Danny Rogers: Journalists rise to challenge of PR career

Edelman's hire this week of Richard Sambrook, head of global news at the BBC, reminds us once more of the increasing number of senior journalists opting for a career in PR consultancy.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Sambrook follows John Waples (former Sunday Times business editor, now at FD) and George Pascoe-Watson (former Sun political editor, now at Portland) as recent notable scalps for the PR profession.

All of these hacks spent decades at the top of their trade, but are still a loss to the world of journalism, which traditionally would have offered them further opportunities.

But as we know, things are tough in journalism at the moment, both in print and broadcast. The axe will soon fall on many more BBC journalists, not least at the excellent BBC World Service, where morale is already low.

To take a brighter perspective, at least these individuals have not been lost from the UK media. Indeed they will now make a vital contribution to the ever-evolving mix of persuasion, debate and filtering that makes it such a dynamic market.

Although there is a temptation for the agencies to crow a little, for tactical advantage, these are far from trophy hires. Their new employers have snapped them up for a number of strategic reasons.

First, because these are 'grown ups', able to offer senior level advice to clients and gravitas to any discussion (which corporate leaders wouldn't want to hear the perspective of Waples on their business?).

Second, they are well-connected in business, politics and the wider media, a growing advantage in today's inter-connected world.

But, third, and I'd argue most interestingly, they are experienced at creating compelling content, the brightest prospect for PR.

As the media continue to fragment and the number of journalists-per-medium dwindles, there is an increasing demand for compelling content. And yet the competition for attention is also becoming more intense, not least because the cost of content creation continues to fall.

Creativity, inspired narrative and authenticity become the premium attributes, as those at the leading edge of social media are discovering.

In other words, senior journalists entering PR will find this new arena no less challenging than their previous one, and hopefully no less a test of their character and mettle.

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