If you’ve arrived at this blog post, chances are you’ve already done the hard part. You’ve assessed your options and arrived at the conclusion that the PR industry would suit you, your interests and skills perfectly, and now you’re figuring out exactly how to take the leap in the big, wide world of public relations. When deciding where to go with your career or what to do with your life in general, settling on a particular industry or sector can often be one of the most difficult and daunting aspects, so kudos for getting this far!
Now you need to know how you can start building a career as a PR professional. Whether you’ve already dipped your toe into the PR world or you’re a complete newbie who just loves the idea of earning consistent, positive media attention for a variety of dynamic brands, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no single route into this profession. In fact, many of the best PR practitioners have stumbled into the job from other industries and sectors.
There are, however, various things you can do to better your chances of landing your first PR role, and to set yourself apart from the competition – regardless of your job and qualification history.
Here are five tips on how to get started in public relations:
1. Know the different areas of PR
First, do your research and get to grips with the different types of PR. ‘PR’ is a blanket term that covers a variety of disciplines, but each ‘type’ has its own purpose, and each one suits a different kind of professional. If you want to work with consumer brands and the mainstream media, a media relations role will suit you, whereas quick thinkers and ‘spin’ whizzes might prefer the world of crisis management. On the other hand, if you’re up to speed on all things digital, a social media position might be right for you.
The reality is that, particularly in the first few years of your PR career, you’ll be expected to wear different PR hats at different times – especially if you’re working in a small agency. But doing your research beforehand will mean you have a long-term focus, and employers will appreciate you taking the time to really know your stuff. It’ll also help both you, and prospective employers, ensure that you’re well suited for a role, or that a particular agency or workplace is right for you, your specific interests, and your goals.
2. Do your research
This is related to the previous point, but whilst you’re figuring out what areas of PR interest you the most, make sure you keep up to date on the industry as a whole. There’s a huge variety of PR publications in print and online, as well of hundreds of useful social media accounts that are run by industry leaders. Not only will this prove that you’re committed and seriously interested in the PR world, but it may spark inspiration for campaign ideas too – something you can flaunt in applications and interviews!
And this should go without saying, but make sure you read the news! People who work in PR work with journalists and the media every. Single. Day. By developing a good understanding of what makes a good news story, the angles and even products certain titles are most likely to run and feature, you’ll be in good stead to hit the ground running.
3. Get experience
Generally speaking, candidates with degrees or work experience in relevant disciplines (communications, journalism, English, or any humanities-based subjects where you have to write a lot) are going to stand a better chance at landing a PR position – but it’s by no means necessary. If you can show prospective employers that you’ve dedicated time and effort to learning the ropes, even if it’s just for a day or two in various agencies or comms departments, you’re going to be looked upon favourably.
Show initiative by reaching out to local agencies or companies with established comms departments, explaining why you want work experience with them and what you can bring to the table. You can read our top tips for getting work experience here.
4. Work on your writing skills
It’s no secret that excellent writing skills are crucial to your success in this industry, as you’ll constantly be writing press materials, emails, blog posts, social media content and much, much more. If you feel like your writing is a bit rusty, there’s lots you can be doing to improve. Take courses in writing, set up a blog, or just simply read more. Reading helps you develop a better understanding of language and structure, and grow your vocabulary – skills essential to any PR role!
5. Be present
Whenever the opportunity arises, make sure you’re raising your hand, expressing your ideas, and learning, learning, learning. This could be as simple as engaging in industry debates on Twitter! And when you do get into the workplace, never turn down an opportunity, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Do whatever you can to learn everything you can, and you’ll make yourself stand out in the process.