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7 transferable skills that can take you from journalism to digital PR (or vice versa)

Chloe Charalambous from NovosChloe Charalambous in Digital PR

21st April, 2021

What journalists and digital PR professionals have in common

Essentially, journalism and digital PR both revolve around communicating information with the public.  The core difference between the two industries is that journalism (in theory) is objective; meanwhile, working in PR requires you to adopt a more subjective approach to your communication. As a Digital PR, when you create content, you do so intending to provide your client with coverage and, most importantly, backlinks. As a Journalist, your primary consideration when publishing a story will be whether or not your audience wants (or needs) to see it and whether that story fits in with your publication.

The 2019 CIPR State of Profession Study cited the top three skills common to both journalists and public relations practitioners were Copywriting and editing (57%), Media relations (50%), and PR programmes/campaigns (47%).

As a former Broadcast Journalism graduate, I have summarised some of the key skills I feel that I was able to transfer over from my degree and previous work experience, hopefully to the benefit of any other graduates wanting to make the leap between industries (in either direction)!

1. Copywriting

For journalists and digital PRs alike, a lot of the day is spent tapping away at the keyboard. Both professions will require you to write and edit content and emails, but as a digital PR, you will be required to expand your portfolio of writing skills to include press releases, pitches, ghostwritten content and more.

The hard skills associated with copywriting, such as good grammar, use of varied sentence structures, wide vocabulary and the ability to adopt an outlet/publication’s TOV, remain consistent.

2. Storytelling and editorial judgement

Being a good storyteller is key to success in either profession. Whether you’re writing a blog, press release, news article or pitch, you need to find an angle and identify why your audience would care.

The most effective storytellers are creative and understand the fundamentals of storytelling. Pixar released a list of the 22 Rules of Storytelling, which included universality, purpose, character, emotion, uniqueness, surprise and simplicity. All of these ‘rules’ are highly relevant to journalism and digital PR and are a great reference point for every campaign or piece of work.

Similarly, when sent a story, journalists must possess the editorial judgement to decide whether that story fits in with their publication, while good digital PRs should only be pitching to the appropriate publications in the first place.

 

3. Empathy

PR and journalism are both all about relationships. They also both share two crucial relationships: their relationship with the media and their relationship with the public. 

Empathy is the soft skill used by journalists and digital PRs alike to understand the public’s wants and needs and that of their client or story subject.

Digital PRs must also be able to empathise with the needs of journalists, and what better way to learn what a journalist wants and needs than by standing directly in their shoes.

4. Communication and trust

By nature of the job, journalists and Digital PRs are generally quite sociable individuals. Besides enjoying a chat, they will generally recognise the importance of transparency, consistency and clarity of communication.

Clear communication will also help with building trust. Journalists build trust with their audiences by publishing fair and accurate stories. PR professionals build trust with contacts to persuade them to use their story.

Whichever side of the fence you’ve started your career on, you will be practised in communicating with either PRs or journalists and working with lots of different people closely to bring a story together

5. Meeting deadlines and targets

One thing both journalists and digital PRs will understand is the pressure to meet deadlines. 

Journalists will have set deadlines for when and how many stories need to be published. They might also be driven to get a certain amount of views or engagement per story they post. 

Similarly, PRs will also often need to get a certain amount of backlinks or mentions per campaign or story or over a certain amount of time.

Both career paths are suited to people who enjoy a fast-paced environment and are comfortable setting challenging targets.

6. Multimedia understanding and competency

The role of the journalist is not limited to the writing of the story. The modern-day journalist must also provide all the assets, imagery, video or sound needed to bring that story to life for all audiences and channels.

For this reason, an understanding of those channels where your story will be seen and promoted is necessary, and competency with photo editing platforms can also be beneficial.

If it’s important to the journalist, that means it is also important to the PR, and similarly, Digital PRs will have to provide the journalist with whatever assets they require to help with the story being published online.

7. Reputation and credibility

As a digital PR, having a good reputation amongst journalists is vital. When you prove yourself as a good source for one story, it is more likely that a journalist will use you again in the future or recommend you to their friends. Your email address might even be directed to a priority inbox.

Journalists are also obviously concerned with their professional reputation and credibility. This is why the accuracy of information provided to them is of such importance. 

The people skills involved with the process of gaining a good reputation and credibility are exactly the same for PR professionals and journalists alike. Plus, working on both sides of the industry can help you to build some really beneficial relationships!

Chloe Charalambous from Novos
Article by Chloe Charalambous
Chloe Charalambous, a digital PR strategist at NOVOS, is a Broadcast Journalism graduate from the University of Leeds. Starting her professional journey with an internship at LADbible, she also worked in the research department for a Channel 5 TV series before taking a digital agency job and making a career in the digital PR industry.

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