My Journey from Journalism to Public Relations

By Nick Versaw, intern

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be sitting here, a month away from my college graduation, in an office at a public relations firm, I would have called you crazy.

Just last year, I was starting to get into the thick of things as a journalism student. I was covering one of my favorite sports teams and even seeing my byline in major national news outlets like the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. Things could not have been going better, or so I thought.

In journalism school, they teach you everything except how to deal with the long hours, low pay and nonexistent job security that comes along with being a professional journalist these days.

In April, the Richmond Times-Dispatch laid off 33 people from its newsroom, including a professor of mine that I have a great deal of respect for. These were people who worked in that newsroom for decades – seasoned reporters with volumes worth of published work.

If they can’t feel secure in their jobs at one of the most highly-respected media outlets in the state, what would happen to me – a lowly rookie trying to land his first reporting job?

I was crushed. I was only a semester away from graduating with a journalism degree, so it was too late to change majors. What was I going to do?

It was then I decided to try my hand at public relations.

In September, I landed an internship here at Commonwealth PR and, since then, I’ve loved every minute of it. Being a former journalist, I never thought I’d be able to bring so much to the table in the world of PR, but the transition could not have been smoother.

In my first week, I was already writing and editing press releases as if this were what I was meant to be doing all along. Many of the skills I picked up in J-school have helped make my transition from journalism to public relations seamless.

My grasp of AP style has allowed me to write and edit press releases that a reporter can slot right into their publication. My instinct for newsgathering has helped me identify what’s newsworthy in a client’s story so that my pitches have a higher chance of hitting. Being a journalist myself, I know how reporters think and what they’re looking for in a story, so I’m able to connect with them on a more personal level.

All of these skills have been immense. Sure, there are some things I needed to develop, but it’s a great feeling knowing my perspective is valuable and I’m making a difference for both my firm and our clients.

In public relations, I’ve found a home. I love the dynamism of agency work and having the ability to work with a variety of different clients and reporters on a daily basis. It’s so much more than just going to an event and writing about it. I’m helping develop strategy and I’m being given the freedom to fully embrace my creative side. It just feels right.

I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me. Rather than feeling like there’s a storm cloud hovering over top of my head, waiting to strike at any minute, the future is bright and promising.

Warren Buffet once said, “In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

Journalism itself may not be sinking, but, for me, it just didn’t have the same appeal as it once did. Shifting my focus to public relations has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.