From hack to flack - the 'dark side' isn't as dark as you think

Over my 18 years or so in B2B journalism it's clear to me that the two professions share many of the same skills and attributes - and that the disciplines are rapidly converging.

Mike Berry is enjoying the transition from hack to flack
Mike Berry is enjoying the transition from hack to flack

In theory, today’s journalists should make excellent PR professionals – they write well, have the skills to work across multiple platforms, should have a decent black book of contacts and (generally) are dedicated and passionate people.

But for some the switch is a struggle.

Read findings from PRWeek's Hacks vs Flacks survey 2016 here

Perhaps it’s because PR can be far more diverse and multi-faceted than journalism. From my initial observations, communications pros are spinning multiple plates: writing press releases, feature comments and bylined articles, planning events, managing projects, handling journalists’ enquiries, drafting client campaigns, pulling together reports – often across several accounts. The list goes on.

That’s just the day-to-day, operational stuff.

Then you have the ongoing challenge of managing clients’ reputation, creating demand for their product or service, and striving to help them achieve their business goals.

I’m not saying journalists aren’t busy (believe me, they are), but mostly their job is about getting the best story they can for publication.

Before I made the leap, my previous job was predominantly focused on content generation, be that in print, digital or for face-to-face events. Often that meant liaising closely with advertisers and clients on ‘branded’ content initiatives and projects that were part of a new, more collaborative, approach designed to produce something engaging that serves both the readers’ and clients’ needs.

The best agencies in my view are those that have teams comprising a mix of both long-standing, established comms professionals and experienced journalists.

That’s what attracted me to my new position.

Where the ex-journos can make an impact is by offering a different take on content.

Digging out the story, making sense of those survey results, spotting coverage potential in company initiatives.

Just knowing what journos want from PRs, and how to get that across coherently, is a good start.

Maybe there will be bumps further down the road for me, but for now – about three months in – my transition from hack to flack has been a stimulating experience.

Mike Berry is head of content at Fleet Street Communications

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