Ian Monk: Different jobs call for distinct skills

Do former journalists make good, better or even the best PR professionals? Does newspaper, TV or magazine experience inherently constitute a compelling CV for our industry?

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The questions seem particularly relevant now.

Changes reverberating throughout the media industry have created an Armageddon in terms of journalistic redundancies. Many turn to what they are inclined to see as an entitlement to a lucrative career in PR.

Typical is the round robin email I received last week from a journalist who had worked for red top gossip pages.

He was announcing the launch of a full-service PR agency to include crisis management and high-end brand publicity campaigns.

Isn't there something missing here in terms of walking, running and the proper order of learning?

Surely if our industry is to be the mature discipline that its importance demands, it needs somehow to raise the barrier to entry?

The businessman switching to a teaching career embraces the need for retraining. So does anyone making a midlife switch into, say, the law. Previous experience enriches the application and often the ability to perform the new job brilliantly. But it is absurd to view it as a qualification for a new profession.

I switched from the higher echelons of journalism to PR a dozen years ago. I came with an innate knowledge of the workings of the media, great media contacts, instinctive news sense, a decent level of literacy, and an unstinting appetite for hard work.

Then I started to learn about PR and its disciplines. My journalistic background was and remains invaluable. But there was so much more to learn in terms of practices, style, temperament, ethics and more.

PR and journalism can be complementary professions but the requirements for success in each are often widely at variance with the other.

Our industry should welcome a vibrant influx of journalists. But in the interests of professional respect and a proper estimation of its worth, PR needs to address the issues of mentoring and training requirements. - Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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