Why your PR agency should hire journalists

Most  journalists who join a PR agency face a lot of flack for going over to the 'dark side'.  It's understandable. The majority of journos think of PR reps as a bunch of well-paid voices on the other line, calling when deadline is at its tightest, with stories that don't match their beats.

But a job in PR is much more nuanced than the newsroom stereotype. Not enough credit is given to the balancing act reps play as they juggle editorial calendars, a bulging Rolodex, content creation and countless demanding clients - and journalists.

That's why we tend to think the only people who can truly handle the PR job are journalists themselves.

That's right. The very people who've moaned about us at their previous job are the same people we hire at our PR agency. Because we recognise that the people who are most likely to turn a press release into front page news, are people who know the newsroom.

And we're not the only ones. Former reporter Michael Molcher, who's now Press Officer at Leeds City Council tells PR Week, "Journalists make the best PR professionals."

"They have 'news sense' - they know what journalists want and tailor their press releases accordingly," he says.

What Molcher means is that  journalists working in PR know what editors want, and they know that all editors aren't created equal. Rather than send a general release to everyone, they'll most likely tailor their pitch to each editor's specific beat. This not only increases the likelihood of repeat coverage, but it also earns respect.

These PR pros also know how important it is to package a story. You see, it's not enough just to get an editor hooked on a pitch. You also have to have all the elements ready to go - on their timeline. 

Instead of just emailing off a press release, journalists in PR have interviews, images and multi-media components at the ready. The sooner these can be sent, the better the chances of a story getting covered. Especially if the editor asks for something now - as in 'now now' - because journalists also know about the tender area of deadline.

Having a sensitivity to the newsroom crunch is extremely important in PR. It means knowing when is the right time to call - and what are the right things to say. Keeping things short and to the point are keys to keeping a busy editor on your side.

Of course, journalists aren't the only ones who can play the PR game. There are a number of outstanding PR reps who inspire us without having newsroom experience. But as we're founded by a journalist, we can't help but have a special feeling for others who've gone to the dark side. And you should too.