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Transitioning from Journalism to PR

  • Looking back, public relations wasn’t my passion given poor exposure of what PR really was.

As a journalist, I brushed off the suggestion of transitioning into public relations. I loved the news business; I loved learning about what was going on in the world; and, above all, I loved the idea of being a part of it as part of the media.

When I was young, I looked up to Mort Crim, a news anchor at WDIV-TV Detroit. He, among others in the Detroit news business, including Terry Oprea – a WDIV producer who I interned for in the late 80s – inspired me to pursue my degree with a major in broadcasting (radio, TV and film). It wasn’t until my Wayne State University advisor, the late Ben Burns who was then Executive Editor of The Detroit News, challenged me by prompting, “It’s great that you want to read the news, but do you know how to write the news?,” that I even considered also pursuing a journalism major. .

But public relations?

 

  • PR professionals didn’t add value to the companies they worked for.

When I worked as a reporter for Detroit Auto Scene/Tech Center News primarily covering General Motors, one of my contacts at GM, Mary Henige, APR, asked me if I had ever considered working in public relations. At that point in my career, my experiences with PR professionals many times consisted of being pitched topics our publication didn’t cover. These PR people also joined phone calls with the interviewee, but didn’t really add any value.

Having 20 years of experience in PR now, successfully earning the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential and serving the Public Relations Society of America Detroit chapter for many years, including as president, I can confidently say I was wrong about my early perceptions of PR and its value. It’s just the limited exposure that I had and the “bad apples” that did our field an injustice.

 

  • You don’t have to be a journalist to be successful in PR, however you do have to THINK like one.

For story development and the media relations part of public relations (as there’s so much more to PR), my journalistic thinking has helped define what’s considered news, what will resonate, how journalists think, what their needs are and the like … and this ultimately has helped with media interactions and benefitted our clients.

It is important to consider that journalists are bombarded with story ideas and sales pitches under the guise of “news.” What you think is news may not be news at all. Take the time to learn the media – the outlet and the reporter, who their audience is and how to best connect with them. Develop a relationship. Be honest. Deliver results. Add value.

In the end, I love what I do because I am still a part of the media. I don’t mind being behind the scenes because I know I am providing value. The way I see it, I am able to bridge the gap between the media and my clients by articulating news along with their messages to their targeted publics. That’s just one of the many things I do and just one way that PR adds value.


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