Are you looking to score your first job in the public relations industry?
If so, let this article show how you can prepare yourself for a successful career in the public relations industry.
There’s lots of advice on how to get a job in any industry. “Create a great resume and put it out there,” they say. Not exactly the strategy of choice for an aspiring PR rockstar, right?
Most advice is a bit different.
PR jobs require a little more than a cover letter and a smile. Our industry tends to be very competitive and just showing up with your diploma in your hand won’t help you make the cut.
Therefore, you should check out these tactics:
Tactic 1: The Win-Win-Win Mindset
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to think win-win-win. Most people understand the concept of win-win, but it’s when it comes to win-win-win that magic starts to happen.
Here are three concrete examples of wins:
- Win 1: Benefits for the employer from hiring you.
- Win 2: Benefits for the clients of the employer from hiring you.
- Win 3: Benefits for your passions and ambitions — if you get the job.
Win-win-win is something you need to practice, either with a friend or in front of a mirror. The key here is to start with Win 1 or Win 2 and never lead with Win 3. Also, you should make sure always to emphasize Win 1 and Win 2 way more than you emphasize Win 3.
To focus on Win 3 is a common rookie mistake:
“You should hire me since I’ve always dreamt of doing the type of work you do.”
It’s commendable that you want the job and that you can see yourself doing it, but still, that part goes without saying. Instead, make sure you focus on Win 1 and Win 2:
- in your cover letter,
- on your personal domain page,
- on your LinkedIn page and
- in the interview.
Tactic 2: Develop Your Edge
As the new kid on the block, you’ll have a hard time getting the job based on your basic skill set alone. You haven’t yet learned the secrets of the trade since you haven’t practiced it. So you’re probably on equal footing with lots of other potential newbie recruits.
Therefore, you need an edge, something that will distinguish you from the competition.
So you need to make yourself memorable somehow. When companies discuss recruits, no one says things like “I like the person that had so darned good grades in school”. Now, here’s how people do talk:
- “I like that girl who had climbed a mountain on each continent.”
- “What about that guy who used to live in Africa?”
- “We should hire the one who used to be a professional poker player.”
So what will people say about you when you’re not there? Have you given them something that will make you easier to remember?
One guy contacted me to ask for advice on how to land a PR agency job. I asked him if he had any peculiar interests and he told me that he was a die-hard Starcraft gamer. So I told him to design his resume as a Starcraft bio. The people at the agency had no idea what Starcraft was of course, but this made them aware that maybe they needed a cool, young PR person who understood the in’s and out’s of the gaming universe. He landed the job.
Make sure that you have an edge for people to talk about in your absence.
Tactic 3: Give Your LinkedIn-Profile a Makeover
I’m not going to talk you through how to fill out your LinkedIn-profile. If you don’t know how to put in your details in a structured way, then PR might not be the career path for you.
However, I do have two pro-tips for you:
- Your profile should show a clear direction. A distinctive and deliberate forward motion in your life. Employers look for a storyline in your career path. If they can see that you’re constantly moving forward, that will flatter them that you see their brand as a deliberate step forward in your career.
- Hustle for recommendations. It will make your profile come to life.
Tactic 4: Be Ready to Pitch Yourself
When you get a chance, you need to be able to take it.
When I was looking for a job myself back in the day, a friend of mine introduced me at a cocktail party to his boss, a big shot PR CEO. My friend introduced me as the greatest PR writer no one had ever heard of. The CEO looked me dead in the eye, pulled up his cell phone and said to me that he had no less than ten excellent writers he could call right that second.
And then he paused before asking me, “what do you have that my writers don’t?”
Unprepared as I was, I didn’t have a response for him. And I didn’t exactly land that particular opportunity.
Here’s the thing. Of course, I couldn’t possibly know what I had over some random writers in this CEO’s network. But in competitive business environments, there are times when you need to step up to the plate and take a swing.
When these situations occur today, my brain switches gears in a nanosecond, and I come out blazing. If someone asks to hear your pitch — you pitch. If you can sell yourself, how will you be able to convince anyone that you can help them pitch their brand to anyone?
Do this before you end up in a pitching situation:
- Be prepared to pitch yourself in 10 seconds, 20 seconds and 30 seconds — practice.
Also, check out:
- How To Sell (For People Who Don’t Like To Sell)
Tactic 5: Be Passionate about Your Goals
Don’t pretend to be interested, be interested. And make sure you have at least some knowledge to validate your passion. A good hiring manager can taste your authenticity in the air, so don’t try to fake this. We all get easily seduced by passionate people. We respect and admire their passion.
A common problem for rookies is that they want a job mostly because they’re scared that their education and hard work won’t mount up to anything in the end. They communicate fear instead of passion.
So how do you get into a passionate mindset? Turn a blind eye to your fears?
Passion flows from your goals. Be as worried as you feel that you need to be, but make sure that you take a long walk (or series of walks!) and find out what your professional objectives are. Step into those goals, visualize them and live them inside your mind until you fall in love with your vision of who you want to be as a professional.
Personally, I wanted to influence people; that was my passion. That’s still where my passion comes from. Any day I can influence someone, maybe light a spark in someone’s eyes — that’s a good day for me.
Tactic 6: Learn How to Write
There are tons of potentially useful skills you can bring to the table, especially in this day and age. But no skill in PR will be more helpful to you than being able to communicate through written words.
I’ve written about this in more detail here:
Tactic 7: Hunt Opportunities Down
So mostly I’ve been talking about how to set yourself up for success. But I haven’t been addressing the most pressing matter at all yet. How on earth do you even get in touch with the right people at the right time? Browsing ads for public relations jobs are one way to go, but then what?
Now, I’m not one of those douchebags who will recommend you to start cold-calling agencies or even worse — advising you to make unannounced appearances at their doorsteps. Don’t.
But you’ll need to hustle. To hustle means to leave no stones unturned, to care less about the odds of success and to do whatever you can do, no matter how big and small.
I’ll leave you with this hustle checklist for landing a PR job:
- Are you on their mailing list?
- Are you tracking their social media channels?
- Are you going to the same events they go to?
- Do you know the names of the people working there?
- Are you making insightful comments on their blog?
- Are you sharing their messages (they probably have monitoring software, too)?
- Can you get someone who knows them to put in a word for you?
- Who can introduce you to the right person?
- Have you been blogging wisely about their important case studies?
- Can you pitch yourself into a trade news story or an influencer blog post in which you namedrop them as your dream brand to work for?
- Can you pitch them a series of awesome guest blog posts on their blog?
- Are you attending their events?
And so on.
Getting into public relations can be daunting, but it’s one of the most exciting jobs in the world if you’re passionate about communication, building relationships, and behavioral psychology.