The Morphing of Journalism and PR Professionals into Content Marketers

The term “content marketing” wasn’t the buzzword that is now when I wrote a post four years ago about the convergence of the roles of communications professionals.

I wrote then, “Maybe the terms advertising, public relations, publicity, promotion and direct response should be consigned to the compactor. Those words just don’t seem to work in the new online communities that are forming like runaway amoebas. How about new terms like collaborators, community builders, prophets, enablers? Or maybe one word that summarizes everything we are: communicators.

I still believe that except now instead of being called communicators, we are being reinvented as content marketers.

The Rise of PR

A thought-provoking post from Software Advice in The B2B Marketing Mentor makes a solid case for the blurring of roles between journalists and PR professionals. The reality is that very definition of these jobs is changing. While the role of traditional journalist is shrinking, PR jobs are increasing as shown in this graph. The role of content marketing is increasing faster than either journalism or PR.

Journalism and Public Relations Jobs

New Roles for Journalists and PR Professionals

The trend line for each profession is misleading, though. Journalism schools are dominated by students majoring in public relations. For years, corporations have had “news bureaus” in their PR departments sending out press releases and responding to media inquiries.

Now the corporate news bureau is disseminating content directly to consumers via corporate blogs and social networks, bypassing the media altogether. The PR person has become part publicist and part journalist. At the same time, the role of the journalist is morphing into a hybrid role as writer and publicist.

As B2B Marketing Mentor points out, “…journalists don’t stick to one beat or one medium; in fact, they may cover all of them at once. They may also do their own publicity: writing blog posts and sharing them through social media, or Tweeting breaking news and information.”

Journalism majors are also being hired by corporations to develop content that promotes the company’s brand. They have the requisite writing skills, which is at the heart of all communications.

You’ve got to be creating compelling content in all mediums. In my view, a corporate blog should be the centerpiece of a company’s social media strategy, where a company can shape its messages and points of view without the filter of social media. That’s where the journalist cum-PR person can really shine.

Corporations are tweeting information about their products and services. But many journalists have their own Twitter followers, too, retweeting their posts and reports on breaking news around the world.

So I wouldn’t worry too much about journalism dying as a profession. It’s just that the nomenclature has changed. As communicators, we need to think of ourselves in a whole new way. We are all content marketers — pushing out the news in print, broadcast and online. Titles don’t matter anymore. What you’re doing is what counts now.

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Comments

  1. I was doing some research on future jobs for communicators and came to the same conclusions you have. No one is disappearing, just changing the focus of what they do to reflect a more dynamic array of mediums.

    When I first heard the term “content marketer” I was puzzled by what it meant, when I clued in I realized that we were just playing name games with old concepts. What is a lobbyist if not a content marketer with a specific audience? 🙂

    • Debra — we’ve been doing content marketing since the beginning of time. It’s just called something different now.

  2. When I studied communications in college, I focused primarily on PR and minored in journalism. Often times, we had several of these discussions in class and I agree with you, the two seem to be merging and creating their own title.

    • Mary — Glad you agree. The lines are blurring and will grown even fuzzier over time. Not to mention that many media training companies hire journalists for role plays during training. So are they doing PR then?

  3. Agreed with you already when you wrote your fist post, Jeannette, and still do. The line between journalism, communication, pr and, to some extent marketing, simply doesn’t exist anymore.

    We can do whatever we want inside the huge “nische” that we have today. Provided of course that we are good at what we are doing.

    • Catarina — I like your last sentence. That is the operative phrase. No matter whether you are journalist or PR person, you need to be good — always being honest and not fudging the facts to suit your employer.

    • Cheryl — I’m not sure of the context in which you consider yourself a lobbyist. True — titles are chosen for their PR value.

  4. The study makes sense Jeannette. Communication has changed what, 100 fold or more since the internet? Journalism and PR certainly seem so much alike. And it’s highly likely even some of the people who might put out a story, also have something they are selling. How many commentators (another classification for communicators) on tv have just published a book and get it mentioned in their interview?

    Appreciate the delineation even it if it blurring Jeannette.

    • Pat — how interesting that you mention that many big-name media writers have written books and have absolutely no problem becoming PR people when it comes to promoting their own books.

  5. I think both professions lie in the fact that they are communicators Jeannette, putting aside the buzz words. However I see that in the past how they communicated and the style and tone was different as is the case of copywriters. I agree about journalism not dying as a profession, it is just the environment has changed.

    The one thing that still separates them is PR work for corporations or people and journalists I hope are still in the field of communication with objectivity.

    • Susan — I’m probably an idealist but I’d like to think there is an element of truth and honesty for PR professionals and journalists. I think objectivity died a fairly quick death in the past few years, as wealthy owners like Rupert Murdoch and now Jeff Bezos have bought newspapers. We know that Murdoch uses his publications to espouse his political views. I’m hoping that Jeff Bezos leaves the Washington Post alone.

      • Jeannette I do think there is some honesty. Funny you brought up Rupert Murdoch. We are in the middle of our election campaign and Murdoch’s papers came out blatantly against the the Labor party which is currently in power. The Prime Minister is acting as some say like a jilted lover or a child who has been told by someone he is not their friend any more. It is quite humorous to watch.

  6. As with many things we evolve. The career of journalism has not become extinct, it has evolved to be able to remain. I believe that journalism and PR work in tandem and will continue to. 🙂

    • Susan — I do think the lines are blurring. When PR people go directly to the public with news are they not also journalists? When journalists speak at conferences, are they not doing PR for themselves and their media outlet? Interesting to think about.

  7. What I find is interesting is that we need to put a name on something. So we can call it Journalism and PR. Basically today we have to reinvent ourselves. I think the reason we are seeing more merging it is easier to put all things under one umbrella. It actually opens more doors and you are not pigeon holed in one genre. I started on the internet in the 90’s and I can remember content was called King. I was hoping that it would change to Empress. We tend to need to put labels on any field.

    • Arleen — it’s true that we do tend to label things. I think this morphing of journalism and PR is a sign that times are changing and none of us fits nicely under one label.

  8. This might be misguided or anachronistic — or most likely, both, but I hold so-called journalists to a higher stand of impartiality and accuracy than “content creators”. I expect a journalistic piece to be reporting and informed opinion along the lines of Investigative reporting. Journalists are (should be) held to a high standard. As someone said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” Today, of course, a large amount of “journalism” takes place on internet sites. I guess I consider “content creation” to be journalism light at its best — that is, one hopes that the writer did at least some homework, but content is often cribbed (rewritten) from Wikipedia, rather than having been checked independently. I think there is a bona fide role for content creators and some are better than others. One hopes that, at a minimum, both journalists and content creators are good writers. I suspect that more than a few journalists now moonlight as content creators to pay the bills.

    • Thanks, Suzanne, for your POV on this subject. Personally, I think that whether you’re writing a story for a newspaper, an ad or a press release, you need to be accurate and honest. There is no double standard in my mind. Unfortunately, as you point out, there are many people writing for the Internet who haven’t gotten that message.

  9. Hm, as an outsider to these fields, I am rather confused by the merging of PR and journalism. I think of journalism as somewhat similar to what Suzanne says, although unfortunately I see tons and tons of bias of current journalists. I think of PR professionals as working for a company. So the PR person might be just telling what is good about a product or service, whereas a journalist would not care one way or another but be interested in exposing both (or many) sides of the story. I’m not sure who will continue to pay a journalist do that, however.

    • Leora — I see your point about PR people going direct to consumers with only the good stories about their companies. But it all goes back to what I’ve said before, the communications has to be accurate and truthful. Also, corporations issue lots of hard news like earnings reports, studies, new senior executives, product and service improvements, etc. As a former PR person, I personally promoted those kinds of stories, but often the stories wouldn’t get picked up by the media or, if they did, the final story wouldn’t be totally accurate. During a company crisis, social media is a god-send. Companies can issue immediate updates on Twitter for their customers — for example, when a utility is having a major outage. If I was in the PR business now, I could go direct through social media. So would that make me a journalist? A lot to ponder.

      • Yes, that all makes sense. The better companies will have truthful reports, and social media works in their favor.

        I think of journalists as those who will report on Benghazi – who will those be, if no one wants to pay for a newspaper?

  10. One would hope content creators write with objectivity in mind, but that expectation seems to be fading. Since news can now be delivered directly to consumers without going through the media, there’s more room open for bias to come into play. It’s one thing to carry on a dialog about how opinions may differ, but now too often the source of what constitutes authoritative facts varies too widely. Too much content picks the facts that best suit them while ignoring proof to the contrary.

    • Jeri — I know from personal experience that a journalist can have a distinct point of view before even writing the story. Many years ago, I accompanied a Wall Street Journal reporter on a site visit of my company’s copper mine. He interviewed local people and company officials. When he wrote the piece, he didn’t use any of that material. He had already written the piece, which was very negative. He didn’t care about the facts.

  11. Jeannette,
    I agree with Leora that there is too much bias shown by journalists today. I believe that the lack of equal coverage severely impacts how voters are making decisions. I think it’s very unfortunate that most Journalism majors are being hired by corporations to develop content.This country needs more good journalists.

    • Sherryl — No doubt we need more good journalists. To save money even the most prestigious newspapers such as The New York Times are using freelancers more often and I believe it shows in their writing. I’m not only talking about content but the use of good grammar. If you’ve been following the primaries in New Jersey and California the voter turnout is shockingly low. Not only are voters not getting unbiased coverage of the candidates, they are tuning out of politics because they are so turned off by the partisan paralysis at the state and federal level.