Do I need a degree to get into PR?
Qualifications are good but skills and experience count for a lot.
PR agencies and businesses are looking for great people with talent, creativity and enthusiasm.
You could study for a PR specific degree, but I have found that PR agencies particularly like graduates with English, History and Journalism; in fact, any degree where you can hone your writing and storytelling skills is a plus.
If your degree is in a different subject and you want to gain industry specific experience a PR Masters can be a good idea. With the changing world landscape, a Masters in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability (CSR) is an interesting and worthwhile option. With these qualifications you could get onto a graduate training scheme which many of the bigger companies offer annually.
Although many companies ask for a degree; there are several that don’t and offer hands-on job training for eager school leavers who want to learn and show a genuine interest in the industry. Most companies offer internships, which can lead to a permanent role and if not will give you a great start. I started my PR career this way; I knew from a young age that PR was where I wanted to be, and I spent hours in the library (this was pre-internet) looking at every piece of information I could find.
Immerse yourself in all things media both industry (for example PRmoment) and make sure you understand the larger media landscape. Read information and news from all the global and national media outlets (Facebook news feeds alone aren’t going to cut it…).
These days it’s important to have a sound understanding of the digital and social landscape too (Paid, Earned, Shared & Owned) and any additional media skills are always a bonus.
The CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations), and PRCA (Public Relations and Communications Association) are both great sources of help and information and offer advice and training. It’s also worth checking out PRmoment’s events and webinars, many of which are free to attend.
Choose your PR sector
PR is a hugely varied industry with a range of specialist categories including consumer, corporate, B2B, internal, financial and public affairs. There are many different industries to choose from as well. All of these areas have pros and cons, so make sure you do your research and work out which one’s right for you.
One thing to bear in mind is that some different sectors and specialisms pay different salaries, which can vary quite considerably.
Where should I look for a PR job?
Always look at companies’ websites, they regularly advertise their graduate training programs and internships.
Look at job boards, The Guardian, PRWeek, LinkedIn, PubAffairs.
Some recruitment agencies work with companies on their graduate schemes, so check their websites to see if they do. Companies tend not to use recruiters for internships or junior hires. A good recruitment agency should be able to advise you on which of their clients would be open to receiving direct applications.
Get yourself to industry specific events, you never know who you might meet.
If you have a LinkedIn network, use that to see which companies are posting about internships or junior roles. Who do you know that might help you?
Keep your PR CV factual. Obviously highlight what you have done in previous jobs whilst at school or university, but don’t overdo it on the irrelevant information.
When writing your profile at the top of your CV, keep it light and say something like:
I am a hard-working and highly motivated individual looking for a challenging and interesting career in PR. As well as good research, communication and analytical skills gained through my (degree, previous employment, internship), I am also approachable and thrive when meeting new people.
Don’t use the words ‘experienced’ or ‘expert’ because let’s be honest, you are only experienced in going to school or University. Use language carefully and think about the experience that you’ve got and how that might translate into PR. i.e. how you’ve used communications or thought on your feet in any work situation.
Also, please don’t write your CV in the 3rd person!
Talk about your skills and extracurricular activities or hobbies, sometimes those are the things that can really help you find a role in the PR sector that really interests you e.g. if you want to work in food PR and you love cooking, mention it (I had a candidate who was a contestant on MasterChef, which helped her get a role in food PR; she actually got three offers…) or, if you want to work in tech PR and you enjoy gaming or coding, make that a highlight. It will show why that sector interests you.
Be confident in your ability, be bold, but be relevant with your CV and get out there and make sure people know who you are.
Research your prospective PR employer
Always tailor your PR CV and application specifically to each agency/company. Find out as much as you can about them, their clients, what campaigns they’ve produced. Stalk them on LinkedIn. Follow all their social media. Tell them ‘why’ you want to work for them and ‘why’ they should consider you.
Carefully consider your key skills, strengths and areas of interest. Map them to the role/agency/company.
If you are looking to work in the more creative side of PR, be creative with your application and make it stand out.
There is no better PR you can do in this industry than PR for yourself.
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This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations