Crossing ‘the divide’

Natalie

Two years after graduating from university with a Journalism Studies degree, Harris’ new PR Account Executive Natalie Thomas has moved on from the journalism profession and branched off into what a few hardened hacks call ‘the dark side’. Here, she writes about her transition to PR and her ambitions for the future.

During my two years working as a production journalist at a national news agency, I noticed that a large percentage of the stories I was working on were sourced from press releases issued by PR firms and press officers with the aim of getting their client or business some positive publicity.

My job was to rewrite these often well-written press releases in an attempt to beat Google in the battle of SEO, or to shuffle things around to please style guides. It was great experience, but not something I had in mind for my career. I wanted to write copy from scratch, but I knew I didn’t want to be a straight news reporter – I wanted more variation in the styles of writing I could use, more creative input, and more opportunities to move up the ladder.

From my experience, press releases had become a staple of the newsdesk inbox, and many outlets would struggle to fill their web and newspaper pages without them. It seemed to me that PR workers were often doing a similar job to reporters, but with much more variety. They were creating client, industry or organisation-specific content from scratch, rather than focusing on breaking or local news, and had more opportunity to use multi-media skills and social media.

So how could I get involved in this industry? After gaining some voluntary PR experience at an animal welfare charity, I landed my job at Harris Associates. From writing blogs like this (and from the point of view of others), to writing press releases about our clients’ new contracts, I’ve worked across an eclectic mix of writing styles already, which has been fantastic. I can’t wait to get to know Harris’ clients and pitch creative ideas to them to get some great coverage.

As well as having more flexibility to be creative with words, to come up with ideas for features, stories and ways to boost Twitter followers, I’ve already found the world of PR also has better day-to-day working hours (despite my current 40-mile commute). From working anti-social shifts and being under the threat of working on Christmas Day, I’m now in the office from 9 to 5, and have a guaranteed break over the festive period!

I’m looking forward to learning the tricks of the trade over the coming months, and to picking up tips and advice from my new colleagues at Harris. I’ll also be learning lots of specialist knowledge about the building and construction industry, and no doubt my most-read online articles will be found on www.building.co.uk! Follow my blog over the coming months to find out how journalism compares to PR from my point of view.

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