By the time recipients of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize were announced in April, two of its winning journalists had already switched professions to public relations. The news dismayed many media people as it served as a reminder of the dwindling newspaper business, and particularly the downfall of small-town news and its public service stories.
The newspaper reporters, Rob Kuznia of The Daily Breeze in Torrance, California, and Natalia Caula Hauff of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, left their jobs for different reasons.
Kuznia, who won a local reporting Pulitzer for a series of stories on corruption in a local school district, was struggling to pay rent, living paycheck-to-paycheck on his former wage. Hauff, who won the public service award for a seven-part series on domestic violence in the state, wanted to start a family and needed a reprieve from her demanding work environment.
Their moves into public relations don’t seem as shocking as perhaps they do timely. Newspaper reporter regularly ranks as one of the worst careers due to its low pay and high stress situations. Paired with the decline of print journalism and subsequent job cuts, the choice to change professions is often made for journalists.
Yet the loss of journalism’s top reporters is primed to become PR’s gain. Similarities between the professions, such as great storytelling, the ability to work under tight deadlines, and the need for a wealth of good contacts, make journalists appealing additions to the industry. The shift may also shape the attitude of the future of PR, and offers the potential for more transparency and integrity in the industry.
In our current digital age, keeping news and facts hidden from the public is increasingly difficult. It’s also potentially risky for client reputation if data is leaked from an outside source without context, and may give the impression that a company is concealing important information.
More than ever, we are living in a time of instant global sharing, with the looming prospect that one can’t hide, so why try? Emails can be forwarded in seconds and social media posts may go viral and show up in search engine results before involved parties have a chance to shape the course of dialogue. It’s a time of co-creation between brands and the public, and being prepared by being open can put a company ahead of the game.
Since journalists have been trained to uncover the truth and share the facts with accuracy, this mindset in public relations can help brands control the message and better serve their customers by welcoming conversation and honesty.
With transparency comes integrity. Of course, public relations has its own code of ethics, and top professionals in the field already operate with a keen sense of moral principles.
According to the Public Relations Society of America, upholding integrity and public trust are essential to maintaining the profession’s role and reputation.This is done in part by allowing the free flow of truthful and accurate information, as well as open communication to promote informed decision making.
Welcoming award-winning former journalists into the industry can further strengthen and protect high ethical standards with their dedication to sharing the facts in an unadulterated manner. This focus on embracing openness and actively disclosing company data can bring further confidence to the field, as well as from clients and potential clients. It may not only bolster client reputation, but also make the company at large more appealing to do business with.
In the future, public relations will remain in strong demand, especially as new technologies create different channels of communication and environments that foster the rapid exchange of information.
Perhaps not every journalist is suited for the field; however, exceptional reporters with shrinking news outlets available to them are finding public relations an attractive alternative for sharing their talents. Their commitment to imparting honest information in fast-paced and fast-thinking situations may also make them an asset to public relations in our hyperconnected era of digital communication.