By Associate Editor Natalie Gates
Corrupt. Biased. Annoying. Pointless. Liars. Dying out. Taking over. Creative. Storytellers. Hard workers. Truth seekers. Essential to the business and political worlds. Essential to society. Me.
What comes to mind when you think about public relations (PR) people or journalists?
I spent my summer (and still am) working for a PR firm that specializes in getting entrepreneurs and startup tech businesses off the ground and into the wild world of tech media. As a journalism student, this kind of seemed like selling my soul at first.
It’s no secret that journalism jobs are becoming endangered. Knowing this, I decided to search for experience in the PR field, hoping I could apply the communication and writing skills I’d built through journalism, still enjoy what I was doing, believe what I was writing, and find that rush that comes with nailing a story. This shift has been a common occurrence among both newbie and seasoned journos; so much so that it is known to some as the Great Journalism-PR Migration.
I’ve had journalism profs wag their fingers at us in an attempt to drive home the key differences between PR and journalistic writing. As we learn the craft, sometimes the line can get a bit too blurred if authority isn’t questioned enough.
A wise man by the name of Frank once said something along the lines of, “Neither one is better than the other. But they must remain completely different.”
That said, you may know about the love-hate relationship between PR people and reporters.
Busy journalists need PR people for many things. They give reporters insider knowledge on news they might not otherwise get, help them shape stories, provide press releases for basic info, set up interviews, answer questions for busy sources directly, and more.
But journos also hate PR people sometimes. Send too many pitches, or not enough interesting ones, and you will get ignored over and over, or receive a ticked off response to “Please just remove me from your list, Miss Gates”. Alternatively, if the PR department is too scripted or closed off, that causes a whole other array of frustration. Often, PR people are seen as irritating bothers who will also say anything to make the business/ politician/celebrity/etc. look good.
PR people need journalists. Take the tech world, for example. They create content for audiences of thousands or millions to see— real, engaging articles, because, while a PR firm can post a press release online, of course a thorough, balanced article on an accredited site will gain many more views and reactions. In the political world, reporters inform the public of developments in away that can easily be consumed and spread positive news when it happens.
But PR people can get exasperated with journalists as well. Reporters can flake out on interviews last minute or suddenly stop responding to emails mid-conversation, costing the firm crucial time and invested money. In other scenarios, reporters are the ones seen as nosey, harassing pests.
Obviously, The Nav has a little less reach than the outlets I’ve been pitching for the firm, such as Engadget, Mashable, CNN, and Business Insider, so my experience here will greatly differ from those reporters’. Yet, through the few media relations people I have dealt with while at The Nav, I’ve seen the protective wall PR reps build around subjects. At the firm, we do the same thing for our clients when necessary.
In the end, PR and journalism both have so many different facets; it’s impossible to dub one or the other completely evil or angelic—like pretty much any profession. It’s up to you to try and stick to your morals and beliefs, whichever path you go down.
Do I believe every single word I write about every new product? Maybe not. Do I still get a rush when we snag a top tier outlet? Hell yeah.
Like any good relationship, you need balance, compromise, and healthy communication. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to bitch about the other side once in a while.