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Careers Centre

Public relations

Sector Overview

This page has been written by Liz Batterham, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Liz, or any of our advisers, visit our website.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) describes PR as ‘about reputation. Every organisation, whether it’s a business, profession, public service or charity, depends on its reputation for survival and success. Customers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators all form opinions about the organisations they deal with. Public relations professionals make sure this opinion is positive. They do this through media relations and lobbying, speaking at PR by NUMBERS conferences, online viral campaigns, sponsorship and more. Unlike advertising, media exposure gained through PR is not paid for. It is this third-party endorsement that gives the industry its power and credibility.

The industry offers a wealth of opportunities. A PR job could see you organising events, participating in conversations on Twitter, writing press releases, placing stories in newspapers and magazines and promoting some of the world’s most exciting charities and brands.

Career development opportunities within the Public Relations profession are excellent but competition for jobs is fierce; PR ranks as one of the top three most popular career choices for graduates in the UK. [Source:CIPR].

The CIPR career guide has a wealth of information on careers in PR.

 

 

Public relations attributes/skills profile

 

Key attributes/skills needed for the role  Where you could develop these skills or attributes
Strong communication and presentation skills This is most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies and work experience.
Good project management skills, with the ability to juggle different priorities and meet conflicting deadlines.
Enjoy analysing problems and be able to suggest creative solutions.
Be tech savvy: you’ll need an ability and interest in working with all digital and social media channels.

CAPOD regularly runs courses covering these skills within its Professional Skills Curriculum.

Using the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel.

Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies or writing for student publications, raising funds and organising events for your school, halls, a charity, drama or sports group.

Flexibility, adaptability and ability to think of solutions quickly.
Good interpersonal skills, with the ability to interact with people from all backgrounds and at all levels in an organisation.

Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?

  • Be news aware! An enquiring mind with an interest in current affairs, particularly in socio-political and economic developments that impact upon business and potentially your client.
  • The understanding and use of different forms of social media is essential, so get involved in producing your own blog, Twitter feeds, podcasts and join discussion groups on LinkedIn.

 

Nature of sector or roles

Careers in PR are generally open to graduates of any degree discipline. The average salary range for a public relations (PR) executive or assistant is around £18,000 to £20,000. This is a typical graduate entry-level role for those looking to become PR officers. Average starting salaries for PR officers can range from around £22,000 to £28,000. The PR consultancy sector consists of international, medium-sized and niche companies. Many PR consultancies are not large and may only recruit one trainee at a time. The PR industry has a wide geographical spread throughout the main commercial centres in the UK, with openings often occurring in all regions. However, there is a heavy concentration in and around London.

Public relations (PR) practitioners work across a wide range of industries and may work in any of the following settings:

Find out as much as you can about the various industry sectors to see if any suit your particular interests and skills. Prospects and the CIPR have more information on PR job roles.

 

Networks - why and how to use them

Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations. Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Fleishman Millard, GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) for UN, Elephant Communications. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.

How to gain experience/internships

Employers will want evidence of your interest in PR and work experience is central to this. Get involved in activities at university such as: writing for student publications, raising funds and organising events for your college, a charity, drama or sports group. The understanding and use of different forms of social media is essential, so get involved in producing your own blog, Twitter feeds, podcasts and join discussion groups on LinkedIn.

How to get a (graduate) job

How to start your job search

There are many routes into PR. It is a highly competitive industry so drive, competency and a willingness to learn are important. Most opportunities for graduates are as Trainee Account Executives via PR consultancies’ training schemes.

Many of the top PR companies are owned by the big four agency holding companies: WPP Group, Omnicom, Interpublic Group and Publicis Group. The WPP Group recruit each October for their Marketing Fellowship scheme and it is possible to select a preference for PR & Public Affairs during the three-year scheme. The Fellowship is comprised of three one-year rotations through WPP companies, with each rotation chosen on the basis of the individual’s interests and the Group’s needs.

Other entry points include: trainee positions as Public Relations Officers, Publicity Assistants and Press Officers for in-house PR departments, or in the public sector as Assistant Information Officers. Others find entry by working as an Executive or Personal Assistant, or in a job that involves regular interface with PR firms (such as a Research Assistant to an MP or a Fundraiser for a charity). PR has always recruited people with a background in journalism, marketing and the media but, increasingly, now seeks individuals with an in-depth knowledge of other specialist areas (e.g. banking, law, healthcare professionals) who may want to enter PR as a second career.

To have a chance of success as a first or second job-seeker, you must be able to market yourself as really wanting to be in PR and knowing what the work involves. To help accomplish this:

Graduate Training Schemes

Graduate schemes with top PR companies often open in October and November, but dates can vary, so it's wise to check individual websites for current deadlines.

The following PR consultancies offer graduate training schemes:

Other PR opportunities

Although many PR consultancies do not run graduate training schemes, some may occasionally have PR vacancies and internships, eg

Job search websites

There are many job search websites which specialise in PR jobs including:

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

Be concise and to the point in a CV and covering letter. Make all your experiences relevant to PR - even something like bar work can show an interest in people, an understanding of your market to raise sales etc. Accuracy is essential - make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect.

Prior to an interview, research the company and be able to answer why you are applying to a particular organisation. Know who their clients are, recent campaigns, awards etc and have opinions on this.

Relevant Postgraduate Study

Although a postgraduate qualification is not essential to enter the PR industry, The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultancy Association (PRCA) both deliver professional qualifications for those looking to kick-start their career or undergo training while on the job. These courses are also respected in the industry. You should, however, research any course thoroughly and make sure it represents good value in both your time and money.

According to a recent CIPR State of the Profession Survey, research suggests that professional qualifications / membership become increasingly important to public relations professionals looking to take up a new position as they become more senior.

For further information on researching and planning for a postgraduate qualification, please visit the postgraduate study page.

Key UK links and resources

Careers Centre resources

Online

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

GoinGlobal

Related Careers A-Z pages:

Book:

 

General public relations careers information

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

USA resources

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.