Moving to the dark side, pt 1

In joining Babel at the end of September I made the move from journalism to PR, a route well-trodden by an increasing number of hacks looking for fewer deadlines and better career prospects. Which of the two is the ‘dark side’ is of course dependent on who you ask and at which stage of their career you ask them. I personally saw the draw of a new industry, new knowledge to gain and new people to meet as a sufficiently bright beacon to lure me to the world of comms.

Having been here for two months my perceptions have been challenged, my writing skills honed, and my mind expanded by new information overload. In these first eight weeks I feel I have gained more industry specific knowledge and learnt more about journalism and PR than the first eight months (and beyond!) as a staff writer on an industry title. Granted, my stint in journalism was my first ‘real’ job so while I was busy trying to soak up broadcast jargon and technical concepts, I was also taking on board new office workflows and production schedules.

My path from journalism to PR has not been so dramatic a change as others on the journey: rather than a roving reporter to a client-facing consultant, my role shifted from deputy editor of a B2B title to a content writer in tech PR. This may be the ‘dark side’ to old journo colleagues, but for me the move has shined a light on the differences in writing for journalism and for PR, as well as on the workings and interrelation of these two fields.

The move from journalism to PR has elucidated stark differences between the content in both sectors. The reader of the content is important when writing as a journalist, but in PR the client adds an additional layer of complexity, influencing every aspect of content creation. Broadly speaking, the primary goal of journalism is to disseminate relevant news to readers. Compare this to the role of PR content, which equally needs to consider aspects such as tone of voice and audience, as well as the client organisation, the call to action, different concepts, the spokesperson’s personality, messaging and how that individual piece of content is contributing to a larger, longer-term communications campaign. As such, I’ve welcomed the return of dormant skills I’ve not used regularly since uni days: a more critical eye and a granular focus on writing and content.

The move to PR not only illuminated the role and nuances of writing for PR, but also the role of the writer in PR. Any journalist who has taken this career road will have had to bid the necessary farewell to the author byline and image which stamps ownership on a finished article. Whilst this took some getting used to, attributing content to different individuals and sectors has also opened up the scope of topics I have been able to research and write about.

As a journalist, I’d met many people in PR who’d taken the track from journalism, and we’d joke about their move ‘to the dark side’. However, following in their footsteps has given me the opportunity to discover and write about new fields, to improve my writing and regain my critical eye. It has also illuminated the relationship between journalists and PR professionals, to be revealed in part II…