Transitioning from Reporter to PR Practitioner

I sold out years ago. I left newspapers to launch a business magazine for a Federal Reserve Bank, then I became a spokesperson for a metropolitan police department and now I’m director of communications for an international child development non-profit.

Apparently I’m not alone in selling out. At a recent Richmond PRSA meeting the topic was transitioning from reporting to PR.  More than half of the room stood up and shared where they had worked as a reporter and where they are now working in PR.  The panelists came from TV and newspapers.

They all agreed that they were surprised by the number of phone calls they receive as PR practitioners. They also say they have a better understanding of the full story.

Mychael Dickerson, who handles PR for Henrico County, Va., schools said he spent his early months explaining what information should be public. “It was amazing how much information should be public, but wasn’t,” he said. 

Lisa Schaffner, anchor for WRIC-TV8 for more than 20 years and now with UNOS, was stunned to learn that not everyone was tuned to the news at 6 p.m. “That was a big ‘ah ha’ for me,” she said with a laugh.

As for challenges, Chet Wade, managing director of corporate communications for Dominion, said, “You really have to be a negotiator and a consensus builder.”

Tips for working with reporters include:

  • Be imaginative and avoid boring pitches.
  • Know your reporters. Build relationships in advance of big stories.
  • Return phone calls and understand the deadlines.

2 thoughts on “Transitioning from Reporter to PR Practitioner

  1. Tammy says:

    There seems to be a mixed emotion about this topic. Many people think that reporters do not make good PR practitioners because they know about the journalism portion but not always the communication and campaign strategies necessary to get the message across. As a former reporter, I have been in the private sector since 2000 — and it is a different world. Pitching stories/PR is only part of the story. Understanding branding issues, writing speeches, helping with company goals and campaigns are the largest part of PR. The goal is different — it’s not just to get publicized, it’s to know your publics and what the goal is to communicate with each of them. It takes work to learn the “other side” of PR. It can be done, but it’s not all about pitching.

    • Tammy: You are so right. It’s a lot to learn. It’s taken me years to get up to speed. One of the hardest things for me to learn was speech writing. I’ve recently helped edit speeches for some friends, who thought it would be easy. Not so. That’s why I think it’s important to offer seminars in all of these areas. It takes much to learn. I think it’s more about the person. You take someone who is dedicated and committed and they can make the transition. Someone who thinks it’s going to be a simple job will be in for a surprise. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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