“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”― George Orwell
Journalism and public relations are inextricably linked by the fundamental elements of writing and reporting. Although each field is unique in its style and purpose they share a core skill set that is necessary to achieve the task at hand. It’s imperative in both practices to uphold integrity and credibility, which can only be established by expertise in both writing and editing. Beneath the surface, journalists and public relations practitioners have more in common than either professional would like to admit.
It’s All About AP
Journalists and PR professionals must be masters of AP Style. Knowing the correct words, spellings, and punctuation can be the difference between getting a story published and getting fired. They adhere to the rules of the AP Style book and establish themselves as credible experts of writing.
Be the Voice
Journalists and PR practitioners have a voice. It is up to the writer of the news story or press release to represent the subject in the appropriate manner. Journalists are known for reporting the facts, while PR practitioners are often known for spinning the truth. No matter the angle of the story, the reliability of reference sources is crucial to the credibility and success of the writing. A quote by Warren Buffett emphasizes the importance of credible sources and fact-checking. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” he says. In “Creative Editing” Bowles and Borden write that not all references are created equal, and writers “must exercise good judgment before relying on any information source” (80). PR practitioners must obtain and use their sources just as an unbiased reporter would.
Like journalists, PR practitioners have a duty to write releases and represent clients in an ethical manner. These ethics apply to the writing they create and the actions they take. Bowles notes that readers rely on news outlets for fair, accurate and thorough reporting; However, research done by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that more than half of people surveyed agreed with the statement, “I often don’t trust what news organizations are saying.” It’s imperative for both journalists and PR practitioners to abide by their respective code of ethics to maintain credibility and trust with the audience and client.
Although journalists and PR practitioners often oppose being compared to each other they do have a shared set of values and practices that are necessary to do their jobs successfully. Journalists can depend on PR practitioners to get background information that is necessary to their story. In turn, PR practitioners can depend on journalists to get coverage and reach a larger audience. This mutually beneficial relationship is only possible due to their shared skills and values.
Lindsey Goldwert, a senior program executive at a global PR firm and former journalist, discusses this relationship and the opinions of other professionals in an article, “Hack to Flack: A Former Journalist’s Guide to Better PR Pitches.”