The most common question I get when I say I work in Public Relations is “So...what do you actually do?” In a nutshell, our job is to help get positive coverage for the companies or individuals we represent. Depending on the industry you’re working in this could mean anything from promoting a new album for a band, contacting bloggers about reviewing a new restaurant, or calling up journalists after an important news story has broken to see if they want to write about your client’s opinion. It’s a role that’s exciting because it involves so many different elements. In a typical day you might go through the papers and online news to find relevant stories and angles, write press releases, contribute to company blogs, contact magazines, television shows and newspapers - all the while keeping the clients themselves happy and up to date. Phew!
There are three main areas within Public Relations – Business to Consumer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and the lesser-known Business to Government (B2G). The majority of PR roles fall into B2C or B2B.
B2C PR deals directly with consumers and is the most widely-known form of PR, covering fields such as music and fashion, whereas B2B works between businesses. While B2C PR might seem like the most fun option, it’s also extremely competitive and badly paid. However, if you’re passionate about what you’re promoting and can inspire this same enthusiasm about the brand in others, it might be for you.
B2B PR, while not as well-known or as glamorous as B2C PR, is a great opportunity to learn more about how different businesses operate. Working with technology and business clients can sometimes feel dry, but often the campaigns require a lot of creativity in order to engage your audience. You tend to be given more responsibility quickly and career progression – including pay – is better than its B2C counterpart. Starting roles can be unpaid or paid internships, or account assistant roles. For B2C in particular, relevant work experience is a must to get a permanent job in the sector.
There’s no specific entry requirements needed for a career in PR, as the role has so many elements. People come into the career from a number of different degrees, and while specific PR degrees do exist they’re by no means necessary. The most important attributes are creativity, confidence, attention to detail, and flexibility. You’ll be expected to carry out a lot of different roles, and its essential that you’re good at writing, networking, and selling a good story. Knowledge of social media is also a definite plus.
As social media becomes increasingly influential, people working in PR will have to ensure they can adapt and keep up with new developments and ways of contacting the media. Companies will also start taking a more integrated approach, so if you have more than one string to your bow – whether that is experience of design, video marketing, SEO, IT, blogging, or anything else useful – you’ll be well-placed for a career in PR.
It’s worth contacting PR companies directly so that they have your CV on file, as well as keeping an eye out for jobs on graduate job-seeker websites. Work experience can be a way into the industry, and some companies – particularly B2B – offer paid placements. Another way to find roles is to sign up with a recruitment agency that specialises in media and PR jobs. Many companies now post vacancies on Twitter and LinkedIn, which has the added bonus of showing that you’re social-media-savvy. For more information about how to get into your first PR role, this blog post is very helpful.
PR unfairly gets a bad reputation, but it's not the sleazy world of spin doctors and mass emails that many people seem to think it is - and it's not easy either. Rather, it's a demanding but exciting career path. You have to be prepared to work hard and develop a tough skin, as journalists are used to being bombarded by PRs and can have very little patience for them. You also have to be persistent and ready to turn your hand to anything. But given that most roles include writing, promotion and social media, you learn a lot and are constantly being challenged.
Sophie M is an account assistant at London PR Agency TopLine Communications, who specialise in B2B PR