OPINION: THE BIG QUESTION - Is journalism still the preferred route into senior PR positions? Former News of the World editor, Phil Hall, became the latest senior journalist to move into public relations when he announced that he is to join Max Clifford A

ALEX MACKEY, GCI Financial

ALEX MACKEY, GCI Financial



’Journalists have many of the required skills, and first hand knowledge

of media requirements. But it takes a special person to make that

transition.



Journalists are feted, courted and sought after for much of their

career, while PROs are treated as a necessary evil. In terms of pure

ego, it does take a specific type of person. Historically journalism has

been the preferred route into senior PR postitions because of the small

pool of appropriate people, but in future years that could change as we

get more graduates of media studies and PR degree courses. Also, as the

salary gap between senior PR and other services, such as banking,

continues to narrow, I believe we’ll see more of these people entering

PR.’





WILL WHITEHORN, Virgin



’It is still a big route into agencies, but its importance in corporate

affairs and corporate PR is diminishing. In senior roles, broad career

development is the most important thing. There is still room for

journalists at a senior level, but they should be part of a broader mix.

It is increasingly people who can get into the management side of the

business, who understand brand and marketing and finance, who are sought

after. In the future we will see more and more people with business and

PR degrees moving into the senior roles. Not that they will walk

straight into the top posts, they too still need to learn the tricks of

the trade.’





CHARLES STEWART-SMITH, Luther Pendragon



’As a former journalist, I am sure that hacks who cross the wire have

insights into how stories develop and evolve that are invaluable. A

decade’s experience on a newsdesk can never be taught on a CAM course.

But many journalists find it difficult to appreciate the complexity and

sophistication of what clients want, as well as the importance of

audiences other than their former colleagues. A good journalist just

wants to get their story in the paper. A good consultant will be seeking

to achieve a much broader set of objectives by managing issues across

several closely related audiences.



This requires an ability to think about strategies over the long term,

which may not always fit with the skills necessary to be a successful

news hound. Then again, sometimes it does.’





JOHN FRASER, August.One Communications



’Absolutely not. It’s almost like saying the best way to become an

undertaker is to be dead. While journalists can certainly provide a

valuable addition to PR consultancies (and have for us), it’s by no

means ’the best route into senior PR’. Today’s top rate consultancies

focus on a far wider communications agenda than just media relations -

be it government affairs, analyst liaison or building relationships with

industry associations. Phil Hall will certainly know what makes a front

page on the News of the World and why a particular celebrity is in

vogue, and in that sense will doubtless be an excellent asset for

Clifford. But whether some journalists can immediately understand the

complexities of the kind of integrated, multi-disciplinary

communications campaigns that clients typically need today is another

question.’



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