Coulson Resignation Isn’t Death Knell for Journalists-Turned-PR Pros

Talk waxes and wanes throughout the year in the PR industry about what makes a good public relations professional, who can rightly lay claim to being a part of the profession (Are digital PR gadflys who seem to do more for to boost their own personal brands than those of their clients really PR pros?) and what’s next for the profession.

One area that has taken up a significant portion of that discussion in recent years has been journalists coming over “to the dark side” (as they would put it) and working in PR. While Bad Pitch Blog and its ilk tend to take a dim view of reporters seeking to make an honest living by doing honest work in PR, the general consensus in the business seems to be that so long as they understand the basics and respect our work, journalists are welcome to our ranks.

But can this trend go too far? And if so, what might that look like?

We may have already seen the downside of this trend. The big news out of the UK public relations world last week was the announcement that Andy Coulson, communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, has resigned after considerable political fallout from the now-infamous phone-hacking scandal that is rocking the British press.

In an excellent op-ed in the Financial Times, written by contributing editor Max Hastings, it’s noted that while journalists-turned-PR-pros often lend a good dose of high-level media knowledge and skills to their new roles, there are concerns regarding their potential coziness with the media, as well as how even-handedly they will work with former adversaries and competitors.

Essentially, the question boils down to: Can former journalists employ the same level of objective commentary they used while reporting when their new role has them advising clients on the best ways to build their brands, or in the case of Mr. Caulson, work with an adversarial press corps and a public that is facing years of fiscal austerity.

It’s quite a task, but frankly, one I believe most journalists who choose to work in PR are well prepared to execute. At the very least, I’m optimistic. Coming from a non-traditional PR background, I welcome others in our profession who have unique experiences and insight to offer.

What about you? Have you seen the trend of journalists working in PR affect the profession in any way?

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