2015 English graduate Tierney Cowap is working in PR with fashion and gifts retailer Oliver Bonas gives us her top tips for getting into the industry.
1. Decide what you’re aiming for
There are many different sectors of PR, so do some research and get an idea of what area you’d like to work in. Would you prefer the security and in-depth approach of working for an in-house PR team, or a more broad and varied role in an agency? Do you want to PR for a food and drinks brand, or work in fashion PR? By setting your preferences and aims, you can be more specific when applying for roles or placements.
2. Build on your own experience
I got my initial placement in a PR role by emailing the relevant team in the brand I was already working for, and asking if I could do some work experience. Because I already had knowledge of the product range, of the brand ethos, and of the customer we were selling to, PR-specific skills were something I built up along the way. Your job as a PR is to make other people passionate about your product – if you can demonstrate to a recruiter that you genuinely love and know about their products, it puts you in a strong position!
3. Diversify your skills
As a PR you may be called upon to support a brand across a range of projects – from editing campaign imagery in Photoshop, to arranging catering and prop deliveries for press events, to dealing with customer inquiries on social media! The more areas in which you have prior experience, the better. Keep up to date with developments in tech and social media, read up on the relevant publications and key journalists in your field, and work on your confidence when speaking to new people. Above all, be willing to get stuck in, and show your eagerness to learn.
4. Be proactive
All brands will hold product launches or media-facing events throughout the year, but within certain areas of PR – particularly consumer, fashion or food brands – the peak season is from May through to July. The industry tradition of holding Christmas in July events (where brands showcase their Christmas ranges in summer, so that long-lead publications can plan their features) means that the summer season is especially busy. You never know what will come from a speculative email in the run-up, asking if the PR team for your favourite brand could do with an extra pair of hands over this key period!
5. Have your own ideas
PR roles are based on communication, and deciding on the best way to communicate an idea is naturally subjective. From your language choice, to the media contacts you target with certain product releases and when, it can often take discussion with your colleagues to make strategy decisions. In interview, you may well be asked to put together a presentation suggesting how the brand or agency could do better (to give an example, ‘how could our brand better target a millennial audience on social media?’) Don’t be afraid to put forward your honest ideas and thoughts, but be sure to do your research – you don’t want to make suggestions, only to find that they’ve been operating that way for months.