5 tips for starting a career in PR

Darcy Nathan, Editorial assistant
November, 2023

If you're passionate about communication, storytelling, and building relationships, then a career in public relations (PR) could be a perfect fit for you

In today's competitive landscape, businesses need to have a strong public image to succeed. This has led to a surge in demand for skilled PR professionals who can help companies build and maintain positive reputations.

However, the PR industry is also highly competitive, so it's important to take steps to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Build your social media presence

While a strong academic background in a subject such as English, history, philosophy, or digital marketing can  provide a solid foundation for a career in PR, it's equally important to actively engage with the industry and build meaningful connections.

Your social media presence, particularly on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, offers a valuable opportunity to showcase your expertise, network with potential employers, and demonstrate your passion.

By actively engaging on social media, you can:

  • Connect with PR professionals and agencies - follow PR professionals, agencies, and industry publications to stay updated on the latest news, trends, and job opportunities. Engage with their posts, share relevant content, and participate in discussions to establish your presence in the PR community.
  • Showcase your expertise - share insightful articles, industry analysis, and case studies to demonstrate your knowledge and thought leadership. Create original content, such as infographics or videos, to showcase your creativity and communication skills.
  • Network with potential employers - identify PR agencies and companies that align with your interests and aspirations. Follow their social media accounts, engage with their content, and subtly express your interest in working for them.
  • Build your personal brand - cultivate a professional online presence that reflects your personality and interests. Share relevant articles, industry insights, and personal reflections to establish yourself as a thought leader and an asset to the PR industry.

Choose to study public relations

A specialised PR degree is a direct path into the industry, providing the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. Joint PR and marketing/business courses give you a broader understanding of the business landscape and how PR integrates with other marketing strategies.

If you have a different degree or want to deepen your PR knowledge, a Masters degree in PR can enhance your expertise and career prospects. These programs offer an in-depth exploration of reputation management, communication strategies, and the ever-evolving PR landscape.

Postgraduate PR programs offer a deeper understanding of theory and practice, enhanced employability, and networking opportunities. Masters programs also offer internships, preparing you for your first PR role.

Some examples of courses include:

  • MA Corporate Communications, Marketing and PR, Leeds University Business School - this program focuses on modern corporate communications and its intersection with PR and marketing.
  • MA Public PR, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London - this 15-month program is designed for both PR professionals and graduates with strong communication skills and degrees in other subjects.

To discover what Masters are available, search postgraduate public relations courses.

Get PR experience

Getting experience and building a portfolio are key to starting a PR career. To build a portfolio, you can collect samples of your work, such as press releases, social media posts, blog articles, and event planning materials. You could also create a website or online portfolio to showcase your work and ask for testimonials from past clients or colleagues.

Some other ways to gain experience include:

  • volunteering at a local PR agency or non-profit organisation
  • interning at a PR agency
  • freelancing for PR clients
  • start your PR blog or podcast.

To succeed in PR, you must be able to communicate verbally and in writing. This means being able to craft clear and engaging messages that resonate with your target audience, regardless of whether they are reading or listening.

There are several ways to develop your communication skills:

  • Read widely and often, paying attention to the writing style of journalists, PR professionals, and other communicators you admire.
  • Practice speaking in front of an audience, such as by giving presentations at work or volunteering to speak at events.
  • Write different types of content, such as press releases, social media posts, and emails. Ask others to review your writing and give you feedback

Learn more about gaining media work experience.

In the ever-evolving field of PR, staying up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies is essential for success.

PR professionals must be adaptable and agile to navigate the ever-changing landscape, ensuring their strategies remain relevant and effective in an increasingly complex media environment.

One way to stay ahead of the curve is to continuously learn about the industry and embrace new technologies.

To stay up-to-date and adaptable:

  • Read industry publications and blogs to stay informed about the latest news, trends, and best practices.
  • Attend industry events and conferences to network with other professionals, learn from experts, and see new technologies in action.
  • Take online courses and workshops to develop new skills and learn how to use new technologies effectively.

Tailor your PR CV and cover letter

 Be sure to highlight the skills and experience that are most relevant to the specific PR position you are applying for.

You should quantify your accomplishments, such as the number of media placements you've secured or the increase in social media engagement you've achieved. Instead of simply listing job duties, provide specific examples of your successes in securing media placements, developing and executing PR campaigns, and managing client relationships.

For instance, instead of stating 'managed social media accounts,' quantify your achievements by mentioning 'increased social media engagement by 20% within six months,' or 'secured 15 media placements in top-tier publications.'

Find out more

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