10 Steps to Nailing a Killer Career in PR

public relations

PR is changing. Gone (for the most part) are the days of endless media relations and measurement using AVEs. So far, so obvious.

And so whether you’ve been in the industry for five years or you’re looking for your first role, you need to adapt your skill set and the way you position yourself if you want to forge a successful, long-term career in the industry. When I recruit new people, there are certain things I look for that go way beyond education or previous experience or even attitude. Those things are still important, but they’re balanced by less ‘obvious’ factors.

I was interested in whether my own recruitment preferences are reflected elsewhere. So I asked a friend of mine, Steve Ward from CloudNine Social & Digital Media Talent, what he’s commonly asked for by PR agencies. Below are our combined thoughts on what you must do if you want to be successful in the ‘new world of PR’.


Learn the Basics of SEO and Mobile

The worlds of PR, SEO and digital marketing are colliding more and more with every passing week. Which means that the role of a PR consultant is only going to become increasingly digital in the future. At the moment you can just about get by in PR without understanding SEO or the impact of mobile, but it won’t be like that for much longer. Make an effort to get to grips with how Google works and to understand how to optimise content for the web and for mobile, and you’ll stand out from those who don’t.

Get on Twitter

The news breaks on Twitter. Fact. If you’re still getting your news fix from the TV or (lord forbid) the newspapers, you’re way behind the curve. To be really successful in PR you need more than a simple working knowledge of ‘how to tweet’. If I’m going to hire you I want to be sure that you know how to use Twitter to track topics, brands, conversations and influential people. I want to see that you know how to build a network. And if you’ve already got an engaged network of industry professionals, journalists and bloggers, you’ve got a head start on those who haven’t.

Read, Read, Read

The worlds of PR and social communications move very fast. Developments and campaigns come and go in the blink of an eye, and the only way to keep up with them is to be an avid reader by subscribing to blogs and news sites. If I ask you what your favourite story is from the last couple of weeks and you either can’t tell me or you recite back the Oreo Super Bowl tweet from 2013, I’m not going to be impressed. Although, not as unimpressed as if you don’t even know what the Oreo Super Bowl tweet was…

Get Up-to-Date on your Tech

Given that PR is evolving and social media moves so fast, you have to enable your career as best you can. The good news is that there are plenty of technological solutions to the problems you’re facing in the form of online and mobile apps. For example, feedly is a brilliant RSS reader for blogs; zite and flipboard deliver the latest news straight to your mobile; current.ly tracks trending conversations on Twitter. But there’s other tech you may need to know about in PR. Self-publishing tools such as WordPress, Mynewsdesk and Releas’d (for example) are becoming the way PR is done, so at least being aware of them and what they can do is important.

Write a Blog

When I interview someone and they’ve never written or contributed to a blog, I die a little inside. Blogging illustrates to a potential employer not only that you can write, but also that you can have an opinion on something. It can help to illustrate each of my previous four points: you understand the basics of the web, you can use Twitter to promote yourself, you read enough to be able to write on topical matters, and that you use tech. It can also help you to understand the mindset of the blogosphere, which is something that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Yes it’s challenging, and yes it’s time consuming, and yes it does mean you have to spend your own time reading and researching and writing and tweeting. But running a blog speaks volumes about your attitude and desire to have a killer career in PR.


Research the Employer Well

It’s important to understand the company you are applying to and their style of communication and sector differentials. Mirror their style in your own communications, covering letter and approach. And be sure to be aware of their clients, work, blogs, the type of output they are responsible for and how they measure success. Businesses appreciate greatly the time and attention given to research and knowledge of them.

Connect and Integrate

The journey of applying for a role in the current media age is one the goes beyond the application letter, CV and interview. Good practice is to engage with the company on social media and through their blog, thus demonstrating an interest and relevance to their company. As part of the research process, this helps you to gain a better understanding of who it is you are applying to.

Use LinkedIn Effectively

Despite its many drawbacks, LinkedIn is still the primary zone for a professional profile online. Use it well to demonstrate the depth of your expertise, your experience and the potency of your connections in the industry. It’s a place where you can attach presentations and documents to emphasise your work, projects and skills. Make sure you are a member of groups which are essential to your profession, and demonstrate your integration and learning in the industry goings-on.

Stand Out

Wow. Here’s one. If you are going to be an effective PR professional you need to have something of the X Factor. That doesn’t mean ranting on Twitter like ‘actual’ X Factor winner James Arthur – that’s not really the X Factor! It’s about how prominent, creative and inventive you can be to say: “I’m the one”. It’s something to take a lot of care about: are you on YouTube? Are you a mixer, mover and shaker? Do you make people turn heads with your content, opinion and your personality in online communications? Do you ignite conversation? Stand out PRs in my experience have that X Factor without the exhibitionism (which is very different). You draw people to you, not push them away from you.

Clear and Concise Communication

Writing is a heck of a skill. Make sure your communications in applying for a role are potent, concise and to the point. Demonstrate the quality and efficiency of your writing from point one in the way you write your CV and covering letter. Your CV should be well thought out in content, emphasis and prioritisation of information. The font you use matters and the layout too. And in a covering note, keep it sharp, short and to the point. Don’t waffle about things that make no difference in the decision process; point directly to the redeeming reasons for applying and why you are suited. It’s often your first impression. It’s your press release to your forthcoming employer. Make it count.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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