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ExPRessions :: Journalism Public Relations :: 4 Ways Being A Reporter Can Help A Future PR Pro

Looking to enter the contest to win a PR/social media book? Information here.

I’m always looking for writing opportunities. I’ve written for Central Michigan Life and Grand Central Magazine at CMU. Whenever I can, I try to guest blog. Right now I’m writing for Vision Mid Michigan and I have another possible opportunity in the works.

Working as a journalist will immensely help you succeed in your public relations career.   Here are ten reasons why:

  1. Finding the story
    – As a reporter, you are given story assignments. But often enough, you aren’t given clear direction. Or, other times, you are given a possible angle and it will completely flop. So what do you do when the idea you were given just doesn’t pan out? You dig deeper and find the story.

    – As a PR professional, you are pitching the story. You want the editor to assign it to the reporter. If you win that battle, then you must work with the reporter. If you have ever been a reporter, you will know that they want a great story. Helping them find the story will make you more successful and their job easier.

  2. Working on deadline
    Reporters have incredibly tight deadlines. I can’t even imagine how it must be at a daily newspaper. I have a professor and an acquaintance who do though. But, I do remember getting last-minute story assignments at midnight.  I’m guessing the reporter prefers PR professionals who return calls quickly, but don’t bug them with too many follow-ups.

    – PR professionals have deadlines. I know from experience that agency life is incredibly demanding. One of my mentors, Lara, is a complete social media nut like myself and we have had discussions about how hard it can be to find time to blog (let alone take care of other priorities).  My suggestion to new PR professionals is to get back with the reporter ASAP. If you are waiting on some key information, let them know. And as much as some reporters hate it, follow up on pitches. There have been many times when I have called a reporter and they told me to resend the pitch because they hadn’t seen it, but were possibly interested.

  3. Clear, concise writing is key
    – One of my mentors, Dan, always told me to “write tight.” Basically, get rid of the unnecessary. The key to improving any skill is to practice. A lot. When you are a reporter, you spend a decent amount of time writing and editing. You learn how to sum the story up in the first few paragraphs and improve your AP Style skills.

    – Once you become a PR professional, you will already know how a reporter thinks and writes if you have worked as one. So when you’re writing a pitch or press release, you will know what the reporter expects to see in the area of writing.

  4. Interviewing skills
    – Whenever I do an interview, I always prepare as many questions as I can beforehand. Interviews don’t always go in the direction you think they will, but it’s always handy to have questions ready. Reporters do countless interviews to find their story.

    – When working with clients, you might be their spokesperson or you may have to help prepare them to answer interview questions. If you have worked as a reporter, you might be able to quickly draft answers to potential questions to prepare for the interview ahead of time.

What experiences have you had that have helped you succeed in public relations?


  1. Nice post, Rachel and I agree. You make me wish that I had done some reporting when I had the chance in college!

    To answer your question, I have had multiple experiences that helped me in my PR internships. The first two are business focused. Before becoming a Communication major, I had an internship in finance. At a relatively young age, I was able to learn the ropes of a large office atmosphere. Later on, I attained my Business Minor. With PR, it is very beneficial to understand how a company works financially, how to market a product, and how to look at a business to determine what needs to change or stay the same. It also taught be the benefits of keeping up on news sources like the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and local news sources. Now, I’m teaching writing in high school. How can this help me in public relations? Well, I speak to classes everyday (talk about a tough audience!), see different writing styles, edit for grammar and content, and must communicate effectively in every conversation that I have.

    Being someone that took one public relations course and no journalism courses in college, I’ve had to compensate with internships, reading blogs, and being constantly aware of both good and bad PR, marketing, and advertising.

    Thanks for the good insight,


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Hepburn, Tom O'Keefe. Tom O'Keefe said: 4 Ways Being a Reporter Can Help a Future PR Pro: http://bit.ly/1QOHYn (Solid post from @rachelesterline) […]

  3. Thank you, Tom!

    I think that having finance experience is a great idea (unless you are like me and are taking your first college-level math class during your senior year!).

    At my last internship, someone told me that people who have knowledge of finance and business have an easier time making it to top positions (like Vice President, etc.).

    I think that you are proof that you can get into PR if you are dedicated. From what I know of you from Twitter, you are doing a great job too.

    Thanks for the comment and conversation!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rachel M. Esterline and Rachel M. Esterline , Sarah Tiambeng. Sarah Tiambeng said: Completely agree! Reasons why working in journalism can boost your PR career by @rachelesterline http://ow.ly/us8L […]

  5. Going to Journalism school has improved my writing more than anything else I’ve ever done. When I started my internship at a PR agency I already had good writing skills and that helped a lot.

    I was actually surprised when I learned how much stuff that I’d learned in j-school carried over to my PR internship; deadlines, tight writing, research etc.

  6. Rachel,

    Great post! When I was doing my post-graduate diploma I had to write a paper on the top 5 qualities of any good PR professional and so for research I talked to a number of PR professionals (from boutique agencies and big corporate types) AND a reporter or two. I figured it’s one thing to know what other PR ppl think are good skills but the reporters are great people to talk to as well since you will be “selling” your clients and their products to them in order to get coverage.

    I was the only person who did this in the 3 PR classes being held that semester. When I got my first job for a hospital and started pitching to reporters I made sure that whether they wrote about my story or not I touched base with them to find out what I’m doing wrong, why they did or did not cover my story, and what would make their jobs easier. From there, I built a relationship and needless to say I rarely didn’t get anything covered after that. :)

    I think it’s really great you talked to a reporter about what makes a good PR professional as that information really helps us do a better job!

  7. Aleksandra,

    That’s really a great idea. I never thought of contacting reporters to find out what you did right/wrong.

  8. […] 4 Ways Being A Reporter Can Help A Future PR Pro […]

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Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.