Ex-journalist Julie Barnfather has spent the past 12 years “dealing with issues and services that genuinely matter” as a local government PR – and loves it. Here she reveals why.
Q: Why did you switch from journalism to PR?
A: For me, it was a very personal thing in that I always felt that like I wasn’t quite cut out to be a reporter but, in truth, I probably just lacked a bit of confidence in my abilities. PR seemed like the natural route to take and I’d had the idea of moving into PR even when I started on the NCTJ pre-entry course at Darlington College. I probably ended up just making the move a little earlier than I’d thought I would.
Q: What differences do you see between them?
A: I think PR is a lot more complex on the whole. Journalism is a case of finding and telling/following a story – preferably as objectively as possible! PR can have much wider aims – informing, protecting a reputation, promoting a brand. And you have a lot more tools at your disposal, with different platforms to get your message across, the opportunity to target different audiences etc. All this means that it needs to be planned and coordinated if you want to do it properly.
Q: Do you think an ex journo makes a good PR and why?
A: It definitely helps to have journalism experience. Ex-journalists understand how the media works, they understand deadlines, they understand the type of information a reporter needs, they understand what’s a story and what isn’t. This helps in developing relationships with reporters. It means you can anticipate what will make a story – and avoid or promote it depending on the situation! It also means you know when a reporter isn’t playing by the rules. That said, there are lot of other skills and knowledge you’ll need to develop along the way.
Q: Would you go back into journalism?
A: I wouldn’t go back to journalism. I feel so much more comfortable in PR and I always feel like it’s a much more positive field to work in because, in the main, you’re always trying to look for the positive in a situation. On the other hand, it can sometimes feel like journalism is very negative when you take half a dozen calls from reporters claiming conspiracy or wrongdoing.
Q: Would you recommend PR as a career?
A: Definitely. Although as a long-term public sector PR I’d recommend this sector. In general, I think it means you’re dealing with issues and services that genuinely matter to the public and what you’re doing isn’t entirely profit driven. PR’s also a lot more secure than journalism these days – and often better paid.