Laura White trained as a journalist in the North East before switching careers to PR and eventually setting up her own business. Here she explains the reasons behind her move.
Q: Why did you switch from journalism to PR?
A: I was offered what seemed like a very interesting job and it tempted me away from the profession that I loved. The job was actually offered by the boss of an advertising agency who I interviewed in my role as a business reporter! I wasn’t planning on making the switch at the time but I was tempted by a better rate of pay and the opportunity to be involved in more creative communications so I decided to give it a go.
Q: What differences do you see between them?
A: Loads! When you’re writing as a journalist you’re writing for one audience, you’re writing in one style, with the voice, politics and objectives of your news outlet. When you’re working in PR you write for multiple audiences – internal and external – and need to adapt your style and approach accordingly. PRs often represent multiple clients in various sectors and they need to be able to figure out the best way to convey their message – whether that’s a briefing to staff, a blog for a social media channel or a technical article in a trade press magazine. Public relations is a business process and a management discipline. It’s all about using words to protect and promote reputations and a certain amount of thinking is required to distil messaging and strategy even before anything is communicated to ensure all efforts support corporate objectives.
Q: Do you think an ex journo makes a good PR and why?
A: It totally depends on the individual. Some skills are transferrable between the two but as explained above, PR also demands someone who can be flexible, creative, personable and opportunistic. An understanding of business processes and how communications impacts on the bottom line is also essential. Good writing skills alone are not enough to make a good a PR. In the past the profession has also been dogged by misconceptions that it is a ‘fluffy’ alternative, or easier option, and anyone trying to make the switch to achieve this will be quickly disappointed!
Q: Would you go back into journalism?
A: I’m lucky because I’ve continued to freelance on both sides of the fence! I write regularly for a regional lifestyle magazine and its associated website so I manage to straddle both camps – though 95 per cent of my time is spent working in PR. I loved my days as a reporter on a daily newspaper and I look back really fondly on that time. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up on my local newspaper – learning from talented and skilled journalists who played an important and respected role in the community. In my heart I will always be a local reporter, and in recent years I considered freelancing for my previous employer, but I fear the role of the local newspaper has been eroded so much that it no longer presents a secure or viable option for employment.
Q: Would you recommend PR as a career?
A: Yes I would, despite my regular frustrations with it! It’s a growing industry and it finally seems to be earning the respect from the senior management tiers that it deserves. I think the key to achieving personal success and satisfaction is to find what fits you best and interests you most. In my experience agency life is exciting and varied, in-house roles allow you to understand an organisation in great depth, and freelance work enables you to work around your family. It also helps if you believe in the product/organisation you’re representing and have a passion for it because this makes it so much easier to talk about!
Q: What are you doing now?
A: I’ve worked as a journalist, as an advisor at a large creative agency, as part of an in-house team and now I’m operating as a sole practitioner. I’ve worked with clients and colleagues in the arts, education, industry, health, housing, policy, regeneration and leisure to name but a few. I collaborate regularly with designers, filmmakers, photographers, and marketers and I am used to working in complex partnership environments.