How to get a job in PR? This is the million dollar question, but first of all, do you want to be in PR? If you have grand illusions that you will be:
A) Eddie from Ab Fab – ‘Everybody’s there, everybody! Big names you know. Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Gaultier, darling. Names, names, names.’
B) Samantha from Sex and the City – ‘I’m in PRRRR. Translation, I give great head.’
C) Helen from Sliding Doors – ‘Bull shit, bull shit. We’re in PR that’s what we do isn’t it?’
D) Bridget Jones – ‘I thought you wouldn’t really miss the girl who waltzes-in in a see through top who just fannies around with the press releases’
Think again! As much as we would like to be constantly quaffing the bolly, air kissing and up all night having fun with Smith Jared, for every three months you work, you might have one really fun event. The rest of the time you’ll be working hard. It will be split into work at a computer or looking at strategy, work socialising, networking, and spending time on social media. So from the start if you don’t like socialising, or you’re not interested in looking at PR as a business to achieve long term goals ….this may not be the career for you! Also consider how you communicate, are you clear? Concise? Can you sell? We are after all glorified salesmen, we just wear better outfits and use creative thinking to reinvent the wheel. Finally, there are many different strands to marketing so be open to opportunities that come your way, you never know where you might end up. So if you’ve read my cautionary notes, and still want to proceed, here’s what to do.
Read everything. Read books, magazines, newspapers and blogs. Read the good, bad and the ugly. My politics tutor told me to read the Guardian for good sense and The Sun for good headlines, because believe it or not, the writing style of The Sun is a skill with witty headlines and a very defined language. You’ll need a genuine interest in storytelling if you’re to become a PR guru so even if you don’t understand everything, take an interest in the world around you and skim the headlines at the very least.
As Tony Blair said ‘education, education, education’. You don’t have to have a degree or a zillion A levels to be a PR supremo but it helps. You don’t have to get a degree in PR to get a job in PR. I’d be more likely to hire someone great with an English Degree than a average looking Fashion marketing graduate so don’t get too fixated on having to ‘study’ PR. If you’re still undecided on your exact career path, I’d suggest a core set of A levels or degree, however a PR focused degree will probably have an in-built module for work experience, where you can take your theory into practice. Of course it is always possible to be a PR without qualifications…if you want to dive in, move on to the next point.
There is no substitute to the real thing. It is hard to get work experience, really hard. You have to write, email, phone and cajole. But get what you can. I’m a big believer in work experience. I was dead set on a career in journalism until I did a two week stint on my local paper. After being sent to ‘interview a dog which has had a beer named after it’….I decided it wasn’t the career for me. And it doesn’t have to be sexy either – my first PR experience was for an agency which handled MFI. Three months after trying to make kitchens sound appealing and I was still there, I knew it was the career for me. I do hate the way a lot of work experience is unpaid but if you can afford even a week, it will be worth it in the long run.
4) Social Media.
It seems like my answer to everything these days is ‘get on Twitter’ but it makes getting hired and visible even easier. First of all, do join Twitter. Don’t swear, don’t talk too much about Justin Bieber (god love him) and get yourself a profile picture that you wouldn’t be afraid to show your gran. Write something sensible in the biography – perhaps how you’re an aspiring PR and link it to your Linked In profile. Don’t have a Linked In profile? Get one. Add any experience or even about what you studied to get noticed.
Know anyone who knows someone who knows anything? Then it’s time to call that favour in. PR is all about connections so start as you mean to go on. If your mum works in the Head Office at Arcadia, start there, can you do work experience? Pretty much anyone you know will know or have a PR and Marketing team or have a friend of a friend who works in an agency – start talking and see who else you can talk to. This will also help you decide which side of the industry you want to work in. Make sure you network on social media too. Engage with agencies, other PRs and people working in the industry you’re aiming for. Also attend any events or conferences you might get invited to…you never know who you might meet.
6) Apply. Properly.
First up you’ll need a Curriculum Vitae so take a look at my Naked Tips on How To Write a PR & Marketing CV. To check out PR and marketing jobs, use Linked In and Twitter. And follow agencies, recruiters and job boards including PR Week. Also try normal job places where you can upload your CV like Reed and Guardian jobs. Try and be clear and jargon free. If you find a job perfect for you and want to apply, take a little extra time to write a compelling covering letter referencing why you would like to work at that specific company. When I was looking to move to London, the competition was so fierce I would write a press release for each company I would apply for based on their current season stock, just to show my skills and stand out. Go that extra mile if you can.
7) Don’t give up.
Be persistent. This industry is varied. Maybe you’ll start out wanting to be a fashion PR but end up working in marketing for a cinema…and maybe that way you’ll spend your time greeting movie stars. I almost didn’t go for the interview at Mamas & Papas because i didn’t think I’d fancy all the ‘baby stuff’…but it was fantastic, I worked with A-list stars and was very lucky to work there. So dream big but be flexible is my advice, and keep trying, your dream job might be just around the corner.
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