I’ve reached the place in life where neither my daughters nor my parents pay much attention to my advice (though they always listen politely), so I’ve learned to be careful about offering unsolicited opinions. More appropriate for these situations, I’ve discovered, is to use the Socratic approach of asking questions in hopes of sparking critical thinking and enlightenment.
However, after reading a PR Daily article about how many journalists are migrating to PR, especially content marketing, I just couldn’t resist offering what I hope will be some helpful suggestions to those who pursue PR on the ad agency side. On second thought, let me rephrase that: These are humbly submitted thoughts you might possibly want to consideration if you are about to make, or have already made, this transition.
I should first mention that while the majority of my career has been on the public relations side, early in my career I got a taste of the journalism world by working as a correspondent for a daily newspaper and on the editorial side of a health care magazine.
My journalism experience taught me valuable lessons and exposed me to what it’s like to get pitches – good and bad, well targeted and wildly unfocused – from people hoping to get publicity for their company or client. That experience has helped me to be more thoughtful when approaching a reporter to discuss a story idea or respond to an inquiry.
I also need to acknowledge the Software Advice tips cited in the PR Daily article, which by and large are quite good except for the advice to “Uphold traditional journalistic principles, no matter where you work.” Um, I don’t think that’s very realistic given that journalists who go over to the PR side have a much different role, which I’ll cover in a minute. Now, on to my thoughts:
First, don’t underestimate the magnitude of the transition from working for a news media organization to working for an ad agency. Both are fast paced but the environments are very different, and instead of going from news event to event, you may be moving from industry to industry with the clients you serve.
Second, remember who you represent. One of my best hires when I was an ad agency VP heading up the PR department was a long-time investigative reporter who was looking to make a change. He was a great reporter and an even better person, but for the first few months I had to work at getting him to quit investigating our clients and focus on representing them.
Third, be prepared to adjust your writing style. While great writing is vital to effective content marketing, it requires a different approach than traditional news reporting. Facts and figures alone don’t make compelling content that excites and motivates readers. Feature writing is much closer to what’ll you’ll be doing in content marketing. If you’re a good story teller, chances are you’ll be a good content marketer.
Fourth, face it – you’re no longer writing to be objective and balanced. While it’s true that there is a lot of bias in the news media today – with an increasing focus on advocacy vs. reporting the facts – content marketing is all about providing useful, well-targeted information, not representing all sides of an issue. Your mission is to be an enthusiastic advocate who builds trust, engages customers and enhances the brand – not some detached, impartial third-party onlooker.
Fifth, recognize that your competition is no longer other reporters – it’s everyone; everyone, that is, who can has a computer and can write a blog post. The competition is fierce, critics are bountiful and the work is demanding, but aren’t those challenges that drew you to journalism in the first place?