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Whether you’re just out of college or looking to make a career change, getting started in any new field is tough and PR can be especially challenging. It is also extremely rewarding if you can get a foothold. We love to see new people joining our profession, so here are a few tips.
Know What Modern PR Is
We here from clients that all too often, candidates for PR positions seem to have failed to notice that it is 2016. The practice of PR today is very different than it was even 10 – 15 years ago. Relationships and earned media are still important, but data and owned media are the fuel of modern PR. Successful candidates will be able to articulate the roles that technology and measurement play for PR professionals.
Learn the Vocabulary
Like any industry, PR is full of lingo, acronyms and terms that are unique to it. Take the time to read current publications and get familiar with the words and phrases you will need to know to fit in. What’s the difference between earned, owned and paid media? What’s an embargo? What’s meant by reach and sentiment? These and many others are words and concepts that you’ll need to be familiar with.
You should do enough research on PR programs and campaigns that you can share an opinion on some that worked well and a few that failed and be able to give an explanation about why. In a lot of cases, there is no right or wrong, but it is important that you be able to apply your own experience and logic.
Prove You Can Connect
Making connections with members of the media, influencers, potential customers and others in your space is a big responsibility for PR pros. You’ll improve your credibility greatly if your social networks include a good number of high-value connections. It is wise to join relevant LinkedIn groups and participate in conversations about PR and your target industry.
Nail Your First Pitch
Think of your first introduction to any company you’d like to join as your first media pitch. Whether it is a resume and cover letter, online application or email to a potential hiring manager, craft your message in a way that stands out and spells out exactly why you would be a valuable member of the team. It is also essential to make the pitch specific. Reveal that you know something about the company that makes you believe you are the perfect fit. Never use generic, “Dear Sir or Madam” type language. With so much information readily available, that’s just a sign of pure laziness.
Today, many, if not most, PR jobs are filled through connections, rather than traditional job postings. Think about your network of friends, colleagues and past co-workers. Does anyone that you know have a connection to someone in the field that might be able to make an introduction for you? If so, you may be able to use that connection to bypass the standard application process.
Ask Smart Questions
When you do secure the interview, spend as much time thinking about which questions you will ask as you do thinking about how to answer the ones posed to you. Inquire about the organization’s PR strategy, tactics and goals. Get to the heart of what they expect out of the role you are considering and ask them to define exactly how your work would be measured.
Follow General Job Search Best Practices
As with any job, if you are applying for one in PR you’ll need to:
- Use clear, concise and compelling language on your resume or any other material you submit. This is a communications job after all, so have someone proofread it if possible to avoid deadly grammar or spelling errors.
- Follow up promptly, but don’t be a stalker. You certainly want to thank every interviewer right away and it is ok to follow up once or twice if you don’t hear back, but eventually silence means no.
- Research the companies you are targeting and the individuals who will be involved in the decision. Step into the interview armed with enough information about the interviewer’s background to have a meaningful and personal conversation.
These are all important tips, but perhaps the most important is this … don’t give up. If you really want to establish yourself in PR, you may need to fight for it, but that’s what PR is really all about.