COMMENT: EDITORIAL; The search for talent continues

Amid the weekly rough and tumble of agency moves, it would be easy to overlook the news that former Observer business editor Mick Smith is to slip away from Ludgate, probably back to journalism.

Amid the weekly rough and tumble of agency moves, it would be easy to

overlook the news that former Observer business editor Mick Smith is to

slip away from Ludgate, probably back to journalism.



Ironically it was Smith who, in a PR Week feature about journalists

turned PRs earlier this year, was scathing about the life on national

newspapers he had forsaken - saying it was ‘medieval’ compared to the

meritocracy that operates in PR.



His re-awakened yearning for newspapers echoes that of Jeff Randall, who

recently quit Financial Dynamics to rejoin the Sunday Times. Neither’s

decision reflects anything other than personal preference, and it is

unwise to extrapolate general principles from isolated cases. But it is

interesting to note how difficult the transition from one side of the

media fence to the other can sometimes be.



The fact that journalists of Smith and Randall’s stature can be tempted

to cross over to PR at all is testament to how much pulling power the

business now has. Yet not all journalists can adapt. Some simply find

they do not have an aptitude for it. Others are unable to adopt the

necessary mindset.



Simon Robinson, the former City journalist who also quit Ludgate last

year to become managing director of Mirror Group Newspapers Ireland,

described the syndrome succinctly: ‘When you’re a journalist, you walk

into a room and you’re the most important person there. When you’re in

PR you walk into a room and you’re the least important person in it.’



But for every unhappy convert, there are equal numbers of ex-journalists

who have thrived on the excitement of doing, rather than observing. And

for every PR employer who has been disappointed by their expensive Fleet

Street thoroughbreds, there are plenty who swear by the qualities

journalists can bring to the party.



The major problem currently facing the PR business is recruitment. Put

bluntly, there aren’t enough good people to go around, chiefly because

the influx of new talent slowed to a trickle during the recession. Now

that the throttle has been opened again, both consultancies and in-house

departments are struggling to fill vacancies. So it is not surprising

that many are mounting raiding parties on the fourth estate.



Provided both parties go into the relationship with their eyes open,

there is no reason why it should not work. But wise employers will also

go fishing in the ever expanding pool of graduates who have made PR

their first choice of career. They will be the foundations on which the

future success of the industry is built.



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