Journalists operating within the PR world are not an anomaly. With the closure of so many print titles, the necessary move to digital and the shrinking of staff jobs, more and more trained journalists are finding themselves on the other side of the industry in the murky depths of the PR world, myself included.
I found myself a few years ago as a writer in the PR industry, I’m going to explain why my situation was actually quite rare and ask: Why isn’t every PR agency doing this?
Presently, the line between journalism and PR is blurred enough that quite often you’ll find a trained journo as a ‘senior account exec’, a blogger with three PR internships under their belt or a writer-turned PR/Marketing staffer. Quite a few of my graduating class in journalism (which was only in 2011) have since re-trained in PR to follow that career path specifically.
After moving to London, I found myself working in a PR agency as a copywriter following years as a journalist in Ireland. Hired full time, in-house to perfect the syntax, grammar, structure and flow of every press release sent out to media, I never knew this role existed but I found it and loved it. From a sharp phrase to a witty reference, my day job for quite some time consisted of churning out about 4-5 press releases a day and I was damn good at them, not because it was my particular calling but because I was writing as a journalist for journalists.
Why isn’t every PR agency considering this?
You see, I possessed this unique hybrid of experience – a journalist and blogger, still freelancing on the side, whilst also possessing in-depth experience of the PR world and all its workings. I’d seen one side of the industry, now I was over on the other. Combining this experience, in my opinion, proves incredibly fruitful.
Why? Following years of being on the receiving end of endless poorly written, misjudged and plain god awful press releases I was now constructing and fine-tuning ones that my agency were sending out. Clever, no? A PR agency using someone who’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly of releases now working with them to offer some helpful stage direction for the messages they wanted to shout about on behalf of their clients. A fresh pair of eyes and desirable experience parlayed into re-working, adjusting and offering a fresh perspective on how to clinch client coverage.
Why isn’t every PR agency doing this?
From being a full-time journalist myself, I knew what worked and what didn’t when trying to secure coverage. I knew how to include all the key information in the first few lines (as the rest is going to be deleted, sorry, but true). I knew first-hand that 50 press releases every day arriving in an inbox is soul destroying and only a select few actually get read. I also had a tangible grasp on what was newsworthy, exciting or good enough to pique the attention of an editor – a valuable skill when PR teams are scraping the end of a barrel for an angle. Sometimes, it’s better not to release at all than to release something boring, unimaginative and dull, and often it requires a journalist’s insight to remind PR teams of that.
Why isn’t every PR agency copying this?
Now, having gone freelance, I blog for a living, manage social media and digital content for clients and contribute freelance articles to various sites and publications. However, a lot of my consistent work actually comes from PR agency commissions because of my aforementioned combination of experience. I work with a number of PR firms to fine-tune their client releases. Whether they want to overhaul their writing style to inject fresh interest into a long-term client or they just want a fresh pair of eyes for a ship-shape sub-edit to cross each T and dot every I, my skills are incredibly useful.
Why isn’t every PR agency doing this?!
With the shortage of journalism jobs and the writing skills of many lost in lieu of more available work, this seems like an ideal situation for talented writers. There’s some exceptional people working full-time in PR who have incredible writing skills, but so many of their skills are sub-par. Endless rounds of edits in PR offices in the UK and Ireland is a waste of time. For people in PR who aren’t too adept at the writing side, delegate the task to someone who is, ensuring you can focus on schmoozing the media, achieving client deliverables and conquering column inches – a skill that I absolutely do not possess.
Not only that, but personally, my work as a freelance press release crafter – for want of a less-wanky term – keeps my writing razor sharp. Finding new ways to communicate with words in an engaging and effective way whilst also liaising with PR contacts who then offer edits and critique ensures that I’m always on my toes, content-wise.
I guess I might be a bit of an anomaly, after all.