Why It Matters that Reporters-turned-PR Pros Speak the Same Language as Their Former Peers


In this era of shrinking newsrooms, seasoned public relations professionals have never been more valuable. It’s no secret that former reporters and editors often transition into careers as PR pros and one of the top skills they bring to the table is media relations.

If no one on your staff has any experience pitching and working with media, it can be hard to wade into an ecosystem with its own set of rules. Skeleton staffs reduce a mediocre pitch to the waste can. Even the best pitch can be lost because most journalists juggle a full plate just keeping up with the day’s events.

But PR folks who speak the language of a reporter, who understand the deadline process and know how to craft a compelling pitch are equipped to connect with media members for results.

Reporters often receive piles of press releases that sink to the bottom of their inboxes. Many get overlooked or deleted before they’re opened. A former journalist knows how to write a press release and tailor a subject line that speaks to a reporter and resonates with an audience.

Reporters also thrive on building relationships, a skill as integral to their job as the writing itself. It only makes sense that as PR professionals, they can successfully shift to doing the same with reporters, assignment editors and videographers. Often it’s as simple as maintaining former relationships with their former peers.

PR pros know to check in regularly with media even when they don’t have a story to pitch, set up casual coffee or lunch dates if possible and nurture that relationship so it’s a two-way street. It’s not unusual for reporters to think of a trusted PR professional when they’re in need of a resource or an expert source. The best PR pros put their effort into helping reporters  with those requests even without a direct benefit.

Even the busiest reporters still love a good story idea, and who better to provide it then a reporter-turned-PR pro? Story ideas are often a tricky concept for non-media members to navigate. Press releases about internal promotions or upcoming annual events aren’t story ideas beyond getting picked up for a brief. But a PR pro with a media foundation typically finds a newsworthy nugget to serve as a hook.

Tie that hook to the calendar and a relevant trend or idea and therein lies a story a reporter might be willing to do. The best PR professionals understand that if they present a story idea, they need to be prepared to run with it. That means having contacts readily available and being flexible. It also means providing further information when asked and not dodging a call. Former reporters should be able to envision all the possible directions a story pitch can take.

Today’s reporters only have so much time, so a PR pro who can essentially make the story easy have a better chance of an idea being picked up.

PR pros with a background in journalism also realize that a corporate spokesman will almost surely take a back seat to a personal story. Corporate talk is fine for the company website, but PR folks know rhetoric is rarely a sound bite.

That’s because PR folks who used to be journalists value authenticity. Syrupy, adjective-laced press releases or pitches fall on deaf ears.

While it might be called a pitch, a story idea can’t be a sales pitch. Reporters are storytellers. The best PR pros have the ability to see a genuine story that relays the core essence of a client’s brand. Stories that resonate with reporters and the audience they serve rely on emotion and context. Having concrete data is a plus and a relevant time angle helps. Visuals are imperative, especially when pitching to broadcast media.

Given today’s evolving media landscape and the demands placed on today’s reporters, having a PR professional on staff who comes from that world is gold.