Posted on: 2016-02-16 in Opinion
PR careers are highly coveted, and it’s easy to see why the profession attracts so many graduates. “ PR jobs are very much oversubscribed. Everyone wants in”, says Charles Cunningham, Account Manager here at Inspiring Interns. ‘I think the main reason is that people are attracted to the client-facing aspect, where they get to communicate and network – without the frustrations you get with a typical sales role.”
So what exactly does an entry level role in PR look like?
Like marketing and advertising, the world of PR is split up into agency-side or in-house. At an agency, you’re likely to fit in at the bottom of a large team, with clear opportunities for learning and progression. To begin with, work will likely focus on writing (media releases, press kits, research, content, etc.) and administrative tasks.
In-house teams at larger companies can be similar, but if you’re working as part of the PR team at a start-up or SME, chances are you’ll rapidly be given more responsibility. With a less rigid training structure, you’ll likely be left to source new contacts, build relationships and help shape strategy.
Again, the ability to connect with people is a huge draw for many would-be PRs, but the versatile nature of the profession is also very attractive.
It’s a reactionary business: amongst other things, your day can involve dealing with journalists, managing the website, organising events, and writing and editing press releases and articles. In the modern, connected world, PR is about keeping on your toes, and responding to opportunities effectively and persuasively.
Many graduates are attracted to this kind of reactive, multi-faceted environment – and it doesn’t hurt that there is often quick progression if you prove particularly capable at what you do.
While a degree in marketing, PR or journalism can be advantageous from the perspective of gaining industry understanding, the real key to landing a role as an executive or assistant will frequently be your “soft” skills. Companies usually consider a wide range of degrees.
Of course with this kind of client facing role, communication is key, particularly if you’ll be writing press kits and releases. In such a versatile role, organisational skills are key, as is adaptability. As with marketing and advertising, showing you’ve come up with creative and innovative solutions to problems can help showcase your ability to think on your feet – and outside the box.
Companies that operate in a particular niche could be after more specific skills, such as analytical or numerical experience. Smaller businesses may want a background in design so that you can contribute to the creation of press kits, brochures, or websites.
As with many sectors, good commercial awareness is essential, especially as you could be representing clients across different areas of business. Because PR is an industry geared around deadlines, you should also be able to work well under pressure.
While it can feel like you’re caught in a post-university Catch-22 where you can’t get any experience without prior experience, there are always ways to get your foot in the door. Consider asking charities if you can volunteer in their PR department. In this case the bigger the better: you’ll have the chance to work alongside established professionals and learn best practices.
If you’re still at university, think of taking on some casual work experience. Try to assume a PR-focused or promotional position in a society or club. For example, you might be able to pick up some experience reaching out to journalists, negotiating business to business for sponsorship, or simply organising events. It’ll also show that you’ve got the capacity to manage schedules effectively.
Consider starting your own blog, or writing for a student newspaper: these will give you the opportunity to understand journalistic practices, and examples of your writing to show employers – as well as an understanding of web 2.0 and social media.
As with any job, the interview is the opportunity to show why your skills and experience are relevant. Think about how you’ll benefit the company, not what you’ll get out of it.
Most importantly, whether in email or in the interview, make sure you’re confident, polite and engaging. As with any client-facing role, this is the opportunity to impress them with the communication skills you’re going to need in order to thrive. Maintain eye contact, take your time to answer questions and avoid ‘umms’, ‘likes’ and ‘obviouslys’ and they’ll snap you up!
Matt Arnerich is the Content Writer over at leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns writing about everything to do with graduate employability. For the latest graduate opportunities, check out their graduate jobs listings or, if you’re looking to hire a graduate, take a look at their innovative Video CVs.
The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.
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