Those who make the hiring decisions in many organizations will tell you that hiring a journalist into a public relations (PR) or communications role can be one of the smartest decisions.
Some of the best communications persons we have in Uganda have had a strong journalism background.
Although journalism is considered an important and exciting job, the disadvantages of a thin pay package amid very demanding working conditions and lately the spate of layoffs due to economic downturns, is forcing many to think of alternative careers.
As a profession, Public Relations just happens to be the closest to journalism.
However, before you make that final shift, these are things you need to seriously think about

Is PR the same as journalism?
PR is not the same as journalism. Yet, there are so many crosscutting qualities that a journalist and a communications person share, particularly the requirement for good writing skills, language skills, people skills, being organized, meeting deadlines, breadth of knowledge and a news sense. So in a way, journalism and communications are very similar.

Where do you start from?
If you want to learn more about communications skills it’s advisable to look for a PR firm and stick with them for a year. By my count, there are over 50 agencies in Uganda and many are quite willing to offer opportunities to eager beginners. In this way you learn on the job and can steadily take in the PR basics and procedures. After a year, you can then decide if you can make a fit somewhere in the firm or move onto another communications position but now an enhanced skills set.

Is PR easier than journalism?
As a journalist, you might feel like the everyday routine of looking for stories, working on strict deadlines and the constant demand from your editor to get more appealing and human capturing stories is too much.
Considering the overall returns, many journalists sometimes feel the need to escape this pressure and get into something that is not so frenzied.
However, do not be misled! The pressure in PR can be similar if not even worse, depending on the client.

Secondly, even as a PR person you are expected to meet targets, beat deadlines and often there is a foreboding tension that hangs over you.
Keeping your client happy is the first and last rule. Somewhat the same way you used to do with the editor.

PR is not an easy job. You just have to do your best to get the best results. In this environment, even the best journalist can struggle in despair.

Tables turned
However, what I have discovered is that the advantage of switching to a communications person from being a fulltime journalist is that practicing colleagues respect you because you understand them.
Nonetheless, there are always challenges, especially trying to pitch your clients’ stories.
You are no longer going to be the one approached, but instead you become the ‘approachee.’ It is like walking on eggs, but then again, seemingly the whole PR industry is just that!

About the Author: Sharon Kyatusiimire

Sharon has a Bachelor of Journalism and Communication from Makerere University. She is a highly driven and creative young public and Media relations professional with experience in both traditional and digital media and has worked in the media sector for more than 6 years.

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