Public relations (PR) is a field that involves garnering publicity and media attention. Professionals in PR coordinate activities such as events, meetings, speaking engagements, educational programs and other forms of communication to engage the target market through the media.

PR careers range from beginning internships and agent positions to six-figure managerial/executive positions at large organizations. PR is regarded as a wide career path because careers can involve several different types of specialties (publicist, copywriter, social media manager, PR specialist, spokesperson) and employers (nonprofit, education, entertainment, health care, government).
 

PR careers range from beginning internships and agent positions to six-figure managerial/executive positions at large organizations

 
A successful PR career requires strong communication, writing and promotional skills, and these are the types of qualities and knowledge that employers will look for in candidates.

How to Get Into PR

Develop a Portfolio

“Having a decent portfolio is becoming increasingly important for PR professionals,” Jon Gloyne, senior PR recruiter/director at talent search agency 6 Degrees Talent, said in The Guardian. “Employers want to see that you can deliver and produce quality results so a portfolio is the best way to demonstrate this.” He offers a few tips for developing a strong portfolio.

  Structure the portfolio by campaign types, making sure that online and print tasks are covered.

•  Press releases are a strong way to showcase writing skills and a campaign’s journey.

•  Keep the content broad, which includes not just national press and product placement but regional press as well.

•  Consider setting up an online portfolio, which is great for sending in advance of an interview.

Most importantly, candidates should keep a close eye on the portfolio’s length and keep it up to date. “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,” Gloyne added.

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Secure Internships or Volunteering Opportunities

Internships and other ways to get experience are integral. Experts routinely point to this step for explaining how to get into PR.

“When faced with a decision, I will almost always choose the applicant with relevant internships. School teaches you a lot, but there is nothing like on-the-job experience — especially in PR,” according to Ilana Zalika, co-founder and principal of PR and marketing agency Resound Marketing, in Adweek. “It’s fast-paced and requires multi-tasking, quick thinking, and accountability.”

If internships aren’t an option, candidates should consider volunteering for causes and companies to gain relevant experience.

Maintain Industry Knowledge

Candidates need to stay current in industry news and events. “An understanding of the media landscape, both off and online is key, as these are the people you’ll be pitching your stories and ideas to,” Lisa McCabe, PR manager for the British Red Cross, told The Guardian.

This type of information also comes into play when interviewing. “Be hungry for information — read the news — have an understanding of current affairs and the wider world. I always ask at interview what newspapers people read, and what three things have struck them recently from the news agenda,” added Tracey Barrett, founding director of BlueSky PR, in The Guardian.

Candidates should consider attending industry seminars and events to gain a better understanding of PR. This has the added benefit of leading to networking opportunities, which can result in employment leads and additional connections.

Hone Emotional Intelligence

All types of workers can benefit from high emotional intelligence, or emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), because research has proved that professionals with higher EQs work better in groups, according to Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR, in Adweek. As a result, potential PR professionals should concentrate on developing their EQ given how common teamwork is in the industry.

EQ describes a person’s ability to recognize emotions, understand their effect and use that information to guide thinking and behavior, according to author Justin Bariso in Inc. He offered seven steps for people to develop core EQ skills.

1. Reflect on your own emotions. Consider how you respond to criticism, events that test your patience and times when others are vulnerable. “By first identifying your own emotions and reactions, you become more mindful and start the process of building control,” Bariso said.

2. Ask others for perspective. Ask a significant other, close friend or coworker how you are viewed. For instance, you could ask a specific question about how you reacted in an a emotional state. Answers you receive can help you gauge how you’re perceived and how you can adjust in certain types of interactions.

3. Be observant. Proceed from the previous step with what you’ve learned. Use it to be more observant of your emotions, reflecting on new discoveries.

4. Use “the pause.” Take a moment to stop and think before you act or speak. Use this framework in more difficult moments to help manage stress, negative emotions and upsetting situations.
 

Additional education can be a strong asset for candidates trying to get into PR. A master’s degree can teach prospective PR professionals advanced communication skills that can set them apart from the competition.

 
5. Explore the “why.” Many people agree that empathy and compassion are important to relationships. However, these factors can be lacking when someone is going through a difficult time. It can be extremely challenging to put yourself in another person’s shoes; this is called the “perspective gap.” To counter it, Bariso provides a few questions that can help you see the situation from the other person’s eyes.

•  Why does this person feel the way (s)he does?

•  What is he or she dealing with that I don’t see?

•  Why do I feel differently than (s)he does?

6. When criticized, don’t take offense. Instead, ask: “What can I learn?” Criticism can be difficult to hear. “But the truth is, criticism is often rooted in truth—even when it’s not delivered in an ideal manner,” Bariso said. “When you receive negative feedback, there are two choices: You can put your feelings aside and try to learn from the situation, or you can get angry and let emotion get the best of you.” Do your best to learn from the other person’s perspective, even if you need to ignore how that perspective was delivered.

7. Practice, practice, practice. Consistently practice these steps to begin harnessing the power of emotions.

Consider Additional Education

Additional education can be a strong asset for candidates trying to get into PR. A master’s degree can teach prospective PR professionals advanced communication skills that can set them apart from the competition.

Salary

PR is a broad field and salary will depend on the role, size of the organization and level of experience. Public relations specialists earn a median annual wage of $58,020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public relations and fundraising managers earn $107,320.


 

Enhancing Career Opportunities in PR

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