This guest blog comes from PR Fire a Press Release Distribution and Content Marketing Agency. Written by Director & Founder, Sam Allcock, he shares the knowledge he’s gained from 15 years in the industry.
Landing your first job can feel scary – especially if you’re doing a complete career change, or starting with no experience.
But it is possible; you can land a job in PR without tons of experience.
In fact, you’ve likely already got skills that can serve you in your first PR job. And, it’s easy to get some basic experience to prepare you for that first role.
In this guide, we’ll talk about:
Ready? Let’s get to it.
Before we dive in, let’s start by taking a look at a day in the life of a PR professional.
It’s a PR person’s job to take care of a brand’s image. It’s their responsibility to get coverage in media such as newspapers or online publications, and think of new and exciting ideas to help them raise awareness for the brand.
(PR agencies are the same, except you might be doing that for a range of different businesses.)
Somebody working in PR typically works on jobs like:
Everybody on your PR team cobbles together to get those tasks done. But, the exact tasks each individual person does depends on their role.
Typically, there are four types of jobs when it comes to PR:
There’s no doubt that working in PR means you’ll need to have a specific set of skills.
However, there is some good news: you probably already have those skills. You can pick them up through other non-PR-related jobs or side projects.
For example: an essential skill you’ll need for a successful PR career is communication. In your daily job, you’ll be talking on the phone with journalists, working with your team, and sometimes communicating with clients.
Poor communication can sabotage all of those tasks, and put your PR campaign on the back burner. Yet you might’ve already picked up and developed that skill from a previous job.
Somebody working in PR needs to be able to communicate not just face-to-face, but in written form, too.
You’ll be writing lots of content in your PR job, including emails, press releases, and coverage reports. Poor writing skills might mean you suffer with landing coverage, in the first place. After all, how can you land coverage for a press release that’s badly written?
The final important skill for a successful PR career is creativity. A huge part of your job is finding ways to secure coverage; you don’t always land that by taking the most obvious strategy.
For example: what happens when your great idea doesn’t perform as well as you’d expected? Or your press release gets overpowered by a breaking news story? Or your client pushes back on an idea you’re confident about?
Creativity will see you through all of those incidents.
Some universities offer degrees in public relations. They teach you the basics (like writing a press release and getting coverage), but also promise to dive deeper into psychology and brainstorm PR campaigns that are more likely to work, scientifically.
However, research shows that just 17% of PR practitioners have degrees in either PR or communications.
That’s because of the important skills we just talked about.
You can work on your writing, communication, and creativity skills with other jobs. They’re three versatile skills that you can develop from any job—hence why over half (57%) of people currently working in PR have degrees in a completely different subject.
The bottom line is that official PR qualifications don’t matter.
What’s more important is whether you’ve got the skills needed to be a successful PR executive—and the experience to back it up.
Ready to get your first PR job?
Even if you’ve got no experience (and aren’t really sure where to start), here are five simple steps to help you land your first job in public relations.
Earlier, we mentioned that most PR professionals don’t actually have a qualification in public relations. So, how did they land their job?
The answer: through experience.
Experience is everything when it comes to PR. The people hiring for their PR team want to know that the person has some idea of what they’re doing—it’ll give them some confidence knowing they’re hiring someone with the basics.
But here’s where the good news really comes in: you can land your first PR job without any professional experience. You can take your experience into your own hands, and start to build your knowledge without an official PR job.
For example, you can:
Once you’ve got some PR experience, you should start to focus on building relationships.
This includes relationships with journalists—the people who’ll give your business coverage on their newspaper or website.
The easiest way to do this is to start following journalists on social media. Look at the publications you’d love to get coverage on (such as The Mirror or The Lad Bible), then search LinkedIn to find journalists who work there. Start engaging with their posts.
That way, you start to build recognition with them—which could help secure coverage when you start pitching press releases to them.
But you should also start to build relationships with other people, too.
The saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” really comes into full force when you’re working in public relations.
Why? Because you can get coverage (and help with PR ideas) from your network.
Let’s say you’re writing a press release for a client, for example. You can use your network to get quotes from other people—potentially boosting the chances of getting coverage because your content seems less biased.
(The same applies in reverse: you can contribute quotes to other people’s press releases and get coverage or links off the back of it.)
Strong relationships are the best-kept secret in PR. Remember that before you start applying for your first PR job; it’s a huge advantage to have a black book of contacts when trying to beat other people for the same job.
You’ve got experience to back-up your skills. Next, you’ll need to search for a place to work (if you don’t already have one in mind, that is.)
You can find PR jobs by searching media job boards. Often run by the publications PR professionals read, it’s a great way to sift through job postings and see which companies are hiring.
Here are some popular PR job board options to help you get started:
Once you find one you like, shoot your CV and cover letter, making sure each plays to the skills and experience a hiring manager would want to see.
Managed to land an interview for a PR job you recently applied for? Awesome!
Next, you’ll need to do some research on the company itself. This will help you during the interview process—and make sure you’re not caught off guard by any questions. (It’ll help you show off, too, because you’ll be able to talk about them.)
The simplest way to do this is by figuring out where they get coverage, and which type of content they use to do so.
Head over to Google and search their brand name in quotation marks.
Then, select the “News” tab. This shows all the pieces of coverage they’ve secured which contains their brand name:
Applying to work at a PR agency? You should also look at their clients, and scan the agency’s website for tips that might help you during the interview.
This includes answers to questions like:
Knowing this before your interview means helps you prove you actually know what you’re talking about—even if you don’t have any PR experience.
Plus, you can prepare a list of questions to ask at the end of the job interview based on things you couldn’t find during your research.
Got an invite to interview? Great job—but you’re not finished yet.
You might have 8 other people interviewing for the same PR executive role. You’ll need to spend some time practising the common questions your interviewer might ask, including:
As you can see, landing your first job in PR doesn’t have to be daunting.
You can pull skills from other areas, and create your own experience, to help you get your first professional role. Just make sure to rely on your connections, research the company you’re applying to work for, and prepare for your interview.
There’s no reason why you can’t land your dream public relations job.
Written by Sam Allcock
Director & Founder of @prfire Press Release Distribution and Content Marketing Agency. As seen in @hubspot @marketingprofs @prweek and @smbizceo