Public Relations vs. Journalism: How they are more alike than you may think

by Heather Bryan at See.Spark.Go

Both professions tend to get a bad rep from the other. From the PR perspective, journalists can be unapproachable and have investigative intentions for story pitches. Journalists on the other hand often view PR professionals as biased by only generating/reporting the good news and keeping the bad from the general public.

But at the end of the day, both professionals actually have a common denominator that makes them much more similar than they may realize.

That common thread binding both media professionals is the passion for storytelling. Think about it—journalists work tirelessly talking to sources in order to inform people about stories they need to know. PR professionals advocate for their clients with amazing stories that are simply not equipped to tell their own. Both a journalist and a public relations specialist at some point will have the thought, ‘Hey, here is something that is interesting/important/good to know that I think other people would be interested in reading.’ We all want to get information out to others so they can be well-informed. And well, if there is no passion, then neither job will be done well or worth it.

There is the continuous argument that journalism is nothing like PR in the sense that journalists are not paid by their subjects or sources and are trained to be entirely unbiased. However, as sponsored content is increasingly more popular, is that argument really as valid? How is helping clients tell the best possible version of their stories any different than writing or hosting an article solely generated to promote a product? It’s an advertisement disguised as original content hiding in plain site.

So not only do both fields have similar passions and end goals, there are also shared key elements that are vital to either job producing quality work. Here are a few skills a journalist or public relations specialist will need to succeed:

1. Good writing

Cannot stress this one enough. If there is one skill you cannot live without in either field it is writing well. When news articles are riddled with mistakes, readers will stop trusting that outlet, and it won’t be taken seriously. PR specialists must be able to write press releases, story pitches and social posts. If a PR professional’s press release was full of grammar mistakes, odds are a journalist won't even look at it.

2. Transparency

In the media, the public’s trust is of utmost importance. Without an audience, what’s the point? If a journalist seems shady or doesn’t immediately rectify mistakes, people will find alternate news sources. If a people do not trust a company or a product, then sales and exposure will plummet. Well, the good exposure will plummet. This is why when a media professional makes a mistake, it is best to address it calmly, quickly and with a well thought-out plan.

3. Research

The third skill both professions require is the ability to do quality, thorough research. Journalists research constantly, whether it be a topic on which they are reporting or background information when preparing for an interview. PR specialists research everything from clients’ fields and competitors to media outlets that could offer potential coverage.

If journalists and PR specialists never try their hands at the other profession, they’ll probably never see just how similar they are and how many of the same skills are required. When it comes down to it, we’re all just trying to get people to care about stories that matter … and we care about that deeply here at See.Spark.Go!

Heather is a current See.Spark.Go intern this fall. She previously served as the editor-in-chief at The Red & Black, an independent student newspaper for the University of Georgia community.