Getting your PR career started – advice from our PR community
By Gemma Bruckner
7 Feb 2017
Whether you’re currently studying public relations (PR) or a related discipline, just starting out in your first role or looking to change career, our diverse and knowledgeable PR community has some great advice for you.
The challenges of getting into PR are best addressed by working PR professionals. We asked users of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service for their advice on establishing a PR career.
Be realistic in your expectations
Before you start planning your career path you need to be realistic in your expectations. Clearly PR and Marketing Communications managing director Paul MacKenzie-Cummins explains: “While we would all love to work for those ‘sexy’ brands that are household names, these are few are and far between. The reality is that you may be working with clients from a diverse range of sectors; they may not come with the razzle dazzle associated with consumer and automotive brands, for instance, but they can be just as much fun and more interesting to work with. They are also more likely to welcome new ideas too.”
Have the right attitude
Spreckley Partners director Robin Campbell-Burt gives his take on what he looks for when he hires someone new to the industry. Robin said: “I look less at actual achievements and more at the character. When I interview people trying to get into the sector for the first time I am assessing whether, as each day passes, that they will become better at what they do. Being able to continually improve comes from a person’s character and their approach to work. When I find someone with the right attitude, I hire them.
“Things like internships, doing PR for their local sports club or whatever, all add to a sense of their character – but they are only indicators of their deeper motivation. So, my advice for people trying to break into the sector? Check your attitude and make sure that you approach everything you do with focus and determination – and continually learn from the feedback that you are given.”
Read, read and read some more
Down At The Social managing director Daisy Whitehouse, also gives an employer perspective. Daisy says: “I am blown away by how many interviewees tell me that they don’t read newspapers or magazines anymore. It’s the job, yes they appear in so many different formats these days but you have to know them and you have to love them!”
Experience is vital
Willoughby Public Relations account executive Amy Lehal recommends: “Take as many work experience opportunities as possible and make sure you keep journalist details. Having existing media contacts always looks good in interviews.”
Impression digital PR account executive Rebecca Smith-Dawkins explained how her experience in journalism has been invaluable to her PR career. She said: “Before I started my career in PR, I spent three years working as a reporter for a regional daily newspaper. There I learnt many transferable skills that I continue to use on a day-to-day basis in my current role – such as how to construct a well-written story/press release, and how to manage time pressures and work to, often short, deadlines.”
Head of PR & SEO at Dobell Keith White considers the role other kinds of experience can have in shaping your career. Keith says: “I feel that starting a career, even if in your earliest days, in a sales, or customer facing type role really helps with PR, as a great testing ground for your people skills. By the time you start in PR, you won’t be shy in talking to anyone, so you can build relationships and it allows you to take advantage of and create coverage opportunities.”
PR co-ordinator for WoolOvers Megan Mepham also points out that getting a variety of PR experiences is also key in planning what you want to do. She says: “If you can gather experience working both in-house and in an agency it will provide you with a clearer idea of which industry you are passionate about – whether that’s food, art, fashion or beauty, for example. Then you can make a more informed decision with which jobs you apply for once you graduate, which should be less overwhelming!”
Adia PR account director Eleanor Cheek points out that experience in PR is not the only option for those seeking a career in in-house PR. Eleanor suggests: “Work for the company you ultimately want to do the PR for even before there’s a PR role available. If you know the company/brand you love has an in-house team then start working with them early. Join the retail team, be on the shop floor and get to know how they work. Then, when roles come up at head office and you’ve finished studying you’ll be in a far better place than a graduate who doesn’t already know the business.”
A degree is not the only way
Radioactive PR account director Angharad Welsh suggests that a degree is not the only route into the industry. Angharad said: “Consider a PR apprenticeship instead of a PR degree – most of the best people I know in the industry don’t have PR degrees and some don’t have degrees at all. Learning on the job is a great way to get started.”
Get a mentor
Fourth Day Public Relations account executive Sapphire Rees recommends: “If you’re still at university, asking your careers service to ‘buddy you up’ with a graduate currently working in PR could help you to start making those all-important industry connections. You might even be able to shadow them for a day or two, which will give you a flavour of the job, as well as looking great on application forms. I had a fantastic mentor when I was in my final year, and she actually introduced me to the agency I work at now!”
Well, that wraps things up. In the next post we’ll look at tips for progressing your PR career. If there’s anything you think we missed or if you have any other advice or experiences to share do comment and let us know.