While having a journalism or PR degree is usually a requisite, you don’t need to have studied PR to have a career in it. There are other routes into the world of PR that people often take without having studied it.
PR was never an industry I aspired to be in. When I was looking at career options, PR certainly wasn’t as big then as it is now. My passion at the time was languages, so I went to university to study Spanish and Italian.
An advantage of my degree was that it allowed me to tag on a professional topic that would potentially aid my future career in languages. PR was one of the subjects that stood out as it incorporated my love for writing and communicating with people.
To cut a long story short, I ended up temping as a PR admin for a local PR agency following my graduation, and as they say, the rest is history. The agency recognised my copywriting capabilities and communication skills and encouraged me to pursue a career in PR. Since then I’ve worked my way up the ranks at numerous agencies over the last 16 years, gaining PR experience and invaluable skills from some of the industry’s top professionals.
I’ve come across various colleagues that have followed a similar route and also don’t have a PR degree. Others have pursued careers in journalism and copywriting and then switched allegiance to PR. And it seems that more and more journalists are making the switch these days with the instability of the media industry.
A successful career in the PR industry all comes down the transferable skills that you have, whether it’s traditional ones or digital.
It goes without saying that copywriting is a core to skill to have in PR, which is why those with a journalism background are often attracted to the industry. Being a competent copywriter that can adapt to all types of content, whether it’s writing a press release, blog, opinion piece, speech or technical article for clients, is a must.
How you communicate is also crucial. Being professional and approachable, as well as maintaining regular communication with clients is key to a happy working relationship. Building connections with relevant journalists is also fundamental. You also need to be able to keep your cool in a crisis.
Pitching a story into media is a key PR skill. Journalists receive hundreds of e-mails a day from PRs that all think their client’s story is newsworthy. Persuading a journalist to read your story is a talent that all PR professionals should have, therefore having negotiation skills is essential.
Juggling numerous clients or projects is something those in the PR profession do on a daily basis, so being able to manage your time is vital. Deadlines come and go so you need to be able to prioritise and multitask in what can be a very fast-paced environment.
In this digital age, you need to have your finger on the pulse when it comes to social media and digital. Knowing what platforms would work for your clients and how to engage via them is essential, so make sure you know your Instagram from your LinkedIn. Having a basic understanding of SEO and Google Analytics, as well as being able to use design software such as Photoshop, will also stand you in good stead.
The PR sector is booming so to stand out you need to be bold in your thinking. PR is all about influencing people to believe in your client’s brand, product or service and shouldn’t be a one-size fits all approach. A client will appreciate it if they can see that you’ve really understood their brief and developed an idea that’s creative and different – especially if it impacts their bottom line.
The PR industry is ever evolving and there are always training courses to ensure you keep up to date with your continued personal development (CIPD). Industry bodies such as the Chartered Institute of PR (CIPR) and the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) are both good places to start.