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Do Former Journalists Make Good PR Pros?

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PRWeek editor-in-chief Keith O’Brien left the publication for a position at Attention PR last month. More recently LA Times technology editor Chris Gaither announced his departure for a corporate comm. position at Google. Countless others have either made the move, or at least are considering it, given the state of the journalism job market and growth opportunities.

But the question remains: do these former journalists make good PR pros? “Former journalists make fantastic PR people,” said Matt Shaw, senior vice president and director of communications for the Council of Public Relations Firms. Shaw cited their background in story telling and explained, “Whether it’s new people to the work force or mid-career transfers, people just don’t write anymore.”

Laura Moss, a 25-year-old Account Executive for Stern + Associates, called the news business “a dead end,” and said,”In PR, there’s still a chance to take control of content and write and use your creativity and see it published, even if it’s under someone else’s name.” Despite these ringing endorsements of journalists entering the PR world, we’ve heard from several agency execs who say former journalists aren’t always the best fit. A few reasons they give:

1) Journalists may be good at story telling, but they sometimes lack in key agency functions such as client management and business development.

2) They don’t always feel comfortable making “the push.” Former journalists are – generally – used to getting their phone calls returned. Things are sometimes different on the “other side.”

Have you hired a former journalist for an agency or internal role? What has your experience been?

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