Amith Prabhu: Hiring journalists without training them is unfair to the profession and unjust to the individual

03 Nov,2014

By Amith Prabhu


PR firms have always had journalists as part of their hiring plan. However, PR firms have not crafted training programmes to convert journalists to become advisors. I spoke to a handful of PR professionals who were former journalists and they work in about five different firms. They all confirmed that they were asked to swim in the deep from the word go and learn on the job.


This is not just unfair to the individual but a disservice to the profession. Journalists need to unlearn being reporters and editors and fit into the shoes of planners and executors. A consulting job is very different from a journalism job. Firms need to realise that and create specific onboarding programmes for these precious hires. Journalists cannot merely be used as the golden goose who come with those media contacts and the mindset to create content. A PR job is much more than that.


I believe every PR professional should have had a stint as a journalist. If I ever open a school for Public Reputation Management I would ensure all trainees do a compulsory stint of one month at a media outlet interning as a journalist. I would also think the reverse will hold good. To get students of journalism intern in a PR firm to understand what goes on in the life of a PR professional.


Well, getting back to the focus of this post I wish associations of PR consulting companies create a programme for journalists who switch jobs to get into the public relations business. It should ideally be a two-week workshop that covers understanding campaign planning, the key elements of consulting and the role of an advisor besides learning the basics of reputation management in theory including making plans, evaluating campaigns and the like.


If some firms already have such programme in place, hats off to them but as far as I know a specific programme does not exist. As firms expand and hire more journalists to be in consulting an content creation jobs with client servicing as part being mainstay it will be imperative to teach the new professionals how to swim before pushing them into the deep end. If not, our profession will remain mediocre. This is not because the new professionals are no good. In fact they are generally very bright but an investment in giving them a solid foundation is not an option but should be mandatory


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