As a so-called expert in this field, I'll get right to the point: PR is not the dark side any more.
Yeah, I was a reporter for a plethora of publications in the hard-to-remember '80s. I do recall titters from my colleagues when I defected to PR. I had to make more money and I couldn't cope with holier-than-thou editors. I'd written for USA Today, New York Daily News, New York Times, Crain's NY, Editor & Publisher, Us... and all I got was a T-shirt that said, "Someone read my article."
A lot of PR peers were once reporters who failed in the new gig because PR was immoral or beneath them (don't get me started!). You have to think of yourself in the highest esteem to make it as a journalist -- I get it -- but in order to make the leap into public relations, just cut out that attitude with a scalpel. If you want to be great and make money, you need to be passionate about the work. And you just can't fake passion unless you're in porn.
Ever since I switched teams, I have met PR folks who started sentences with, "Back when I was a reporter..." Most were let go from reporting duties by slimming corporations. But some proved not to be so good at either job.
To do well in the PR game, you need to make a tough job look easy. You've got to have many balls in the air at one time. A lot seem to juggle well, except for those tasks you didn't come up with on your own.
Here is how to determine whether you've got the goods to make it in our hood--particularly since tons of reporters need jobs.
You belong in PR if...:
You have attention to detail (or ATD)
Those devilish details are required. Consistency is everything, and if you're careless or sloppy, we beseech you stay away. But if you can spot a mistake from a mile away -- and stop it from attacking -- please join the PR association.
A guy employed at my firm, RLMpr, previously worked at a terrible agency and came equipped with bad habits. He would write a mediocre draft, and when I said rewrite it, he shrugged, "Why? The client won't notice." He's at Gap now.
You can write -- and edit
You hate wimpy words like "accepts," "offers," and "ensures." You are all about full and clear sentences. You say what you mean to say, and you aren't that cretin always trying to "come up with a good way to say X." You use lowercase and capital letters correctly. Come on down.
Writing is rewriting. Rewriting is writing.
There was a -- ahem -- creative type in our office who loved to write as though he were pontificating. He was a college professor, so he said. It's one thing to love to hear your own voice, but on paper, that's useless.
You've got to see everything to its rightful conclusion
Reporters can write bad copy, hand it to an editor, and think, "S/he'll fix it." If you can't stomach that though, then join "the lighter side." You know the colleague who figures someone else will finish the product? That guy disgusts you, right? You're the one who ambles into a PR office and says, "What's it going to take to get this done?!?" We call it Gumby -- you never shrug or roll your eyes! You're our type.
You don't get scared at B-movies or by several simultaneous deadlines
You would have never said, "I can't do more than one story at a time," as a journalist, and you can manage many screaming babies at once.
A reporter acquaintance came to work and freaked out because our computers were down. He was gone by lunch on day one.
You never call yourself "a people person"
You deal with words; people are secondary. Of course you're a team player, but will you sit down and create something? From scratch?
In Detroit, you see something called the GM Nod when people come to meetings and say yes to every new fantastic idea until they leave the room and murmur, "That ain't going to happen." In PR, you always have to sell in your ideas to clients and colleagues.
How can you tell if you're right for this evolving field that happens to be hiring? You have an innate ability to leave your ego at the door and you can take a message to the people without editorializing!
You don't belong anywhere near PR if...:
You think it's a breeze
Oh puh-leeze. I work my ass off and answer to a ton of chieftains: editors, reporters, producers -- and those clients who send passive aggressive emails all day long! Nothing we do is easy. Don't apply here. You already aren't applying yourself.
We ask applicants from the field of journalism why they want to be in PR. They say it's because they know how reporters work. The last one we hired answered, "Because I want to make more money, and I'm not afraid to work hard." We love you!
You've dealt with PR folks so you've got mad skills
What's that -- incessant babbling against an onslaught of cheery PR types? We already put up with you at one job.
We hired an ex-producer who made an excellent first impression, but the second she arrived, she spent gobs of time saying why pitches wouldn't work and had a nonstop, almost obsessive need to communicate developments. She didn't let the elevator door hit her on the...
It's your way! Forget the highway
You are so darn flexible, you can do handstands! When push comes to shove, you've never met an answer you didn't know.
Two words: shoe salesman.
If the person doing most of the talking in meetings is you, we're just not that into you. The best PR people ask lots of questions and listen to answers.
Your mother told you everything you do is precious
She was wrong, and you've got no stomach for PR because you are as thin-skinned as Bill O'Reilly.
One time, a long while ago, I hired The Smartest Person In The World, albeit temporarily. When errors were astutely pointed out to him, instead of learning from them, I got fistfuls of vociferous arguments. His mother worships him; he tweets about it all the time.
You need someone to hold your hand because an editor did
A lot of applicants ask: Will you show me the way? Yes, if I was Peter Frampton! You don't have the "pit bull" self-starter thing going on, so let's not.
One of my firm's most successful PR pros arrived from a journalism career in Europe. He asks a ton of questions, but not before trying to find the answer himself. God helps those who help themselves. And we believe in him (lowercase "him" -- the guy we hired).
There are exceptions: You can write a scintillating press release, but still have an ego like Montana? Your ADD is stuck, and your ATD is phenomenal? Hang a hat here!
During these fast four years of co-crafting the notorious Bad Pitch Blog, we made it a home for reporters to articulately moan about PR simpletons. But through the most maudlin of economies, more than half of BPB's e-correspondence has been you people (journalists) asking if this snickered-at field could be a home for your needy selves! Letters say, "I can do this, no sweat. I know what's good because, gosh, I've turned down so many pitches!"
You know what I think? You could turn down a bed!
It appears these two divergent careers have finally found each other and are cuddly and loving together. Now you have to decide if you're a sweet-grapes person who wants to learn and influence the public while connecting to always-busy people for 10 (you heard 10!) hours each day. If you see yourself pacing in that cubicle, you are a PR person who was once a full-time scribe.
That does not mean call me for a job. Or who knows? Are you offering me something fitting all the above. I'll take that call.
Meanwhile, find me at Laermer.com
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