I Want to Work in … Public Relations
- What do PR professionals do?
- Getting Into PR
- Getting Experience
- Professional Bodies
- Social media and PR
- Making applications
- Further study
- Further information
Public Relations (usually referred to as PR) involves communicating a message to one or more of the different target audiences an organisation wishes to influence in a positive way. It may also be known as Corporate Communication.
PR professionals use a variety of media and communication channels to build, maintain and manage the reputation of their clients. They may work for a single organisation, such as a business, charity or public sector body or in a PR agency, working with a variety of different clients. In-house PR staff are often referred to as PR officers while those in agencies are known as PR account executives, but job titles are not consistent.
- Job profile of a public relations officer from the Prospects website
- Job profile of a public relations officer from the TARGET Jobs website
- Job profile of a public relations account executive from the Prospects website
You may be involved in: answering enquiries from individuals, journalists and organisations; preparing press releases, articles etc.; managing social media channels; organising press briefings, conferences, exhibitions, receptions, tours; writing and editing in-house journals; creating and maintaining useful contacts; planning and initiating PR campaigns.
To get an idea of what PR involves, have a look at some real-life case studies:
To succeed in PR, you need to have excellent written and verbal communication skills, to be hard-working and able to deal with a number of different tasks at one time, creative, determined, persuasive and persistent. You need to be versatile and adaptable with a good eye for a story and the ability to craft content. You need to be interested in business and understand that agencies need to make profits!
Competition for entry-level posts is strong so you need to do lots of research into what PR involves, follow PR employers, publications and professional bodies on social media and gain work experience. This is often available through internships – for graduates or undergraduates. Many people enter PR after experience in journalism, advertising or marketing.
I have finally got a job in PR, you said it could take anything between 6 and 8 months and it took 6 (although, if I'm being honest I have only really been trying since the New Year).
BA English and American Literature graduate
- How to Find a PR Internship www.behindthespin.com/careers/want-to-work-in-pr-take-an-internship
Getting as much industry experience as possible will work in your favour when looking for a full time position. During your placements you will have been given the opportunity to draft press releases, gain an understanding of the day-to-day running of a press office and the organisational skills necessary to be successful in this industry. Any work experience will be a great learning curve and a fantastic opportunity for you to polish your skills in researching and writing.
Conscious Communications: Tips for graduates trying to get in to PR
"The one thing people in PR will respond to is if you have the guts to ring up and tell them about yourself"
- Chartered Institute of Public Relations www.cipr.co.uk The site includes careers advice, case studies and a downloadable “Careers in Public Relations”guide
- Public Relations Consultants’ Association www.prca.org.uk
Employers include specialist PR consultancies, advertising agencies, industrial and commercial organisations, local and central government, charities and educational institutions. While very many graduates will be recruited to individual jobs in smaller PR agencies or in-house departments, a number of the large agencies do run graduate training schemes.
- PR Careers publishes an annual list of 150 agencies which recruit graduates and/or offer internships http://prcareers.co.uk/2016-150-pr-internships-graduate-schemes
- PR Week also lists the top 150 agencies, but without details of their graduate recruitment
- PRCA Directory of Members www.prca.org.uk/prcaMembers.asp
Some of the major agencies recruiting graduates include
- JFL Search and Selection www.jflrecruit.com specialise in PR: recommended by a Kent graduate who got a job in PR via them.
- Media Contacts www.media-contacts.co.uk PR, Marketing, Sales, Events, Editorial and Digital roles. The site includes interview advice
- Pathfinders Media Recruitment www.pathfindersrecruitment.com
- PR Futures www.prfutures.co.uk Most posts are for experienced staff but the jobseeker tips and blog provide useful background
- PR Week Jobs www.prweekjobs.co.uk/jobs/graduate-entry-level
- The Taylor Bennett Foundation www.taylorbennettfoundation.org offers graduate PR traineeships throughout the year for black, Asian and ethnic minority graduates.
- Communications and PR in the NHS
Today's PR professional is multi-skilled and knows how to produce content, not just press releases. They act as publishers on social media and keep up with advertising, copyright and media law. They are creatives and manage multi-channel campaigns. Their strategies need to be fit for purpose for today's business environment - it's digital first. They need to know how to use platforms, tools and analytics and have the ability to identify trends to inform strategy.
Emily Turner, content & marketing strategist, Deeson. Read the full article here.
Graduates need to be using, not just Facebook, but as many social media platforms as possible if they are seeking a career in Public Relations and digital marketing. Employers can easily spot candidates who claim to use social media, but have little interest beyond their own Facebook friends. To be successful in PR you need to have an in-depth grasp of social media and to be regularly engaging on it, writing blogs, sharing content and joining in group discussions.
Don’t let your online presence ruin your career in PR!
“When reviewing potential candidates I always Google them and this can often be the deal breaker. Twitter profiles full of swearing and angst-ridden rants about boyfriends are fairly commonplace, as are drunken Facebook pictures. These are instant repellents. It is imperative to maintain a good online presence if you aspire to work in PR” (www.mediaargh.com)
Whether you are applying for work experience, graduate internships or permanent jobs, you can’t rely on jobs being advertised: it is also essential to make speculative applications. Don’t be afraid to approach an employer directly even if they are not advertising any suitable vacancies.
You will be more likely to get a positive response to this approach if you:
“All applications should be well written and candidates must realise that spelling errors and grammatical mistakes will kill any chance of getting a job in PR”
- Make sure that your CV and covering letter are top-quality. See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/applicn.htm
- Do your research. Try to find out the name of the relevant contact from the company website or by phoning the switchboard. If the website says clearly that speculative applications will not be accepted, then don’t send one!
- Tailor your covering letter - don't just send the same letter to different organisations. Say why you are applying to this particular organisation and tell them what you can offer.
- Follow up your CV with a phone call after a week or so if you haven't heard anything.
For further advice on speculative applications, see our booklet on the Creative Career Search
- Using social media in job hunting www.kent.ac.uk/ces/student/findajob.html?tab=using-social-media
- Getting a job in public relations www.pressat.co.uk/how-to-get-a-job-in-public-relations-and-various-other-pr-tips
While a postgraduate qualification in PR is not essential, it may improve your chances of securing a position, although it will not be a substitute for the personal qualities and experience that employers want.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Public Relations Consultants’ Association both offer a range of qualifications. These are generally part-time or short courses, delivered on a face-to-face basis, via online learning or as a mixture of the two (blended).
PR can also be studied as a Master’s degree. Courses that include placements, internships or projects will help you to build up your practical skills and experience. A few are listed below: you can find a complete list on the CIPR website.
- Bournemouth University MA Corporate Communication https://www1.bournemouth.ac.uk/study/courses/ma-corporate-communication
- London College of Communication MA Public Relations www.arts.ac.uk/lcc/courses/postgraduate/ma-public-relations
- Sheffield Hallam University MA Public Relations www.shu.ac.uk/study-here/find-a-course/ma-public-relations
- University of Westminster Public Relations MA
A degree alone is definitely not an option. Work experience is crucial and if I want to start a great career, I need to prove that I have practical experience too. What the MA gives me is a higher qualification and an opportunity to do a big, independent piece of research – my dissertation. I find it invaluable and although I know a PR degree is not enough on its own, I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering a career in communications.
MA PR student, University of Westminster
- Behind the Spin: PR for students and young practitioners www.behindthespin.com
- PR Week Careers pages www.prweek.com/uk/careers
- PR Moment www.prmoment.com
- TARGET Jobs How do I get a graduate job in PR?
- Dragonfly Communications: How to Get Ahead in PR http://dragonflypr.co.uk/blog/graduates-how-to-get-ahead-in-pr
- Gong Communications: advice to graduates wishing to pursue a career in PR
- The Guardian: PR Careers www.theguardian.com/careers/pr-careers
- Absolutely Fabulous? Not really – this is the reality http://standardissuemagazine.com/arts/pr-without-pr
See also our pages on:
- Advertising www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/advertising.htm
- Digital Marketingwww.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/digital-marketing.htm
- Marketing www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sitesadv.htm
- Media Recruitment Agencies www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sitesmedia.htm#Recruitment
Last fully updated July 2016