Six Tips For Pursuing A Career In Public Relations

Founder and CEO of JMG Public Relations, an award-winning PR firm for innovators and their mission driven startup companies.

It seems these days that public relations is everywhere, which is not surprising since it is a fast-growing field. It is also one of the most competitive, which is why it’s important for future PR professionals to keep on top of their game.

PR is a field that is often glamorized, especially in the fashion and entertainment sectors. The image of lavish parties, celebrities and fun-filled freebies gives off a vibe of a career filled with non-stop good times. And yes, I’ve found working in PR to be fun, but there is a lot more to the field than the glamorous side the public portrays. If you talk to any PR executive, their real-life experience might sound slightly different than that of a Samantha Jones or Jerry Maguire impression.

As a result of the competitiveness of the industry, people looking to pursue a career in PR need to learn how to stand out and gain a competitive edge. Classes are a great start, but it’s that “real-life” experience that is needed when it comes to forging ahead. Hearing about press releases is one thing; sitting down to write them is another. A great way to get into the trenches is through an internship. This allows potential PR hopefuls the chance to work for a short period of time while figuring out if the path chosen is the one they want to continue.

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Something to consider when applying for internships pertains to the company’s size. Does the allure of a large firm suit your personality, or is working in a smaller, more intimate agency more appealing? Public relations, regardless of the company’s size, centers around handling the public image of an individual or company. It’s about managing and maintaining that image, and as an intern, the opportunity for a firsthand view is priceless.

Along with obtaining an internship, there are other things potential PR hopefuls can and should do to prepare themselves for a career in this field. Unsure of where to start? As you prepare for a career in PR consider the following tips:

1. Stay on top of the news.

Keeping on top of evolving trends helps you stay “in the know.” Being dialed into the news and industry shifts shows clients that you’re informed as well as an expert at what you do. It all comes down to staying current while monitoring the pulse of the industry. Whether you’re reading trade publications and news sites, following social media accounts or creating a daily Google search on relevant industry key terms, all are great tools to help keep the flow of information coming through.

In any industry, never stop being curious. A key factor when it comes to being successful is to always keep learning. We live in a digital world where changes happen almost daily. It can feel overwhelming, but the more you remain educated, the easier it will be to stay one step ahead.

2. Be extremely detail-oriented.

One of the most important tips for all PR hopefuls to remember is that attention to detail is everything. When it comes to the work you do, read it, re-read it and then read it again. Always check the work you’re putting out because nothing can hurt your credibility more than consistently making mistakes. PR is all about perception, not just for your client but for yourself as well.

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3. Learn how to write.

Good writing skills are extremely important in PR (as they are in many other fields). A career in PR calls for the ability to write documents such as press releases, byline articles and editorials. In today’s world, many college students have social media down to a science. They are skilled at creating videos and writing short-form captions—tools that are beneficial when handling a client’s social media channels. While those are excellent skills to possess, they do not replace the need to be able to communicate in long form.

4. Work on your time-management skills.

A career in public relations means handling a lot of tasks at one time. Essentially, you become a master juggler. There are many moving parts, and being able to prioritize is extremely important. Attention to detail, being able to focus on the task at hand and managing your time efficiently are all part of a PR executive’s daily routine. Life in this business is a juggling act, which is why it’s important to know how to manage the workload effectively.

5. Find a mentor.

Having a mentor can make all the difference, especially when you’re just starting out. You want to find someone in your industry who not only knows the business but also whose values align with yours. Look at what they do. Is their area of expertise in the niche where you envision your career? For example, if your focus is on working with startup companies, then you’ll want to find someone who specializes in this particular area.

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Having a mentor brings value to a person both professionally and personally. A mentor can provide perspective and understanding from the inside of a profession. It’s one thing to be taught in a classroom about an industry, but it’s another to learn and hear directly from someone working in the field. Mentors also provide guidance and can be helpful when it comes to making connections.

6. Build relationships.

Building professional relationships is the name of the PR game. It is an integral part of the business and the key to success. Not only do you want to create strong relationships with clients and media personnel, but you must also nurture and maintain those relationships as well.

Long-standing connections create a sense of trust and respect—two important tools every PR executive should have in their toolbox. The basis of any great relationship is communication, including PR.

Public relations is an excellent field to work in, especially if you enjoy being challenged, never having a day like the last, meeting new people and helping others achieve their goals.

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