There exists a long history of tension between journalism and public relations that is hard to ignore.
According to PRSA.org, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” and according to AmericanPressInstitute.org, “journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.”
“Journalism seeks to inform, while PR seeks to promote,” said Sean Connolly, senior director of Bravo’s public relations practice. Sean brought his years of experience in journalism to the world of public relations with jobs and job titles ranging from newspaper reporter, covering state issues and politics for the Pennsylvania Capitol Newsroom, to press secretary under two Pennsylvania Attorney Generals.
The primary goal of journalism is to provide factual and unbiased information to inform the public sphere. “Public relations, however, generally strives to tell a particular story, or side of a story, to influence public opinion,” said Alizah Thornton, a writer for Bravo’s publishing group who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media Communication with a concentration in Journalism from Clarion University. At Clarion, she worked as a staff writer and editor for the university’s newspaper.
Using PR in the Journalism World
Good communication and relational skills can get you far. I serve as the Student Director for my college’s media organization, and there are times when our college magazine releases articles that are potentially controversial and adversarial for our college’s administration. Good PR practices can go a long way to help ease any tension. We inform the administration when an article that may be controversial will be coming out, allow them to voice their opinion, and we respect any guidelines they may give us about when to release stories.
Using PR practices to create and maintain meaningful relationships can be beneficial for getting in-depth and accurate information.
“I always thought being personable helped me get information as a journalist,” said Sean. “Many of my reporter friends could use better people skills,” he added somewhat jokingly.
Using Journalism in the PR World
Both Sean and Alizah expressed how their background in journalism has enhanced their public relations skills.
“It has helped me determine how best to present a client’s issue in order to obtain earned media coverage,” Sean explained. He knows what reporters respond well to and can cater his company’s and clients’ messages to them.
While Alizah does not have professional experience in journalism, she believes her education in it has enhanced her skills as a public relations writer. “Having a background in journalism is the number one reason I believe I was able to transition into the public relations field. Journalism writing requires you to always search for the truth and fact-check everything before you publish, which I believe is a great skill to carry over into public relations writing,” said Alizah.
Seek truth and report it. Minimize harm. Those are two of the guiding principles for journalists, and people should expect the same from public relations professionals. It’s all about transparency and honesty!
How I Get the Best of Both Worlds
Alizah emphasized that journalists and public relations professionals rely on each other to do their jobs. PR people want the help of journalists to spread the word about causes and campaigns important to their organization. Journalists seek trusted sources to gather information. “Public relations professionals and their clients can be the sources journalists need,” said Alizah.
Working as a public relations student and the with my college’s student media organization, I’d like to think I get the best of both worlds. My role in public relations and journalism requires me to “gather, assess, create, and present news and information with a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Since I’m heading into the job market in a few months, I hope to take my experience and education in journalism and public relations to bring the best of both industries to my post-graduation job. No matter the field, journalists and PR professionals have the opportunity to learn from each other and work together to further their goals and objectives.
Ally Coonradt – Fall Intern – Harrisburg