Making the move from journalism to the dark side of PR

Making the move from journalism to the ‘dark side’ of PR wasn’t something I did lightly. Since I was a little girl watching Look North, reading the Chronicle and even interviewing my grandad for a school project, I wanted to be a journalist.

At every opportunity I’d turn my school work into a news report and I’ve always been able to strike up a conversation with a stranger. But maybe the latter is just a northern quality?

I fell in love with Lincoln on my first visit and knew that was where I wanted to be.

The first six months flew by and I’d barely had time to miss home – I was too busy competing for splashes and hunting for stories.

I was working alongside passionate and experienced journalists and photographers and all the other amazing people who make a newsroom tick – what wasn’t there to love?

I was building up my contacts book and had been assigned education as my specialty.

But sadly all good things come to an end.

As my personal life was actually going right for a change, my professional life was another story.

I was miserable.


Burnt out.

Fed up.

Home sickness was at peak levels.

The phrase people leave managers not companies sadly rang true for me.

I won’t dwell on the ins and outs but deciding to leave my dream job because my mental health was more important was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

But it was the right one.

The opportunity to move to the ‘dark side’ came and I took a leap of faith.

It was the best thing for my personal life, my mental health and my career.

I moved into communications within the NHS as a communications assistant for a small community trust and then covered my manger’s maternity leave.

Fast forward two years and I jumped at the opportunity to join the larger acute NHS trust in the county, in a senior role. In that one year I learned a hell of a lot and worked with an amazing team under one of the best managers I’ve ever had.

Then my husband took the plunge and made his move to the ‘dark side’ and together we decided to move to the land of stotties and Brown Ale otherwise known as the North East.

Over here on the ‘dark side’ I still get to do all the best bits of my reporter role with a lot of added perks:

  • I’m nowhere near as stressed.
  • I get Bank Holiday’s off, most if not all of my weekends and I get to spend Christmas and New Year with my family.
  • Now when I interview people for a story I find their attitude towards me is so different to when I was a reporter. They trust me with their words.
  • Yes we do often send them the content to approve – which we never did in newspaper land – but they rarely make any changes and they’re so grateful for that chance to see the story.
  • I get to be creative with videos, infographics and how I tell stories.
  • Every day I’m learning something new and taking on opportunities.

I’ve had many conversations with journalists struggling to decide whether to take the leap to the ‘dark side’ and I’ve told them DO IT.

You won’t regret it.

Pin this 👇🏻

To the colleagues and friends I have made on the ‘dark side’ thank you for building up my confidence again and providing me with so much learning and personal and professional growth.

To all the journalists who are still in the newsrooms and want to be there – keep going. Good quality journalism is what we all need especially when we’re faced with so much fake news.

Useful posts for comms teams:

If you’d like to create some infographics or images with text check out this blog post 5 free websites to create infographics

If your stock photo library is a little bare here’s 5 free sites for stock images

Looking to create more videos then check out these 5 video editing apps for mobile and if you’d like some expert training check out my thoughts on bringing videos back in house with comms2point0 training

Make sure your Twitter feed is ticking over with these 5 free Twitter scheduling tools

Keep track of your stories featured in the media with these 5 free media monitoring alerts

If you’re not sure how much time your team spends on tasks then these 5 free time tracking tools will come in very handy

If you’ve made the move over to the ‘dark side’ what’s your experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit: The award-winning Anna Draper who snapped me mid-interview with Professor Brian Cox at the home of the Red Arrows.

You can also find me on Twitter @rachael_stray

Or follow my Facebook page

You can see my random pictures on Instagram

And see what I’m pinning on Pinterest

71 thoughts on “Making the move from journalism to the dark side of PR

  1. Judy E Martin says:

    Journalism has always seemed like a very interesting career to me, but I have no doubt that it must be stressful, and you would need to have a pretty thick skin too. It sounds as though you are really happy where you are now though and that is worth so much 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate Jones says:

    I applaud you for having the courage to change careers when you found that yours was having a negative effect on your life. If you don’t mind me asking, would you ever consider returning to journalism in the future? Working on a magazine or writing freelance pieces could be a less stressful way to work in the industry 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. newskira says:

    Hey Rachael, journalism career is surely one of most challenging ones. There are various roles a journalist has to play throughout his/her journey from a reporter to anchor and from a marketer to PR and interviewer. I am glad to know you made right decisions in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Leo says:

    The irony here is that the dark side of the force was actually a better fit for you. Technically that means you were always cut out to be a sigh. I just love this 🙂 I’m happy for you

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dancing with Dreams says:

    Oh my goodness. Well done for taking the leap, I had to close my practice last year also due to it just being too heavy on my mental health and was just affecting other parts of my life negatively. Sounds like you are doing amazing now. Sometimes life takes us on rather unexpected turns 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dvn ms kmz time travel says:

    Please forgive my ignorance, but what exactly do you mean by the dark side? And what is NHS?

    Barring my lack of knowledge, this was a great read. I’m glad that you’ve found contented bliss in what you do in life- as very few people ever really get there…


  7. Claire Saul (PainPalsBlog) says:

    it is such a big thing to leave a career that you have loved, and having to leave on health grounds is so tough (happened to me first – physical, then hubby – mental- a few years later) – but it is possible to make life great again, different but great, isn’t it? In all my years nursing in the NHS I had never really thought about the role of the “dark side”….thanks for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shallow Reflections says:

    No job is worth it if quality of life suffers. I applaud you for making the change. It sounds like the right move at the right time. I’ve changed course within my career many times through the years and it was never easy but it was always rewarding in the end. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Midlife Smarts says:

    Hi Rachael I enjoyed reading this. I also work in PR and it has changed SO much since I started in the industry in the mid 80s. I love PR work and like you say you get to meet lots of great people AND be creative. l’ll second your good wishes to all the journalists out there. Jill

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Midlife Smarts says:

    Good question – I can tell you were a natural journalist 🙂
    Yes, I think things have changed for the better but I found it quite difficult transition from the old days – when it was all about getting a story in a newspaper or broadcast to now when there are so many ways to communicate and we are all Citizen Journalists. Basically, though, it’s still the same job – getting a message across to an audience – just lots of new ways of doing that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. angelanoelauthor says:

    You know, your story rang true for me. When I was straight out of college I wanted to work at a magazine and write novels. I waited tables for years and did just that. I always wanted to write. But, somewhere along the way I realized that dream had shifted, maybe even been shelved. I needed life experience to help inform the writing I wanted to do. The stories I was telling were hallow, a girl trying too hard to do something IMPORTANT. So for twelve years I didn’t write. And then, I did. So, I can relate to your story of moving away from one dream to find one that still fulfilled the core of what you truly wanted. You didn’t abandon your dream, it just evolved. Good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Gabe Burkhardt says:

    Isn’t it great when these leaps of faith are validated by the changes in our lives we were hoping for?

    Glad to hear that the transition to PR has allowed you to continue to enjoy some of the skills you loved as a journalist, while freeing yourself from its shackles.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Unbound Roots says:

    I really wish that I would have gone into journalism – dang-it! I loved reading your story, and I’m so glad you took that leap of faith. Good for you! There’s nothing better than loving what you do. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennifer says:

    With every bit more of information, I get to know you a little better. And like Angela said above, you didn’t abandon your career, it evolved. I know someone who also started out as a journalist and then moved into corporate communications. In her retirement, she took up blogging…among other things.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Josh Gross | The Jaguar says:

    I’m curious, why is PR the dark side? Does it have a bad reputation amongst journalists? Also, is it not common practice for journalists to let interviewees see a draft of a story before publishing it? I always offer to send a draft post to the people I interview for my blog, to make sure I’m not misunderstanding or misrepresenting anything they said. It seems important to me to build up a reputation as someone who can be trusted with other people’s words.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ritu says:

    There are ways we have to evolve in our professional lives… sometimes we fall into a different path by accident, sometimes it’s just situational. But I’m glad your situation worked out. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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