PR was always one of those professions I had my eye on, whilst also having next to no idea what was involved. The reasons behind this were rational; I like writing and I knew that writing press releases was part of the job and I like buying things (believe me, the Bullring can testify to that). So I figured, using writing to promote products and services whilst leading a relatively glamorous life in London would suit me fine.
So when I was invited to a PR networking day hosted by the PRCA in Manchester with another Careers Network student team member, I was pretty excited. Pencil skirt on and heels in a bag (it was snowing, I didn’t want to risk it), I was keen to learn more and charm my way into the industry.
The speakers were keen to make sure that none of us laboured under the delusion that this was going to be an easy profession. The news never stops, and whether you’re an agency or an in-house PR team, it is your job to stay on top of it before anyone else. They described sleeping with their phone under their pillow in case any stories broke overnight. There is enormous pressure to deliver on campaigns that you have been entrusted and paid to manage. You need to have endless resources of creativity and innovation, whilst also being meticulously organised and patient with clients. And perhaps most challengingly of all, you need to be able to earn column inches, not buy them; courting the press and maintaining great relations with industry publications and channels is a must. There isn’t much room for off-days!
There were some positive things that shone through; everyone that spoke truly loved their jobs. Whether it was seeing their words in print, or dealing with high-profile clients, or simply being busy and thriving on the fast pace of the industry, they reiterated, ‘it’s a great job, and now is a great time to be in it.’ They were all so friendly, and spoke of amazing career progression – work hard, and you can be an account manager within a few years. They showed us some amazingly clever and well executed campaigns, and explained how to deal with a PR crisis – horsemeat, anyone? And most importantly, we were given a few tips on breaking in:
– Work experience is everything, even for a few weeks. Get as much experience as you can.
– Research each company you apply for and don’t think that a CV designed for PR will be a ‘one-size fits all’.
– Read PR publications (PR Week, the Holmes Report etc) to stay informed.
– Understand social media as a PR tool, but be aware of how you come across online – employers do check Facebook and Twitter.
– Make a good first impression; address your cover letter and CV to the correct person, check for spelling mistakes, arrive ten minutes before an interview, smile and be polite to the receptionist.
– Once you’ve got a job; work hard, be enthusiastic and remember no job is too small.
PR as a career is challenging. If you’ve got great interpersonal skills, good writing ability and a pro-active attitude with smart time management, the rest can be learnt on the job. The rewards are amazing, and after the initial shock, a career in PR began to look better and better. It may be that my skills suit copywriting or journalism more, as there are still aspects of PR that seem daunting but it was only through exploring PR that I know what it entails and understand how it might fit in with my future. My advice to anyone unsure of where they’re going is, look into as many different careers as you can; the more you know, the more likely you’ll find the one that really suits you
Olivia, Final Year Theology student