Moving to the dark side, pt II
Moving from journalism to PR revealed new insights into content creation for both sectors. Yet the career change also exposed elements of the relationship between the two industries which challenged my assumptions.
As a journalist, there was one thing that never failed to frustrate me: the pushy PR. Phone calls and emails about a press release or feature, while friendly, would be numerous: when, where, would it be published? Did I want a briefing with the CEO when he’s in town next week? Would I like to demo the product? Most likely ‘no’ in response to the latter two, and vague non-committal murmurings to the first. In the editorial office there lingered a simmering sentiment that the pushy PR was only interested in seeing their client’s work published, and had done little or no research into our team or publication. This type of PR, we journos supposed, was commercially-driven and understood neither the nuances of the subject matter nor the requirements of the journalist.
While I’m sure that there are some agencies which breed this type of PR consultant, on starting work at Babel I quickly learned that this is not the case in many. In fact, working in this industry requires potentially more in-depth and wide ranging knowledge than many journalists themselves possess.
It is clear from my colleagues at Babel that PRs at every level must know the field in which their client operates inside and out. As a journalist it was easy to feign comprehension during a particularly techy and impenetrable briefing. A PR, on the other hand, must be primed to talk with confidence on technical subject matters with a client, and then translate this verbally and in writing to the client’s exacting requirements. They must also understand which publication or journalist the content is best suited to, which in itself requires further knowledge of industry titles and the ability to tailor a company’s message accordingly.
It was only when I made the career move that I discovered quite how granular an insight into journalism and publishing a PR has. As a journalist, my knowledge of most PRs stretched only as far as their name and agency. Now I’ve made the move to the other side though, it is clear that the PR world peers through a peephole at the movements and mechanisms of journalism with an intimate gaze. Movements are tracked as writers and editors hop from title to title, and journalist’s backgrounds are researched thoroughly before picking up the phone.
The pushy PR does exist, yet the industry is comprised overwhelmingly of teams who research thoroughly and pitch content accurately. Journalists take note: the PR industry knows more than you think!