Good publicity drives name recognition, interest, and sales, but generating that publicity is rarely a walk in the park. Of the handful of people on the planet who are adept at navigating through the nebulous world of public relations, it should come as no surprise that most have previous experience working in the media. Of all the businesses that seek the help of a publicist or a public relations consultant to give their image a boost, there are more than a few good reasons why so many turn to former journalists.
The Publicist’s Job
Publicists are professionals hired to create media coverage on the behalf of their client. In many respects, publicists are cheerleaders, and journalists are the crowd they’re cheering to. Whoever the client may be, or whatever the client may be doing, it’s the publicist’s job to get journalists to care, something that’s primarily achieved with press releases. By writing and distributing press releases, publicists can make announcements, describe new initiatives, and detail developments within a company.
Like so many other jobs, a large part of being a publicist involves networking. Publicists work to create relationships with journalists in order to provide stories to them. Some stories don’t need much of a spin to drive publicity, while others need an experienced professional to work out the correct angle. For example, when Facebook buys Instagram for an eight figure sum, Facebook doesn’t need to hire publicists to inform the public about something that journalists will devour either way.
For example, suppose you were trying to promote a book. Unlike with our Facebook example, you need to find ways to sell the story of this book’s release to journalists. And understanding how to do that demands a thorough grasp of the kinds of things that interest journalists, and how those interests vary from publication to publication. A good publicist will understand the ins and outs of the media, and will be able to spot the kind of stories that journalists will care about. Being able to pick up on those kinds of stories, good publicists are also able to find the right angle in a story to peak interest in the media.
Where Journalists Shine
The ugly truth is that nobody in the public relations world really has the power to ensure what gets printed or what gets covered. The things that end up in the news on any given day will depend on what any given journalist likes. But that doesn’t mean that PR is a crapshoot. Half of the skill of being successful in the world of public relations is being able to find the right angle to make your business seem newsworthy even when, on the surface, it seems like there’s no news to be found.
It should come as no surprise that reporters and editors like to work with other reporters and editors. The media has its own culture, and career experience working with the media, as a journalist as, allows them all the special insight necessary to have a deep understanding of what the media wants to cover, and how to best present a story.
Many PR professionals had their start as journalists, and prepared with an understanding of the kinds of constraints, pressures, and worries faced by those who work in the media, they’re able to accommodate them. And that’s precisely why former journalists make great publicists. Journalists have an understanding of the media, knowledge of how to spin a story to make it relevant, and existing relationships with other journalists that make them perfectly suited for the position.