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Hiring the “Enemy”: Add a Journalist to Your Utility’s PR Team

When you have an opening in your utility’s public relations department, you probably receive a flood of resumes from both recent college graduates and longtime PR professionals.

And there likely are many worthwhile candidates in that pile of resumes.

But sometimes you should think outside the box a bit and hire someone without formal PR experience but a similar skillset.

I’m talking about a journalist – maybe even a journalist who has covered your utility in the past.

I’m guessing the question of “why” has come to mind.

For one thing (and perhaps the most important thing), journalists can write, an undervalued skill. College grads, no matter how talented, don’t have that same kind of experience and may be more used to text messaging and tweeting.

For another, lots of journalists are looking for work, so you may well have some exceptionally talented candidates available who will be willing to work for a reasonable salary.

Furthermore, journalists already have a base level of familiarity with public relations. They’ve likely worked with PR practitioners of all stripes for years. They know which pitches work and, more importantly, which don’t. They also know important stuff such as making sure to pitch the proper person or not pitching a reporter on deadline.

Having an outside perspective can pay dividends, too. Journalists are curious people and are trained to see the big picture, so they might come up with some different ideas; your PR team is likely to have a more narrow definition of the world.

If there’s a journalist who’s covered the utility in the past – or has experience covering electric utilities – you should seriously consider them as job candidates.

That means they either already know what your utility and the industry in general is all about, as well as the main topics of the day. The acclimation period for them will be minimal. In addition, you’ll already have a feel for their demeanor, work product and reliability; if they were fair and accurate covering your utility, it’s a sign they’ll also be good in PR.

Prior to my first public relations job, I was a finance reporter for the local business journal. The PR firm that hired me placed me in their financial services division. Because I already was familiar with the client issues then, I was of immediate use and spent many of my early days ghost-writing for clients.

The same would be true for you with a reporter that has experience covering utilities.

Granted, there will still be a transitional period like there would be for any new employee, but the ultimate benefits may be well worth it.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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