How to prosper in PR

“My advice to students looking to get hired is to get cracking while you're still at university,” says Stephen Waddington, European digital & social media director, at PR firm Ketchum, adding that it is important to build a network online and offline, develop an online CV and portfolio and start creating and sharing relevant content.

Waddington describes steps to take online: “Social networks are entirely democratic. Sign up to Twitter and you can connect and listen to anyone in the industry. Join in Twitter chats such as #CIPRchat and #commschat, and engage in conversation with people that you follow.”

“LinkedIn is a shop front to promote your experience and qualifications. It's the first place that recruiters head when they're searching for a candidate. Optimise your profile for the job that you want to land rather than the experience that you've got."

“We get candidates walking into Ketchum all the time that claim to be digitally native, yet when you check them out via a Google query they have no visible online presence. Blogging is the best way to consistently build your personal reputation in my view. It's also an excellent way of exploring ideas and building relationships through hyperlinks and comments.

“If you do these three things you'll be well on your way to building a personal brand by demonstrating your skills. The likelihood is that you'll be approached by organisations wanting to hire you rather than vice versa.”

Waddington’s tips are helpful for aspiring PROs, but as you start out in your career, not all advice will necessarily be worth listening to. Alistair Smith, managing director, corporate communications, at bank Barclays, describes one tip he now ignores: “The advice given to me by my first boss in PR was ‘always eat when you can because you never know when you’ll have time for the next meal.’ I wouldn’t pass that (or the superfluous pounds it put on me) to anyone.”

Plenty of advice, though, is worth taking note of. Here Smith, and other PR experts, offer seven top tips.

Focus on detail: “Focus on the details and make sure that all the work you do is of the highest quality possible. Never cut corners. Great creative ideas are undone by poor execution. If you can be relied upon for flawless delivery, you’ll get more responsibility, more opportunity and access to the more interesting work. Asking for the interesting or exciting work while neglecting the dull stuff doesn’t work.” Alistair Smith

Only do it if you enjoy it: “Take a broad interest in the world around you, think and act digital, get yourself a mentor, and after two years in the industry ask yourself – am I enjoying this? If the answer is ‘no’, go do something else.” Colin Byrne, CEO, UK & EMEA at PR firm Weber Shandwick

Be friendly: “The advice I give new PR recruits is the same advice I was given in my first PR job, that you live and die by the quality of your interpersonal relationships. Whether it be with journalists, bloggers, clients, colleagues or industry peers nothing is more important to good PR than good relationships. In a practical sense my advice would be to be yourself, be friendly and be professional. If do this, everything else will flow.” Andrew Marcus, deputy head of communications at the Museum of London

Listen and learn: “The best piece of advice I was ever given was to watch and listen a lot, and actively seek to learn at least one new thing from a colleague every day of your working life.” Rod Cartwright, global partner and director, global corporate practice at PR firm Ketchum

Don‘t jump ship: "If you're at an agency you love, don't jump ship for the sake of a few grand here or there when the first recruiter comes knocking. The grass – more often than not – isn't greener. If you can build a career at one firm, go through the inevitable ups and downs and highs and lows, give that you're best shot. You'll end up well rewarded: emotionally, intellectually and financially." Graham Goodkind, founder of consultancy Frank PR

Have the right attitude: “For me, when I am recruiting, I hire on what you are like as an individual first and your skills second. So, I look for a well-rounded personality, a passionate individual with a great attitude to work ... we can teach you the skills … we can’t teach you to have a good attitude or give you a thirst to learn.” Jennie Ludford, MD of PR agency The Bright Consultancy

Get experience and don‘t be a diva: “What employers look for is work experience, so do whatever you can to get some under your belt. Exploit your contacts (or your friends’ contacts, or their parents’ contacts – whatever it takes!) and show some initiative. Once you are in the door, attitude matters a lot: be realistic and don’t be a diva.” Maxine Ambrose, joint managing partner at PR agency Ambrose Communications

Written by Daney Parker