When I first started my career in broadcast journalism, I swore I would never leave the business. It was my dream job. I loved telling stories. I loved meeting people, and yes, I loved being on television (I have to be truthful)!
Reporters routinely leave the television business for public relations positions. When I would witness a colleague making the jump, I would always foolishly think, “oh that’s a shame. She just couldn’t handle the biz. Public Relations is like a demotion.”
I was wrong. Very wrong.
I feel comfortable saying journalists don’t have any real grasp on what we do as PR practitioners. I honestly thought the job of a PR person was to sit by the phone, and wait for a reporter to call. That’s it. In fact, I would snootily roll my eyes if a PR person wasn’t ready to accommodate me at my beck and call.
How IGNORANT was that?
My job as a reporter was to tell a story. My job as PR professional is to build a relationship, preferably with two-way communication. Media relations is an important part building that relationship. But it’s actually a very minor part (I was shocked to learn that).
When reporters tell stories, the target audience is obscure. Although the ratings system breaks down the audience into certain demographics, it’s not enough information to know exactly what’s resonating with whom. We also don’t know how the viewers are receiving and comprehending the stories coming to them from the other side of the television screen. Many distractions can obscure a message. (How many of us are only half-paying attention to the morning news because we are dressing our kids?)
Once I became Accredited in Public Relations, I realized how complicated the communication process could be. Telling stories is what we do. But professional communicators target a specific audience, and hone the message so it can be easily received by that audience. We also have an evaluation mechanism in place so we know if we’ve achieved our goals though our communication. In my experience, two-way communication has been the most effective way to get the message across.
There is no two-way communication with a television set.
To those journalists who are ready to make the jump into public relations: you won’t regret it. You can still tell compelling, gritty and honest stories. You can still meet people, and if you still fill the need to get in front of the camera, you can do that too! The best thing you could possibly do for your career change is get Accredited in Public Relations. This will open the door to so many opportunities, and greatly expand your knowledge of the profession. There’s no doubt that becoming a public relations professional has made me a better story-teller, listener, and communicator.
I’ve started this blog to talk theory, share ideas, and network with other communicators. I hope you’ll become a part of my PR Gumbo family!