I’m a former technology staff journalist, and it’s said that the usual path to the dark side for us is through PR. It seems the closest fit, we’ve got the experience in that world so surely it wouldn’t be that difficult to move across?
I’m not sure if that’s true. A lot of what I know about ‘traditional’ PR is that there is the important process of working and building relationships between client and journalist, and I think a lot of former journos would feel uncomfortable in that role. It’s a whole new set of skills you need – and on a personal note I would find it hard to sell to journalists I know, especially when I know in the back of my mind it has no story value. I’m also not the type of person who finds too much value in getting a mention at the bottom of a IT trade website story – I wrote so many of them that even a journalist byline holds little value for me anymore.
However, I think that if a journalist was going to make that move, they would need to focus more on the ‘digital’ side of PR. In this I mean the more content strategy and marketing side, creating on behalf of an agency or brand rather than the slog of PR/journalist client work. In my work for Microsoft at the moment I’m focusing on content for its developer channels, which goes directly to its audience. In my mind this is much more effective than creating press releases for the benefit of journalists which may or may not get their attention.
But I think it’s a good time for journalists, whether or not they want to stay in the industry, but only if they really keep up-to-date with their digital skills and really understand the trends that are happening. In PR this has already been happening for some time – a lot of agencies are trying to really understand the value of content and social in the services they offer and putting digital marketing into focus – some more successfully than others.