How to get hired into PR - part two

There's never been a better time to get into PR - so don't blow that one-time opportunity to make a great impression.

Ruder Finn’s Hong Kong-based SVP for reputation management Charles Lankester wrote an excellent piece for us this week containing 11 top tips for getting hired into the PR profession.

It’s a great read for anyone wanting to snag that tricky first job, but actually it’s just as relevant to those looking to secure a new position.

The tips may seem like basic commonsense, but as anyone who does much hiring knows, commonsense somehow seems to go out of the window when people sit down to start the job application process.

I’m referencing our Global Agency Business Report a lot at the moment, because it is dominating all our lives at PRWeek Towers, but one theme that comes across loud and clear in the US, UK, and Asia is that the war for the best PR and communications talent is vicious and ongoing – and it’s set to remain so.

In our report, which will be published on April 27, Edelman UK’s CEO Ed Williams says "it’s like a scene from a Hitchcock movie: people constantly pecking talent away from us, or trying to anyway." This prompted the agency to beef up its employment benefits in the year, increasing holiday time and maternity provisions.

Mike Coates, new CEO of the Americas at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, made work-life "blend" his top priority when he arrived last July, in a bid to stem the talent flow away from the WPP firm. Flexible working hours and a new maternity leave policy were inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

In addition, every agency, and many in-house corporate comms departments, are completely redefining themselves and reshaping the way they are structured.

Frankly, workforces are changing, and many people are falling out of the funnel at one end to be replaced by a different, more digitally savvy breed of individual. And this is providing fantastic opportunities for bright young people who want to enter the industry.

As Lankester says in his piece, a high awareness of data, strategy, and overall business themes and objectives are table stakes for the modern PR pro. Ally this to great writing skills, the ability to build relationships, and an appreciation of how video is revolutionizing the brand storytelling arc, and you have a compelling offer for potential employers.

I hope this clamor for talent with new skills doesn’t make prospective recruits lazy, arrogant, or complacent. And, on the flip side, young people should not be afraid to put their best foot forward and sell themselves to get that elusive first opportunity.

Don’t assume that people in senior positions are not interested in hearing from the next generation of PR pros - precisely the opposite is true, especially now.

I was reminded of this at the Arthur W. Page Society Spring Seminar Dinner last week. The winning entry in the society’s case study competition was submitted by three students from DePaul University College of Communication – Maggie Christ, Renata Sandor, and Andrew Tonne.

Their faculty advisor Dr Matt Ragas interviewed the trio on stage about their Cigarettes Out. Health In. An Analysis of the Rebrand of CVS Health case study and they gave a lucid analysis of why actions such as this are so important for a Millennial generation that expects the brands with which they interact to behave with a conscience, sustainably, credibly, and transparently.

It was great to be introduced to the students afterwards. We swapped business cards. A few days later Maggie emailed me pitching an op-ed about the case study. The piece will appear on PRWeek’s website in the next few weeks. I realize I’m potentially setting myself up for a deluge here, but if the pitch is targeted, smart, and timely, then we will always consider it.

Another student contacted me recently, from the University of Alabama, and asked if she could interview me for an article she was writing for her university magazine Platform. No problem, of course, happy to spare a few minutes.

I wasn’t surprised to hear she has already secured an AAE position at Ogilvy PR in New York City and I look forward to following her progress in the industry. One day she may make PRWeek’s coveted 40 Under 40 list, the entry deadline for which is today.

I know from talking to agency CEOs, who are far busier than I will ever be by the way, that they will always do their best to answer such enquiries and encourage young talent. And why wouldn’t they – that is the bedrock of their firms and the talent of the future.

So, if you want to make it in PR, I recommend you follow Charles Lankester’s commonsense suggestions, stay hungry, enthusiastic, and hard working, and don’t be afraid  to reach out to influential people in the industry – you never know, it might be your first step towards a career in one of the most exciting professions there is.

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