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Guest Blog: Chris Measures, Getting into PR – where do you start?
Many people ask how I got into PR. And the answer is that I kind of stumbled into it, led by my ego. After working as Communications Officer for a student union, I liked the idea of talking to journalists (and seeing my name in print), enjoyed writing and had a genuine interest in learning new information.
Entering the PR industry is now a lot more difficult. Yes, there are more opportunities out there, particularly as PR has expanded into digital media and moved up the marketing food chain. But equally there are more and more people applying for them. So how do you stand out from the crowd and get that first interview, and then convince an agency that they should recruit you?
I’d break it down into five areas:
1. Is PR for you?
Before you start, find out what PR actually involves and see if you have the right personality to thrive. Despite what you’ve seen in Absolutely Fabulous (or The Thick of It), PR doesn’t involve constant champagne/swearing/swanning about or lurching from crisis to crisis. Take a look at guides, such as the one produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which talk about the skills you need, as well as sites such as Creative Front. Next, work out what sector you feel best suited to – PR spans industries such as B2B, technology, fashion and retail, as well as specialist offshoots such as investor relations or public affairs.
2. Build a portfolio
If you want to stand out, you need to prove you are interested and committed to PR. So look for opportunities to build a portfolio of work. Many agencies offer work experience programmes (some of which are paid), but there are plenty of other things you can do to build your CV. Offer to help local charities with their PR or do publicity for student clubs/organisations. Agencies want to see that you’re committed to PR and have done something about it. Personally, I don’t think you need a degree in PR to work in the industry, but be prepared to justify what you’ve learnt in your education that makes you right for the role.
3. Create a profile
Networking is a good way of making contacts. So if you land a role as an intern build your network through this and make sure you attend local PR events to meet people. In a digital world it is really simple to find, follow and interact with PR luminaries. Follow them on Twitter, engage in conversation and get involved in discussions on LinkedIn. Start your own blog (provided you can keep it going), and interact with other people’s blogs by commenting on posts. Like every form of networking, don’t be overly pushy but don’t be too shy either – build your brand so that you stand out.
4. Differentiate yourself
I lost count of the number of identical-looking CVs that crossed my desk when I was recruiting for large PR agencies. People want candidates with passion for PR, interest in the subject and who they’d like to work with. So make the most of your experience and think laterally. Include interests that will spark people’s curiosity. The number of interviewees I met who listed cooking or reading on their CV and then couldn’t name their favourite meal or book staggered me.
5. Prepare, prepare, prepare
In the age of the internet and social media, there’s no excuse for not being well-informed about the company you are applying to. Research current clients, recent successes and what makes the agency different and then craft an individual covering letter/email rather than relying on a generic approach. And if you do make it to interview stage use networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find out more about who you are going to meet, their backgrounds and the company generally. You should walk into the room full of information and able to use it to (politely) show why you are perfect for the job.
Getting into PR is a lot more difficult than it used to be – so you need to stand out if you want to succeed in entering the industry. While I can’t promise success, following the tips above should give you a fighting chance of taking the first step.
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