I Want to Work in … Public Relations

 

 

What do PR professionals do? 

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.

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:

Getting In

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, creativedeterminedpersuasive 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 journalismadvertising or marketing.

A Kent graduate’s experience of getting into PR

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).

After about 100 applications (speculative, and to advertised jobs and work experience), an agency picked up on me (JFL Recruit www.jflrecruit.com they specialise in PR) and offered to set me up on a work experience placement. I worked unpaid for a week at a PR and Design specialist company and they wanted to keep me on. I turned down the offer because of the commute (I travelled for 5 hours one day because there were trees down on the line). I felt like I was shooting myself in the foot but realised it was impossible really to work such long hours unless/until I moved to London.

After updating my CV after my work experience, however, I applied for a few positions locally via 
www.reed.co.uk - a job website I highly recommend for people searching for specialist careers in local areas (they advertise thousands of specialist regional jobs), I got three interviews.

I was offered and have accepted the job at a music and entertainment company. They said I was the only person they considered with no or little experience but they liked me and are giving me a good salary and are going to train me on the job and even hire a computer specialist on a temporary basis to set up the company digitally and train me in multimedia. It will be an in-house PR role with some marketing and computing duties and it is just a 20 minute drive away from me. I start next Monday.

BA English and American Literature graduate

Getting Experience

Professional Bodies

"The one thing people in PR will respond to is if you have the guts to ring up and tell them about yourself"

Employers

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.

Some of the major agencies recruiting graduates include

  • Ogilvy PR
  • Weber Shandwick
  • Edelman
  • Hill & Knowlton
  • Chime PR
  • MHP Communications
  • Brunswick
  • Bell Pottinger
  • FTI Consulting
  • Freuds
  • Finsbury
  • Ketchum
  • Instinctif Partners
  • Grayling
  • Portland
  • Golin
  • Cohn & Wolfe
  • Exposure

 

Recruitment agencies and jobs boards

Other resources

Social media and PR

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.

Dragonfly Communications

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)

Making applications

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”
David Jones, public affairs manager, MBF Australia


For further advice on speculative applications, see our booklet on the Creative Career Search

Further study

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.

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

Further information

 

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Last fully updated July 2016