While gift of the gab and a bulging contacts book are, of course, all important to break into PR, it’s essential to have the industry knowledge to back it up too
Know your industry and stay ahead of the curve
If you’re passionate and serious about getting into PR, it’s essential to keep up to date with industry news and trends, so make sure you read all relevant trade press. Don’t forget websites too, there are loads of great blogs out there written by industry experts. It is a great way of staying ahead of the curve both in terms of developments within organisations as well as the industry itself. It will also really help you out at interviews as prospective employers will want to know that you’ve done your research outside of their company and that you have an understanding of how the industry works.
PR is all about communication, so if you’re not comfortable picking up the phone and chatting to people you’ve never met before then get comfortable and quick. You may end up working on a campaign which isn’t necessarily an easy sell, which means it might be harder to sell in to journalists, so you have to be pretty thick skinned, determined and enthusiastic – it’s no good going in with a defeatist attitude. Be confident when you speak to journalists, it’s really obvious when you’ve not committed to what you’re selling in. In order to get that confidence it helps to establish relationships, this will allow you to find out what sort of stories they’d be interested in and then targeting them accordingly. Ask you supervisor or mentor (if on a placement) to take you along to a media meet, if you work in events invite a journalist down to meet you or simply take them out for a coffee and find out more about them and what they’re working on.
Network, network, network
After all it’s a big part of working in PR. You need to be comfortable speaking and connecting with people. The digital age has really enhanced this for PR so sign up for professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn, join relevant groups, get involved in discussions and, most importantly, make connections. It’s also worth looking outside the digital sphere and going to industry seminars and industry events, many of which are run by guest speakers or lecturers at universities – they are they are great for getting face time with industry leaders.
It can be tough walking into these events with the intention of schmoozing with industry leaders so its good to come prepared. Swat up on campaigns that have recently been won and personnel movements – these can be really good conversation starters.
Don’t include everything you ever did in your portfolio
Having a decent portfolio is becoming increasingly important for PR professionals. Employers want to see that you can deliver and produce quality results so a portfolio is the best way to demonstrate this. It should be clean, simply laid out and structured by campaign making sure that both online and in print coverage are filed. You could even set up an online portfolio – it’s great for sending over in advance of an interview. Always keep hold of press releases too as it’s important to see the campaigns journey from start to finish as well as showcasing your writing skills. It’s wise to treat your portfolio in the same way you would a CV, keep it tidy and not too long – don’t include absolutely every scrap of coverage otherwise it will look messy – think of it as a best of and lay out all of your cuttings, then choose the strongest pieces. Also, remember to keep the content broad, so include regional press as well, not just national and product placement.