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Five Things To Prepare For As You Move from Journalist to Publicist

The move from journalist to publicist is a common, but dramatic one. Although PR pros and reporters have a symbiotic relationship, going from one profession to the other is a tremendous career change.

In today’s guest post, Mike Huckman, SVP and director of media strategy at MSLGroup, offers five areas of PR life that a transitioning journalist should be prepared for. Speaking from experience, the move might not be as easy as it looks.

Click through to read on.

Behind The Agency Door: You Wanna Go From News To PR?  Here’s What You Should Know by Mike Huckman, SVP & Director of media strategy at MSL New YorkIn his former life, he was the pharmaceuticals reporter at CNBC and a local TV news journeyman.

“So, how’s life on the dark side?”

Even after nearly a year-and-a-half in PR, it’s still the question I get most often not only from my former media colleagues, but also from my new family in communications.

My answer has changed. In recent months, I’ve begun to feel more comfortable in my own skin. And I’ve had opportunities to do some incredibly challenging, invigorating, rewarding and, what I would call, important work. Stuff I used to report on from the outside looking in, I am now seeing first-hand and working on from the inner sanctum. It’s exactly why I wanted to make this move.

“Do you miss being on TV?” is almost always the follow-up question. But on that one my answer hasn’t changed: Yes, absolutely. I spent my entire adult life working in front of the camera.  I underestimated the hold the drug had on me and what withdrawal would be like.  But I’m good now…I think.

I’m opening the kimono to, hopefully, start to put those questions behind me and because I think it might be helpful to others in the media who I know, or hear, are thinking about crossing over, too.

As the news media continues to be in a state of upheaval, the defections continue.  Yes, it’s an entirely different discipline, but our skills are transferable and valued. So, here are a few things you should consider before making the jump to an agency:

  • Client service. Are you really cut out for it?  In journalism, PR people should be trying to please you.  In agency life, the tables are turned, not just with the media, but with the people and companies you’re working for.
  • Billable time. Are you organized enough to keep track of it?  In journalism, you’re measured to a great extent by your ability to meet deadlines. In agency life, you typically have to write down what you’re doing in 15-minute increments and who you’re doing it for. This has been the hardest adjustment for me. I’ve never had to keep track of what I was doing all the time. In TV, if I made my slot, did a good job, got everything right, that’s all that mattered.
  • Agency culture. Newsrooms and TV control rooms can sometimes be frenetic, noisy places. I was one of those guys who fed off of the adrenaline rush and literally ran to get on air first. Agency offices? Not so much. They’re pretty library-like and some co-workers have given me strange looks on the few occasions I’ve broken into a fast jog or hurriedly skipped steps on the stairs.
  • Project work. Are you patient enough to do assignments with relatively long gestational periods? In news, most work these days is done in real-time. I always liked the satisfaction of finding a story in the morning, getting it on air, going home and starting all over again the next day. While there is get-it-done-now work in PR, a lot of it is done with a significantly longer timeline.
  • New business development. Do you think you can crack that nut?  In journalism, you have to sell your story to editors and managers and that can be challenging. But in PR, you essentially have to sell yourself—your experience, expertise, point of view, and capabilities.

That doesn’t cover all of the transitional issues you might encounter, but they’re the biggies.  I can’t help you answer the incessant question:  “So, how’s life on the dark side?”  For that, you’re on your own.

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