A couple of things this week prompted me to think about the number of journalists moving over to the “dark side” of Public Relations.
Firstly, I was reading current issue of PR Week which has an editorial column pointing out that journalists are crossing over into PR in increasing numbers. Secondly, on Wednesday I went along to an NUJ seminar in Liverpool on how to make more money from journalism. Many of the journos attending clearly thought that a transfer into PR would be a good career move.
So, why is this happening? For a start, journalism is not particularly well paid with the NTCJ saying that the average national salary for a qualified journalist is £22,500. The perception is that PR pays better. That may be true of PR consultancies, particularly in London, but is probably not always the case for in-house jobs, especially in the public sector.
Then there is the sad reality that full time journalism jobs are becoming increasingly scarce as newspapers and magazines shed staff. Scarcely a week goes by without one major news group announcing a fresh round of redundancies. So it’s hardly a surprise that many journalists see a full time PR job as being a more attractive proposition that trying to make a precarious living as a freelance journalist.
However they may find that the grass is not necessarily greener on the PR side. The Govt’s austerity agenda has resulted in many public sector bodies (local authorities, NHS trusts, etc) cutting the number of PR staff they employ.
To return to my original question, do journalists actually make good PR people? There is little doubt that many of the skills which journalists possess are easily transferable to the world of PR. However, in my experience journalists who move into PR tend to concentrate too much on the media relations side of things and can often struggle with other elements of the role.
I speak as someone who has spent most of his career in PR, with the occasional detour into journalism, when I say that moving between the two disciplines is not always as easy as it may look.