How to Best Position Yourself to Land a PR Job After College

The PR industry continues to boom as hundreds of new candidates, just like yourself, will enter the workforce after graduating with a degree in public relations this May. So how can you stand out and land a PR job that actually matters?

Today's world requires a PR firm to be holistic, integrated with sales and marketing, and tackle things with a business first approach. Therefore, if you want to be viewed as a good fit, you need to be those things too.

If you have the point of view of a traditional PR firm or a digital agency, you might be thinking from the bottom up, hoping that the article you landed, or the content you created, will trickle up to help your client's business needs.

Unfortunately, this is, and always has been, the wrong approach. Instead, you should be thinking from a top down perspective: "What can we do that directly relates to their business needs?" "What are the three main goals of this business?" and "Are we making sure to deliver the right messages, on the right platform, at the right time, to the right target audience?"

This is how I have always practiced PR since starting my career over 17 years ago. My belief has been that both PR and marketing should be taught in business school, and not in the school of communications or journalism. My apologies to all of those traditionally focused PR people, but if you continue to think like an ordinary PR person then you might find yourself in hard times within the next five years. But don't get me wrong; there are still PR traits that are vital in the industry.

Geoff Livingston, marketing guru and author, states, "One thing they must know how to do is write. I can't believe how many communicators I meet that don't know how to write, it's astounding really. How can you communicate if you can't orchestrate your thoughts coherently? Even photographers and videographers need words to communicate their ideas via captions and scripts."

Livingston adds, "The second thing is more of a soft skill: They must be able to adapt and change. Evolution is critical in this business. The media forms adapt so quickly that you need to morph your skills accordingly. Facebook is becoming passé, Twitter already is. Snapchat is where it's at this year, but what's next?" As the industry continues to evolve, so must your tactics.

Your experience definitely matters, traditional or not, but these ten questions matter to me more when I interview a candidate:

  • Have you researched my company?
  • Have you taken any certifications beyond the classroom, such as HubSpot, Google Analytics, Google Adwords, etc.?
  • Have you used all social media channels for personal use or for work?
  • Do you understand how to use social media to engage target audiences?
  • Do you actively contribute content online?
  • Do you have experience running a YouTube channel or a blog, and maintain a following?
  • Be prepared with your last five blog posts, bylines or other digital content in your portfolio. What traction have these pieces received?
  • Do you understand in what ways PR is different than what you were taught in school?
  • Do you know strategy? If not, can you learn it?
  • Are you a natural leader, manager and example for the rest of staff?

Don't read this and think, "I'm screwed!" Even if you may not have all of the experience I like to ask about, there are still things you can do to land that job:

  • If you're entering into or are already in the PR field, start building these skills.
  • Don't look at a job description and say, "I don't have the specific qualifications!"
  • Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate you're willing to grow and simply tell me why or how you can become the right person to fit the position.
  • During the hiring process, interact with our brand on social media. Shockingly, very few candidates take advantage of this direct route to our heart.
  • Don't tell me about the article hits you've secured in the past. Instead, tell me how you want to be remembered when you die.
  • Don't be discouraged if your degree doesn't match the position; you can be a computer programmer, an artist, a doctor or even a lawyer. It doesn't matter. I am not hiring your "profession", I am hiring your "brain".

Graduating in PR builds the foundation of your skills, but the true test is being able to sell yourself to get into a PR job. The above isn't every tip and trick in the book, but it's a great place to start. As long as you continue to hone your skills after graduation and expand on your skill set, any PR firm would be fortunate to have you.