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Anyone else doing in-house PR and freelance journalism?

(7 Posts)
yellowDahlia Sun 02-Sep-18 12:10:24

I'm a PR/Comms person for a corporate company but re-starting some freelance journalism work, writing about a lifestyle/hobby topic completely unrelated to my day job.

I'm wondering if/how to disclose this to my employer?

I work PT and using my non-office days to build up some more freelance work - so it shouldn't affect my PR job in terms of time commitment.

I guess I'm worried about it being perceived as a potential conflict of interest in that I've been comissioned to write some lifestyle features for the local newspaper, and I do regularly deal with their news team in my PR work.

Do I:
- mention it as a courtesy and reassure that it won't affect my job in terms of time commitment or conflicting interests

- not mention it at all as it's up to me how I spend my 'spare' time (likely to be discovered though as it's a local paper and my name is pretty recognisable)

- ask for 'permission' from employers to do this

Tbh though the horse has somewhat bolted on the last option - I've submitted my first feature to the paper and it's likely to be printed later this month!

Anyone else in a similar position, managing a PR role with freelance writing? Advice welcome smile

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lionsgate18 Mon 03-Sep-18 17:11:42

Hi

I work in the same field as you actually, well I used to but my current contract has just ended. I would go for the first option to cover yourself. Many years ago I had a freelance wedding cupcake business on the side and I approached with my employer as per your first suggestion. It was fine. You're going to have to say something and honesty is the best policy.

Can I be cheeky and ask how you are generating your freelance business (out with the newspaper job)? I've never been directly involved in pitching for new business. I've been lucky that a few people have approached me directly quite quickly, but I need to widen my client base. I am very experienced, but just find it difficult to start making the first steps re selling myself

BlingLoving Mon 03-Sep-18 17:22:08

First, if your'e writing for a publication that covers your firm, you will have to disclose it as they WILL find out. They'll see a byline, or a throwaway comment will be made by a journalist or whatever. This is not something you can keep under wraps.

I think you need to take a look at your employment contract first. When I worked in Corporate PR (in the City) my contract specifically said that I could not be employed elsewhere without the specific permission of my employer. This was designed to give them the right to decide where a conflict of interest might lie.

Then, you need to think truthfully about how it affects the corporate. For example if you work for a law firm that deals with divorce, and you're writing lifestyle pieces, you may think there's no overlap. But what happens when you write a fun little piece about the social lives of newly single people? Could a journalist/ client/ potential client take that as your firm's somewhat flippant view on divorce? Unfortunately, as a PR person, you DO represent the company in public so you have to think about that. It's not like you're a mechanic working for a large engineering firm, with no media profile.

Again, if you cross that hurdle, you're now at the point at which you need to disclose your involvement to the company. I'd think about this carefully, and frankly, spin the shit out of it. So, if you're building better relationships with the editorial team at this publication, and the publication is useful for the firm, your side work could be seen to actually be a benefit.

However, I have to say that if I was your boss I'd be extremely uncomfortable with this. I MIGHT be willing to let you do it if your work wasn't bylined. But I would be uncomfortable with someone who is a spokesperson for the firm publicly commenting on all kinds of other issues. I'd also worry that while having cosy little drinks with your new journalist colleagues you might say something inappropriate. I think it's just a bit awkward all round.

yellowDahlia Mon 03-Sep-18 21:28:22

Bling if you knew me you would realise that I barely go for cosy drinks with my friends, let alone new people! grin But I take your point about representing the company. However the topics in question couldn't be less connected - my PR work is in public transport and the lifestyle features are on the topic of gardening and horticulture. I'd really struggle to think of a potential overlap and therefore conflicting interests.

Additionally this is self-employment, so I would hope there's some flexibility there about how I choose to spend my time outside of work. I do agree with both of you though that I need to raise it with my employer. I wonder if they did have an issue with it, could I choose to write under a different name as a compromise? My maiden name or something like that? I wonder if anyone does that... I can't be the only PR person who's interested in writing too - I'd like to know how others handle it.

lionsgate18 I'm really just starting small again, the newspaper job is all I've got at the moment, although I've been writing a blog on gardening and have an active Instagram account on this topic too. I'm also fairly new to pitching but I managed to make progress with the paper simply by emailing an editor - and they were looking to change things around a bit so were open to a new writer. A case of right time, right place I think!

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MaybeDoctor Wed 05-Sep-18 14:48:35

Well, I think you have to tell them ASAP but just assure them that you will write about nothing with wheels that could be construed as a form of transport - not even ride-on lawnmowers.grin

I have an employed job (not PR) but do some freelance copywriting and proofreading. I try to keep clear of this by making sure that I write on very different topics/industries and without a byline.

I also think that with the lack of security offered by employers these days it is becoming far less reasonable to frown on the side-gig.

yellowDahlia Wed 05-Sep-18 17:06:55

not even ride-on lawnmowers lol smile

I'm now looking for an opportunity to raise it with the boss - she's fairly new but seems quite approachable and reasonable about things so far so I'm really hoping she'll be ok with this!

Agree also with your point MaybeDoctor that having a so-called 'portfolio career' is becoming more common and as I work PT it's an opportunity for me to do something I love and hopefully earn some money from it.

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yellowDahlia Fri 07-Sep-18 18:15:30

Update for anyone still interested: I've checked with both my bosses (line manager and MD) and they're both fine with this. I have to fill in a form for HR to verify that there's no conflict of interest according to their criteria but it looks like I'm good to go - phew smile

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