonprofit and community leaders. In addition to building a Rolodex full of key figures to call upon for a variety of story angles, good journalists must walk the fine line of seeking the truth, while not burning their sources. In a similar vein, public relations professionals must establish relationships on behalf of their clients with internal and external stakeholders including media outlets, consumers, business partners and nonprofit organizations, among others. In this pursuit of driving brand awareness and boosting media and market goals, much like journalists, public relations professionals must balance the needs of their clients with what feels authentic for a newspaper, magazine, TV station or blogger. A glitzy press release, for example, that pleases the client but doesn’t get any media traction, isn’t beneficial to anyone. Being a good client advisor sometimes means helping to open a client’s horizons to new ideas that will benefit their business in the long-run, not just short-term. This begins with establishing client trust by listening and finding creative solutions.
Getting it Right
The trifecta of getting it right encompasses being accurate, paying attention to detail and telling the truth. Journalists by nature are truth-seekers, looking to showcase both sides of a story to stimulate public discussion. While working under strict deadlines, a journalist’s accuracy in the information they are attaching their name to is of utmost importance. That is why it is critical for public relations professionals to provide accurate data, facts, figure and quotes and get the details right. For this reason, I tend to err on the side of providing too much information, rather than not enough. If a reporter is burned by the inaccuracies on untruths you provide, you’re likely going to make their PR blacklist.
As the fields of public relations, journalism and marketing further converge, it’s interesting to understand how the skills that may have originated in one field are transferrable to and even enhance another. Above all, it’s about effective communication, so continuous learning from related fields in order to expand your skill set is always an asset in my book.