Switching to Public Relations (The Dark Side)

By Emily Quirk

By Emily Quirk

After 14 years in journalism, I made the switch to public relations in 2013. My colleagues harangued me with the typical mockery: “so, you’re going to the dark side” and “now we’ll be getting lame pitches from you too?”

Part of me felt guilty over the decision. I had put blood, sweat and tears into my journalistic craft. I put in my share of 12- to 14-hour days, endured constant ridicule from the “Good Ol’ Boys Network of New England” as a young female journalist (often referred to as “Lois Lane”), slept with the police scanner at my bedside, and spent months investigating a news story only for it to end up on the cutting room floor. Journalism was my life. The adrenaline rush of getting the scoop or printing your best piece of writing was like nothing else.

Another part of me felt elated to finally have those days behind me. I was burned out. Done. I was at the end of my theoretical rope with being treated as though my life outside of the newsroom was less important. I was on call 24/7!

It became especially difficult to be journalist first and mom second during the first two years of my daughter Meghan’s life. Often during those early days I wouldn’t see her before I left for the newsroom in the morning and she’d be asleep by the time I came home at night. The news doesn’t care that there’s a beautiful baby waiting for me at home. Murders, fires and other breaking news doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. You stay on the story until the press crew is screaming for the last page at close to midnight. When Meghan still hadn’t said “mama” by 18 months, I knew something in the work/life balance was off.

I can now honestly look back on my switch to the “dark side” and say it was the best move I ever made. I can now afford to eat more than Ramen noodles at every meal and feel just as fulfilled in my career as a public relations professional as I did as a journalist. When you take a moment to think about it there are quite a few similarities between the two professions:


  • The need for impeccable writing skills
  • A nose for news – knowing what’s trending in your “beat” or PR niche (I’m an NPR news junkie)
  • Jack of all trades – The importance of knowing a little bit about a lot of things is equally important in journalism as PR. With a variety of stories on a variety of topics – anthrax, hepatitis C, No Child Left Behind, gun laws – you better learn and learn quickly. The same applies to PR with a variety of different clients in hi-tech, medical, nonprofit, startup, retail.
  • Knowing the pieces of the puzzle, the “ingredients” for a good story
  • Adhering to deadlines and working around breaking news
  • Communication skills – Just as any successful journalist must build strong relationships and go-to sources within their beat, so do PR professionals.

The journalism industry wouldn’t exist without PR professionals and PR wouldn’t exist without journalists. We may be annoyed with one another from time to time and thankful for one another from time to time. And that’s OK. Knowing the day-to-day life of the journalist on the other end of my pitch, can only help me become a better PR professional.