Tips for Journalists-Turned-Publicists, From Other Publicists

After MSLGroup SVP Mike Huckman offered up his five tips for journalists making the transition to PR, we thought we’d open up the forum to others. After all, there are plenty of reporters making the switch and, as we’ve seen on certain occasions, a couple of thoughts about how best to handle the new career may be in order.

We put it out there for PR pros and asked for your advice for your new PR colleagues. After the jump, read what we got. What do you think? Share your thoughts (and your tips) in the comments section.


Bill Zucker, Midwest director, Ketchum (via Twitter)
1) Be sure the news bug is out of your system before a career switch 2) Tap into all of [the] journo skills you’ve perfected: especially your ability to multi-task, meet deadlines, and make quick decisions. That’s a huge difference maker in our biz. 3) Calibrate your newsroom persona to properly match your new workplace. 4) Trade info; help colleagues better understand your former world in exchange for them teaching you your new world. Ultimately it was a great transition for me. Loving it for 11 years now.

David Patton, VP and EIC, Waggener Edstrom

What to be prepared for? There are obviously many similarities, probably the biggest difference is how we tell stories. There are more sensitivities when working with a client about what should and shouldn’t be told. As a journalist, you craft a story based on where the facts take you, and then highlight pieces that will be most interesting to the audience. In PR, we craft a story based upon the messages we are working to deliver to key audiences.

What new skills you’ll need? Learning how to deal with clients instead of editors. The journalism career path is fairly linear in that people at the top have worked their way through roles from cub reporter to news editor. So there is a personal understanding that an editor brings to the relationship with a reporter or producer. The PR communications world isn’t as linear so the language and expectations aren’t as uniform. That means more time and communication is needed to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Nicole Balin, founder, Ballin PR (a Beverly Hills-based PR firm specializing in filmmakers, authors, and hip-hop artists)

Transitioning from journalist to publicist for me was a big challenge for many reasons, one of the main ones being the hit my ego took. There’s a demotion of status that comes with the change. I think writers (while shamefully underpaid) are revered as artists with a unique set of talents. My experience is that publicists (and I’m generalizing of course) are looked at as the bottom of the industry food chain–as salesmen. Ironically, the money is better, but the respect level isn’t…

You need a thick skin to be a publicist… Lastly and to this point, it’s more difficult to measure success as a publicist than it is as a writer. Most of the work as a publicist (except if you rep an A-list celeb or musician) is in all the calls and pitching that don’t result in coverage, but most clients measure success by actual press that’s secured. Being a writer there’s a story assigned, a deadline, and to some extent, not a lot of wiggle room or discussion about the end result.

Andy McGuinness, PR pro (via Twitter) 1) Don’t say you’ve gone over to, “the dark side.” Respect our (and now your) profession. 2) Do understand PR is more than just media relations; 3) Realize journos/PR pros are more similar than many give credit. Please & thank you!

Francis Moran, Francis Moran & Associates (a firm with offices in Ottawa, Boston, and Glasgow)

The toughest thing reporters have to do every day is not figure out what they’re going to write about; events of the day or their beat responsibilities have usually already determined that by the time they come into the newsroom. Rather, the toughest thing they must to do is find available, accessible, and credible sources who will give them the expert opinion, factual information and other material they need to write a good story. Be that good source.