Mirroring the media's dramatic shift from print to online and from the Big Three networks to blogs and influential cable channels, public relations is changing just as quickly.
Not long ago, PR jobs involved pitching press releases to newspaper editors and preparing spokespeople for video interviews. These days, PR jobs involve managing social media communication, connecting with reporters from non-traditional news outlets, search engine optimization, and many other tactics aimed at shaping and communicating the messages of the company.
PR jobs have always demanded quality writing skills above all other capabilities, which is what many hiring managers look for first. Equally important, however, is being well-versed in strategic planning, content development, digital communication, crisis management and public speaking, to name a few. While many candidates applying for PR jobs come from various disciplines – and, therefore, bring different skill sets to the table – those with marketing or journalism experience are the most applicable to PR positions.
Social media is the new platform for PR professionals – not only as an outlet for brands and companies to reach their customers but also as a way to connect with reporters. Writers and columnists for traditional media increasingly use social media to find sources, while bloggers and new-media influencers communicate extensively via online channels.
Whether you're looking to break into the field or advance your career, here are five tips for landing your next gig in public relations.
1. Focus on your communication skills
It goes without saying that professionals seeking PR jobs should be strong writers and confident speakers. Communication is the central goal of public relations, after all. Expect an interview process that will put you through your paces; hiring managers will evaluate your ability to express yourself clearly and think on your feet during their conversations with you. Hiring managers may even require you to take a writing test to apply your communication skills within the context of corporate messaging.
2. Restructure your resume
Consider using a functional (as opposed to a chronological) format that highlights your areas of expertise, instead of listing your job history from your most recent employment backward. Begin with a personal profile that describes your capabilities and your approach to work. Then, summarize your skills.
Next, list your professional experience by type of responsibility. Only then do you present your employment chronology and education. Managers seeking candidates for PR jobs are looking for people with both strategic experience and tactical skills; a functional resume format conveys that information quickly.
3. Assemble your clips
Just as graphic designers prepare portfolios of their designs and visual work, candidates seeking PR jobs should package their strongest writing clips. Published articles, blog posts, marketing collateral, website content, press releases, white papers – all of these materials demonstrate writing and creative skills. Contently is a great tool for building a writing portfolio.
4. Write a killer cover letter
More than ever, PR involves storytelling – crafting and disseminating the story behind a company, brand or product. Demonstrate your own storytelling abilities by drafting a cover letter that shares your experience and your passion for the field. What led you to PR? Why are you an excellent fit for the company?
5. Demonstrate your networking skills
Depending on the position they're attempting to fill, hiring managers for PR jobs expect candidates to have strong interpersonal skills – along with existing networks of contacts within business and media. In fact, networking may be the best avenue for those seeking PR jobs. Asking your contacts for informational interviews or referrals might be your ticket to a new gig.
Want more resources and information about PR roles? Check out the TCG blog for salary information and other related topics, visit our Job Search page to find current PR jobs and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for industry updates.