(Editor’s Note: This is the final part of a series that looks at journalism folks who have transitioned from jobs on the news side of the field to public relations and marketing over the course of their careers. I promised the folks anonymity before I got their answers, so they could be honest and also because I didn’t know how many folks I would get. Turns out, we have a lot of people who made the move for a lot of reasons, so I’ll do my best to keep the sources clear for you as we discuss their experiences. -VFF)
If you missed them, here are the first three pieces:
To close up this look at the news-to-PR transition, I wanted the folks to give the students some advice or some observations they had regarding where their journeys took them in the field. The line of “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” seemed apropos, so I wanted to hear what these folks learned between knowing what they were SURE they were going to do when they left college and what life actually brought them:
A 25-year marketing vet who spent 10 years in news before making the shift had a broad sense of what was in the field and what students should know:
“One thing I’d tell current students in the Journalism field is that the field is ever-evolving. It’s important to remain adaptable with your skills and your mindset. The thing you start doing right out of college will likely be very different from what you retire from, but the storytelling will always remain. Storytelling has been the one constant in all of Journalism and its various offshoots.”
A content manager for a firm that specializes in thought leadership looked at this from both ends of the discussion:
To news kids: Don’t be snobby about an entire profession. Careers are long and you might end up doing PR for a while because the skills you’re learning are transferable. Oh, and the talk about PR people not working hard – complete and utter nonsense. If you want to stay in news, pick an area or specialty (either topical or in approach) and stick with. GA reporters are a dime a dozen. Not picking an area of focus is probably my biggest regret. I was so focused on the basic skills of journalism that I didn’t really get to know topics.
To PR kids: The value of journalism goes well beyond advancing the interests of whomever you represent. PR and journalism shouldn’t be symbiotic, but they CAN help each other. The news media serves a vital purpose and is getting attacked by people who seem to think authoritarianism is better than democracy. PR people should understand the importance of good reporters and editors in a free society and do what they can to help.
A California-based marketing manager for a tech company said the things she learned in a newsroom made her a better practitioner in her current job:
“Working in newspapers gave me a unique set of skills and experiences I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else.
“Content marketing is filled with bullshit artists. Having newsroom experience on my resume gives me credibility that would’ve taken much longer to earn, had I started my career in marketing.”
A VP who serves as a content strategist at a major financial firm had the most amazingly honest and totally straightforward advice:
“Media is an incredibly small world. You’re going to run into people over and over again throughout your career. So don’t be a dick.
“That obnoxious PR person who wants you to cover their brand? They may be the mayor’s PR person 5 years from now. So be friendly. And honestly? Cover the dumb stories from time to time. If your audience finds it interesting, you did your job, and you probably made a solid PR relationship along the way.”
A marketing and PR practitioner who graduated during the 2010s planned to spend her whole life in news. When it didn’t happen, she realized a few things:
“When I was in college, I was 100% sure I was going to be in print journalism forever. If you would’ve told me I’d be working in marketing, I probably would’ve laughed. Little did I know, that was just the first stepping stone of my career. That being said, here’s what I’d tell students today:
- Get involved in student media and extracurriculars. I learned more from those “in the trenches” experiences alongside my peers in the newsroom than I did in a classroom. It gave me a chance to try new things and put my skills into action. Plus, the people I worked with there are still friends, colleagues, and references.
- Just because your major is “journalism” doesn’t mean that’s your only option. I used to think that if I was a journalism major, I would only be qualified to be a reporter. Professors aren’t lying when they say the skills are transferable.
- Journalism isn’t dying. It’s actually a really exciting time to pursue a journalism or journalism-adjacent career, in my opinion. There are new platforms emerging and new stories to tell every day. We will always need people with the ability to tell those stories — and that’s what the skills you’re learning allow you to do. “