7 industry experts give their top tips for Public Relations graduates

I can hardly believe it. August is almost here, and for Public Relations graduates the hunt is now well and truly on for their first PR jobs. It’s time to get out there and start building a career! Your early roles can have a defining impact on your life, so it might be worth reading the advice of some of those who have risen to the top of the industry.

Here, we’ve put together solid, actionable pieces of advice from people who have been where you are today and gone on to do great things.

Michelle Garrett, Top 100 PR influencer

“Well, the biggest thing is to watch your attitude. Having an attitude (an air of entitlement) is a turnoff to ANY employer. Always be willing to go above and beyond and remember to be appreciative during (and after) your job hunt whenever anyone offers assistance to get you to your goal.

“Be sure to show off your best writing examples. Writing is a skill that will always be needed in PR, whatever industry or job function you may have. So, hopefully, during your college career, you’ve had opportunities to write during internships or perhaps in other capacities and have some examples to share.

“And, I’d say to mine your network for opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask your contacts for advice or introductions during your job search. LinkedIn is a great way to see who knows whom. If there’s a company you want to work for, check your LinkedIn network to see if any of your contacts work there–or know someone who does. Many times, professionals are happy to make introductions, especially if they know you have a strong reputation. This can make all the difference between just applying for a job cold or having an ‘in’.”

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Alastair McCapra, Chief Executive of Chartered Institute of Public Relations

“Public relations is an expanding, innovative industry with strong earning potential. That makes securing an entry role challenging. The best piece of advice I can give to graduates is to begin building a professional network. Social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter offer aspiring PR practitioners endless opportunities to connect with industry professionals.

“But rather simply connect with PR professionals, graduates should use those channels to share their own content. Blogging is an excellent idea for graduates because it sharpens writing skills and also allows you to assemble a portfolio of content for potential employees. Think of blogging as your products and social platforms as your shop window.”

Follow Alastair on Twitter.

Laura Sutherland, Aura PR

“Get experience and continue to learn; join a membership organisation like CiPR or PRCA and do continuous professional development. Learn other things related to business – it’s essential if you’re supposed to understand a client’s business or organisation.

“Ask someone you respect and consider a role model to mentor you. Develop a network of like minded people, follow Public Relations blogs, and make a habit of engaging the writer with your thoughts.

“Develop a specialism, don’t get bogged down trying to do it all. Lastly, love what you do! Don’t put out any work you’re not pleased with.”

Follow Laura on Twitter.

Kathryn Mason, Kathryn Mason | PR & Marketing

“Learn how to research, then research further! The skill of knowing your media is essential, it’s about getting to know how they write, what they write, what appeals to them and showing them you have paid attention.

“When pitching, less is more. Media are really busy, I know one radio producer who told me she gets about 300 emails per day on average. Stand out by making the introduction personal but then keep the pitch brief. Use bullet points, highlight key items, then go back and edit it down again. Read the pitch as you would it someone was sending it to you, why should it get coverage?

“Continue your professional development when you are in a job. Just because you specialise in one area, go to events or talks about another. Broadening your PR mind outside your chosen area will give you so many new ideas to use. You will be surprised at the inspiration you will get from a totally different field to the one you are in.”

Follow Kathryn on Twitter.

Paul Rhynard, The Crisis Communicator

“You’ve studied the theory – don’t cast it aside as you learn the practical application of your craft (though peers and supervisors may insist you should). I’ve found people in this business generally fall into one camp or the other; theory vs practical application. I’ve had a lot of success applying both. One supports the other. They are not mutually exclusive.

“Know what your communication objectives are and be able to explain why those objectives are valid before you start answering the who, where, when and, most importantly, how. If you can’t settle on the what or you’re unclear on the why, your decisions, strategies and tactics will fall off the mark.

“Business objectives trump communication objectives. Period. It’s not enough to simply grasp this concept philosophically, you need to be able to explain it. Getting an article in the weekly paper about the new facility coming online is great – congratulations; you’re now among the select few who have done something similar (by select few, I mean everyone.) Now be able to tie this placement directly to the operation success of the organisation and you’ll be on your way to pro status.

“Be nervous about making mistakes… but don’t be afraid to try. When I was training Coast Guard public affairs specialists I would tell my staff I wanted the new graduates to leave the school a little nervous about the job they were about to do, but confident enough in their training to know they could do it. It’s important (read: crucial) to volunteer for things outside your comfort zone. It’s okay (read: normal) to be afraid of failing but the fear shouldn’t stop you. Failing is still one of the best ways to learn. Remember, it’s not the failure that gets noobs fired or relegated to the phone desk, it’s how a young practitioner reacts and responds to failure.”

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Liz Bell, Liz Bell Media

“Show, don’t tell. Use your own professional website to showcase your writing, flair for content and visual style. Curate your social media platforms to show that you know what you’re talking about. Network like crazy and look for opportunities wherever you can. These are all skills that will be invaluable to your career, and practicing them publicly will do wonders for your employability.”

Follow Liz on Twitter.

Ciamh McCrory, Head of Digital at Insight Consultants.

“I think even the name ‘Public Relations’ gives away the answer here – relating messages to the public on behalf of people, brands and organisations; so the most important thing is network, network, network! Get to know as many people as you possibly can! Go to as many events as you can, go to organised networking events and network online.

“In fact, treat the online world as a networking event that is open 24/7 (and you can even do in your pyjamas if you want!) but don’t forget that the real art to networking is listening! Listen to what excites people, listen to what emotes people, and listen to what people want! The more you understand people, the more you will understand how to effectively communicate with them whilst at the same time, a hefty black book of contacts will be invaluable to you.”

Huge thanks to these busy communications pros for taking time out to share their advice with Public Relations graduates. Are you a PR graduate? Share your questions on job hunting after graduation below. If you’re a PR guru with a piece of advice to add, we want to hear it below in the comments section.

Follow Ciamh on Twitter.

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16 thoughts on “7 industry experts give their top tips for Public Relations graduates

  1. Danielle says:

    Fab read and tips, I bet it’s so competitive but a fantastic career to have, I regret I didn’t go down this sort of career path because it’s such an interest to me x

  2. Super Healthy Cooking says:

    I have participated in a networking event once and it was a very interesting experience. Reminded me of speed dating 🙂 Everyone wanted to hve chance to tlk a bit with everyone…and we were hundreds there 🙂
    I never heard about the online networking before. Could you give a link? I might check it out! 😀 Thx in advance!

  3. Joanna says:

    These are very good advice for people who want to pursue a career in PR. For them, networking events are crucial, as that’s where they will meet their future clients. I did take part in some in the past, but it wasn’t my cup of tea, as I am in a totally different field.

  4. Eugenia says:

    These are all such useful tips for those who want to work in Public Relations. Agree with Alastair McCapra blogging is a really great tool that helps to create a portfolio of content for potential employees. Love how she said ‘Think of blogging as your products and social platforms as your shop window.’ Followed him on Twitter!

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