Reflections on moving to the infamous ‘dark side’

By  Mike Berry, Head of Content, Fleet Street Communications

For many, moving from journalism to public relations is akin to – as the well-worn phrase goes – joining the Dark Side. However, that’s never been my view. Over my 18 years or so in business-to-business journalism it’s clear to me that the two professions share many of the same skills and attributes – and that the disciplines are rapidly converging.

In theory, today’s journalists should make excellent PR professionals – they write well, have the skills to work across multiple platforms, should have a decent black book of contacts and (generally) are dedicated and passionate people.

But for some the switch is a struggle. Perhaps it’s because PR can be far more diverse and multi-faceted than journalism. From my initial observations, communications pros are spinning multiple plates: writing press releases, feature comments and by-lined articles, planning events, managing projects, handling journalists’ enquiries, drafting client campaigns, pulling together reports – often across several accounts. The list goes on.

That’s just the day-to-day, operational stuff. Then you have the ongoing challenge of managing clients’ reputation, creating demand for their product or service, and striving to help them achieve their business goals.

I’m not saying journalists aren’t busy (believe me, they are), but mostly their job is about getting the best story they can for publication.

Where journalists can make an impact is by offering a different take on content. Digging out the story, making sense of those survey results, spotting coverage potential in company initiatives. Just knowing what journos want from PRs, and how to get that across is a good start.

Before I made the leap, my role was predominantly focused on content generation, be that in print, digital or for face-to-face events. Often that meant liaising closely with advertisers and clients on ‘branded’ content initiatives and projects which were part of a new, more collaborative, approach designed to produce something engaging that serves both the readers’ and clients’ needs.

It’s those skills and experience I hope to bring to bear in my new role as Head of Content at FSC. The best agencies in my view are those that have teams comprising a mix of both long-standing, established comms professionals and experienced journalists. That’s what attracted me to FSC, along with its expertise and knowledge in the sectors that I’m fascinated by (and have been most recently immersed in as a journalist).

Maybe there will be bumps further down the road for me, but for now – a couple of months in – my transition from hack to flack has been a stimulating experience.

Follow me on Twitter @mrmikeberry @FleetStreetComm

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