As originally discussed on the Prohibition PR website, setting that first foot onto the career ladder can be quite daunting in this era of extreme job competition. University students often come to realise that the world of PR is quite different to how they understood it whilst learning in lecture halls. Just a fresher, recently graduated or with no experience of anything at all – these three things can seem to limit your opportunity to bag yourself a job in the PR industry.
But worry not, there is always something that can be done, after all, nobody is born with experience in public relations! Reading the latest news, being efficient in the art of self-promotion and a CV overflowing with creativity are just some of the things that can help you get your big chance.
Here are a few things that you can focus on, to stand apart from the rest of the crowd, with no PR experience at all:
BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
An impressive social media presence through blogs, online articles or a high following on Facebook, Instagram, and other key platforms can play an important role in getting you your first job. All you need to do is to prove your proficiency in using these platforms but in a more business-centric manner. Every organisation is brand conscious these days and when they see potential in you to manage their brand voice well, this will certainly help your chances. Lindsey Smolan tells her readers here to treat your brand as your job.
Even using social channels like Tumblr, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Vine can help you bag some extra points as you show the employer you use more than just the usual suspects.
Demonstrating your understanding of these platforms to get genuine website traffic to your personal blog is one of the things that interests PR interviewers the most. If you have used these platforms during an internship or on other work experience, to create an audience for a brand is even better – so make sure you raise that with the interviewer. Having a strong understanding of using analytics is a huge plus too!
Talking about what you love the most is a great way to land you your first job in PR, and guess what, it doesn’t need to be public relations, or worst still “I love communicating”. You can’t pretend to love something that easily, and content which is engaging, compelling and has its own way to stand out from the rest is key – the best way to make engaging content is to be actually engaged.
Your content can be done any way you like; blogs, guest posts, podcasts, or a vlog on your favourite YouTube channel. If it’s done correctly it can leave your “digital footprint” in the minds of the interviewers.
All you have to do here is decide what you can create interesting content about, decide a medium in which you would like to share it, and reach out to the like-minded people. It’s your genuine passion about the topic which will make all the difference; the more passionate you are, the more authentic the content will be and the further your story will reach. All of this will mean you have more chance towards potential employment in the world of PR.
In combination with your ability to find ideas for creating content, you should also work on improving your overall writing skills – writing is everything in this PR game. If you are a wordsmith, a job in the field of PR can be a rewarding experience for you, but as well as this, candidates with better writing skills have more chances of bagging a dream job in this sphere. If you’re struggling for ideas on where to start getting your written work noticed, try writing advice or opinion pieces for your university’s website or newsletter. They’re always open to new features, and this gives you a recognisable name to work alongside.
BE CAREFUL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
In today’s fast paced world, social media is where people and candidates “claim” to be themselves online. Students in particular often define their online presence by the pages they like, the brands they follow, and the memes and videos they interact with – whether good or bad. As many as 70% of employers now look at the candidate’s social media profiles, according to Career Builder. In fact, I would say it is higher than that – I look at every candidate before I meet them and try to find out something interesting about them before they walk through the door. The job isn’t the interesting bit – it is the character of the person that is of most interest.
The employer will look at what you post, how often you do it and whether you present yourself online in an appropriate and professional manner. If your social profile backs up your educational qualifications and your views on a particular topic, then it all adds up but if it doesn’t then it can seriously harm your chances of even getting the interview. In short everything online is usually screened – so you need to be aware of this. Career Builder recently revealed that about 54% of employers found content on social media that caused them not to hire candidates and that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.
Your social profile can be the key to what lands you your dream job in PR or if presented wrongly it can take away your one and only chance. But this doesn’t mean that you clean your account before the interview, deleting all those terrible profile pictures and posts. An online ghost (terrible term) is also not what they want. You just need to take this all into consideration, what have you talked about recently – is it suitable to discuss with an employer? Would you be embarrassed if they read it? If it is suitable and you don’t mind then it will be fine.
RESEARCH AND LEARN CASE STUDIES
Preparation is key to any interview and knowing at least three case studies of interesting and successful PR campaigns gives you some extra material to talk about in your interview. Even better, learn some case studies of the company you are going to meet – what do you like about them? What do you think could have made them work better? Have an opinion but be constructive.
Doing your wider research also demonstrates your broader appreciation of the industry and the successful components of the campaign. The worst thing you can do in a PR interview is not have any campaigns you like or respect. I know because I did it – in my first interview and I never did it again.
One of the best known case-studies would be the Best Job in the World campaign. Learn about it in detail; highlight and critically analyse it and know about the smaller campaigns which successfully met its objectives.
A job in PR will not walk up to you or be given to you on a plate – you have to go for it and grab it yourself! Likewise, your efforts should not end with just sending in your CV. That is not the best way to communicate is it?
Remember that PR agencies are busy and often they don’t have the time to respond to every CV – at Prohibition, we receive around 10 a week. Some PR firms in London will get thousands of them. What do you have to do to stand out? Do you want to be one of the thousands that tell the employer they “love communicating”? No, you have to show you are passionate and persistent about it and demonstrate why the hell they should employ you. Call them up first before your email, take follow up details, ask them to interview you, just contact them over and over to make sure they notice that you exist. Obviously, this is within reason but don’t just send your CV blind copied across to 30 agencies and sit back and wait for a response because in our experience it isn’t going to come back.
Melanie Wallner at DateMySchool made an interesting comment:
“Similar to how editors may not respond to your press release or story idea, your dream job’s founders may be too busy to ping you back. Follow up, offer to take them out for coffee, and understand that you may have to negotiate your terms to benefit their needs.”
INTERVIEW WELL AND IMPRESS STRAIGHT AWAY
An outstanding CV and covering letter surely makes a statement, but when your confidence and communication skills fail to back it up, that is when you can lose your opportunity. Be very confident and presentable. Show them that you are just what they had been looking for.
Karen Myers, the director of corporate communications at IPC Media, commented, “On paper, they look great, but at the interview stage a lot of candidates are not so articulate and are far less rehearsed in their presentation skills.”
An interview is the real challenge that you have to face, because it is going to show the interviewer your true self, and if you are capable enough for the job profile.
Most PR professionals consider networking as one of the most important skills to possess – I mean if you can’t communicate with other people then you have no hope of dealing with cynical journalists. However, there is still a lot to learn in how to get the most from networking as this article shows.
With strong networking skills you will stand the chance to bagging the big job with a reputed PR firm. Also, try establishing relationships with people who are already in the industry so that if there is a window and enough work going, they can recommend you for the job. Overall, the connections you build in the first couple of years can really help you define a better career path of yourself. You never know who you are going to bump back into in this industry so be nice to everyone as it is smaller than you think.
Putting all of these tips into practice won’t guarantee you a job in our rather competitive industry but it will surely help you to present yourself better and should help you get a higher success rate with potential employers. The main thing is to make sure you stand out from the crowd, there are hundreds of people applying every day and you need to show these companies why they should hire you and why you want to start a job without experience.
If you are interested in more tips for work experience in PR then we have covered the following topics on the Prohibition PR blog before:
- TOP TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL WORK EXPERIENCE IN PUBLIC RELATIONS.
- QUICK TIPS WHEN DOING WORK EXPERIENCE IN A PR AGENCY
- TOP TIPS FOR GETTING A JOB IN A LEEDS PR AGENCY
- THE ‘MICKY MOUSE’ DEGREE. ARE QUALIFICATIONS HOLDING BACK COMMUNICATORS?
Written by Chris Norton
About Chris Norton
Founder of Prohibition, listed in the world’s top 30 marketing bloggers and an award winning online PR and crisis management specialist. Co-author of Share This Too.
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