I joined Regan Communications Group in February and that was a striking reminder that it’s been nearly six years since I transitioned from the world of news media to public relations (frequently termed by my former news colleagues as “the dark side”!) While this is not at all uncommon – there are other former journalists in this agency as well – many professionals in both businesses don’t truly understand what it means to make the transition unless they’ve done it. And that includes me!
I worked at WHDH-TV Channel 7 in Boston for six-and-a-half years – starting as a production assistant and working my way up the assignment desk until I was managing the nightside desk, overseeing assignments and logistics for the intense schedule of the evening and 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. This was an incredible training ground in many regards, beyond what I learned about news: multi-tasking, working under intense deadlines, managing personalities, research and much more.
When I decided I’d like to take a leap into public relations, I thought, “hey, if I can survive the desk, then PR should be a piece of cake!” And I know many news colleagues feel the same. But it’s not quite that easy. The easy part: I already understood the inner workings of a newsroom, had keen news judgement, and had a pretty firm handle on how and when to pitch.
But there’s a lot more to our business! The harder parts of the transition were elements that I had never even thought about when I was sitting on the desk at WHDH-TV and getting calls from publicists – and that was where the learning curve came in. Client relations is a skill that can only be learned through lots of practice, and real-life mistakes, over an extended period with various types of accounts. Plus, how do we show our tangible results to clients? I hadn’t thought about that either – not only do we have to communicate to the media, but we have to communicate to our clients to show them the value of our work via extensive reporting, agendas, PR plans and more. The industry has also developed since I joined the PR world: we now have to be well-versed in all things digital – social media, blogging, Facebook ad campaigns, etc.
And while a newsroom is nonstop and I had spent many years working every holiday and many weekends, PR is nonstop in another way: we constantly need to be connected and available to clients should an urgent need arise, and also have to be responsive to media 24-7. On top of that, not a day goes by where we can refrain from checking out the key news stories of the moment (unless we are lucky enough to be on an island somewhere with no connectivity!), to ensure we are in the know and aware of anything that could impact a client.
Bottom line: I have immense respect for both of these businesses and am privileged to have learned from both sides! That is indeed priceless.