What do you get out of a degree in journalism that’s most useful when starting your career in PR?
- How to write
- How to conduct an interview
- The demands on a journalist
- How they like to be pitched to
- What they want to read about
- Considerations beyond the written word
How to write
The first and most obvious thing a journalism degree teaches you, which is essential for a career in PR, is how to use words effectively. You learn how to condense a story into a short pitch. When writing a press release (which is a bit of an art form in itself) you have a better understanding of how to write an opening line that will grab attention, whether it’s a headline for an article or the subject line of an email. Learning how to write is absolutely crucial in PR.
How to conduct an interview
As a PR professional you’ll be speaking to your clients, who for us are academics and researchers, students and alumni, and trying to find the interesting angle, the human angle, how the key facts apply outside of the classroom or beyond the research paper. You need to be able to find the real world application that is going to appeal to a journalist and convince them it’s something worth writing about.
A journalism degree teaches you how to question someone, how to dig in and drill down to the finer points of the topic they’re interested in and the things they’re passionate about. And how to convey that passion onto paper so that you can translate it into a persuasive story.
Understanding the demands of a journalist is important when you’re trying to get them on board
A journalism degree teaches you:
- The practical things about how a newsroom works
- How a journalist typically tends to operate
- The pressures and demands they are under from editors
- How a newspaper is structured into departments and topics
- Who to pitch to
- How to pitch
- When to pitch
All these things matter and can help you build a successful career in PR.
Pitching to a journalist
It’s not just about the content, it’s about understanding the format that a journalist wants to read. They want brief. They want tight. They want a few sentences to scan over and make a decision. Do they want to write about the story? Do they want to know more? Is it right for them?
A background in journalism can help a PR professional to understand what a journalist is looking for in a story. And a journalist isn’t often looking to build that story from one idea, from one source, they’re looking to build a bigger idea and create a discussion. Having a background in journalism enables you to present your client’s ideas in a bigger way, connecting it to news trends and other people who are talking about conflicting and related ideas, creating a discussion you can send to a journalist rather than a small fragment.
Beyond the written word
Freelancing now is increasingly common, so journalists are not just thinking of their own ideas for stories, they’re sourcing their own pictures, they’re sourcing their own audio, they might even be responsible for uploading it themselves to the blog / website / publication. So, consider what photos can you offer rather than just a standard headshot, or the clichéd image of people gathered around a laptop. A photo of an academic conducting their research, or a student in action undertaking a study trip, that appeals visually to the journalist, is much stronger. Consider sounds (particularly for radio or podcasts) and audio clips that can go alongside articles and work to liven them up.
Are you studying for a journalism degree and considering a career in PR?
BlueSky Education’s Kerry Ruffle and Stephanie Mullins both studied for journalism degrees and worked as journalists prior to beginning their careers in PR. Listen to the full interview with Kerry and Stephanie: