Source: The Ultimate Guide to Video CVs
I am just one person with one opinion. I happen to think my opinion is valid when it comes to giving job hunting advice to entry-level job seekers – I have a lot of success of helping graduates securing their first PR positions – but it is by no means the ONLY opinion that matters. That’s why when I was researching for ‘How to get a job in PR’ I decided that it was important to include the views of PR pracititioners. Entry-level PRs need to hear from employers that the advice I’m giving them is sound, and it’s great to get tips from the horse’s mouth too.
But I didn’t stop there. I decided to ask PR academics for their views too. Very rarely do you see academics and practitioners quoted in the same article or book, but I think it’s absolutely essential that the industry pays closer attention to what academics have to say and that practitioners and academics work together to attact great talent to the profession.
It seems I’m not the only one. At the NEMO conference in Sweden last week, Stephen Waddington declared that in order to be an expert as a practitioner, there must be academic rigour – sparking this blog post from Stuart Bruce and this from Wadds himself.
I was absolutely delighted by the response from the PR academic community including Richard Bailey (pictured), and the organiser of NEMO, Philip Young, who were very keen to be included in the book and offer some really fantastic insights for junior PRs.
The world of publishing is complex and seemingly difficult to break into. We’ve all heard the stories of how successful authors were turned away by agents and publishers dozens of times before they were signed up – including writers like Stephen King and JK Rowling.
Publishers take a huge percentage of the sale of a book. In return, they provide editors, proof readers, cover art, book design and arrange all the printing. They also provide the sales and marketing expertise.
Self publishing has long been considered second-rate and vain. Writers would only self publish as a last resort and very few of them had any success, being left with thousands of books sat in their dining room with no way to distribute them.
But with the advent of the Kindle, and other e-book readers, this is no longer the case.
How often do you look at the copyright page of an e-book to see who the publisher is. Hardly ever I bet. I recently read a trilogy of books – Wool by Hugh Howey – and really enjoyed them. I had no idea they were self published until I started investigating self publishing myself. Readers don’t care who publishes a book, they just care that it’s a good read.
When I first came up with the idea for ‘How to get a job in PR’ my intention was always to approach a publisher of non-fiction. One that had previously published non-fiction books with a PR theme. Then, I spoke to two PR authors both of which have been published by traditional publishers, and both of which have self-published. They both said the same thing – publishers do nothing useful. You still have to do the vast majority of promotion yourself and you get a tiny cut of the profit.
I worried that this book would not be taken seriously if I didn’t go through a publisher, then I thought about the books that these two PR authors had written and do you know what – I didn’t know without checking the copyright pages which were published by a publisher, and which were self-published.
The services that publishers provide to authors – editing, layout, cover design and printing – are still important. It *is* possible to self publish and do all of those things yourself and so in theory, you could publish a book and not have it cost you a penny, but I decided to hire professionals to take care of the aspects of publishing I have no experience in.
For the marketing and promotion I have a marketing and PR plan. It is not very complicated – it’s one side of A4 – and this Facebook author page is part of that plan.
For the printing, having investigated off set printing (where you get a run of books printed and then you distribute them to sellers, including Amazon, yourself) I have decided that for me, print on demand will work better (unless I suddenly find I have an order of 10,000 books) and have chosen Amazon’s Createspace to do that for me.
So is it vain that I have chosen to self publish? Possibly, but I have written a book which I believe is genuinely needed by the PR industry and by graduates and other entry-level job seekers looking to get into the communications industry. Judging by the response I’ve had by over 60 (and counting) PR practitioners who have contributed to the book, they believe it too.
How to get a job in PR will be out on 10th December
About a year ago, I started thinking looking around for a careers book to recommend to graduates and other entry-level job seekers. Something that would tell them all about PR, and how to go about getting a job in the industry. A quick search on Amazon revealed that there actually isn’t any useful books on the subject – so I decided to write one.
I floated the idea past some PR practitioners who thought it was a great idea, so I asked them to contribute. Over 50 PR practitioners, lecturers and recruiters have contrbituted to “How to get a job in PR”, and their tips are a must-read for any aspiring PR.
How to get a job in PR will be out on Tuesday 10th December in print and as a Kindle e-book and will be available on Amazon and on this website.
You can check out my new Facebook author page here.
There are lots of articles around on interviewing skills, including mine here and here. But what should you be doing to prepare for the interview before you even walk through the door? Here are my top five tips on preparing for PR job interviews:
1) Read the job spec or advert carefully. Make sure you are fully aware what the role entails. If the job description asks for good attention to detail, you are likely to be asked about that skill during the interview. Interviewers often use competency questions – questions which ask about past experiences to try and predict future behaviour – in order to determine if you have the right skills, temperament and cultural fit for their company. Competency questions often begin “can you give me an example of when…” or “tell me about a time that you…” For every skill or competency listed as a requirement, prepare an example of relevant experience to give the interviewer.
2) Read your CV. You know your own CV, right? You should, but it’s amazing how many people manage to contradict what they have written on their CV during an interview. Refresh your memory by reading through your CV the day before and make a note of any big achievements so that you’re prepared to talk through them with the interviewer.
3) Do your research. The company’s website should be your first port of call, but don’t stop there. Check our their social media channels. Do a search on PR Week to see if there are any recent industry articles on them. If you know the name of your interviewer Google them, and look them up on LinkedIn. Find out what media coverage they’ve received recently for their brands or clients so that you can mention it. Look up their competitors
4) Read the papers. Common questions in PR interviews include “what news stories have caught your eye recently?” and “tell me about a PR campaign you’ve seen in the last six months which impressed you/didn’t impress you”. In order to answer both of those questions you need to be fully aware of what’s been in the news. Don’t limit yourself to one source of news – graduates in particular are guilty of only reading The Guardian (because their lecturers do), the Metro and the Evening Standard (because they’re free) and often whichever paper their parents read and is lying around at home. You need to be able to talk about a broad range of papers – both broadsheet and tabloid – and a variety of broadcast, online and radio news outlets.
5) Prepare some questions. Interviewers ALWAYS ask if you have any questions. The worst possible reply to that is “no”. It demonstrates a lack of interest in the company and role and leaves the interviewer with a very poor impression of your ability to think on your feet. Before you go to the interview, make a list of five or six questions you’d like to ask about the company or position and have them written down. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions you should be able to pick at least one relevant one. If they’ve already covered all the things you had planned to ask you can at least point to your list and show that you had prepared appropriately.
Writing skills are highly prized by PR employers but if you’ve had three (or more) years of writing essays and dissertations, how do you go about changing your writing skills to be relevant to a PR career?
1) Write a blog. Often people start blogging but give up fairly quickly because they feel they are talking to thin air. No one comments and they wonder if it’s really worth it. Let me tell you this, the vast majority of people who view blogs, don’t comment. The most read post on this blog gets around 100 visitors a day – and doesn’t have a single comment. That doesn’t mean I’m not reaching people, it just means they have nothing to add, and that’s okay. Your blog should demonstrate your interest in the industry – so keep it focussed – and is a great place for you to demonstrate your writing skills to employers. It is owned by you, so should have your ‘voice’ and try to steer clear of sounding too academic. A good tip is to read what you’ve written out loud before you publish it. Does it sound like the way you speak? If not, it’s too formal.
2) Write thank yous. It seems that sending a thank you letter (or email, or Tweet at a push) is a forgotten art. A well written thank you can be the difference between someone remembering you or not. If someone gives you their time for any reason, be it an interview, a conversation at a networking event, some time giving you CV advice – send them a thank you.
3) Write a decent CV. Your CV may be the first piece of work an employer sees, so your skills as a writer need to shine. I give my tips for writing a CV here.
4) Write good covering letters. Do not send emails saying “Here is my CV, Regards, X”. I am constantly astonished by how many people do that. How are you going to persuade an employer that you really really want their job, unless you tell them why you are so great for it? Keep it short – under 500 words – and punchy. Split the letter into three sections, which job you are applying for, why you want to work there, and what have to offer.
5) Write a ten-point career plan. This is just for you, not to be shown to employers, but by drawing up a plan of where you want to be and how you are going to get there it will make you think about acheiving goals. It will also help you to work out how to write a decent to-do list.
6) Write on other people’s blogs and industry articles. A sure fire way to get noticed by potential employers is to comment on the articles they write. You will also have the chance to leave your blog URL with your comment, which will drive traffic to the content you’ve written. However, make sure your comments are relevant and don’t do it too often or they’ll think you’re stalking them.
7) Write media analysis. Choose a different newspaper each week and summarise the top stories. Or choose two different papers and compare how they’ve covered the same story. Then post a copy to your blog and start a written portfolio – on decent paper and neatly bound – that you can take to interview. It will be good writing practice and will be relevant content – and as a bonus you’ll increase your current affairs knowledge at the same time.
8) Write opinion pieces. Find an industry relevant publication or website (PR Week, Communicate Magazine, PR Moment, PR Examples, Gorkana, esPResso PR news… the list is endless), research a campaign they have covered then write an opinion piece on that campaign. Was it successful? What would you have done differently? You can use your blog platform to publish it, but you should also keep it in your hard copy portfolio to take to interview. It will demostrate that you can have an opinion and orginal ideas and that you are able to articlate them.
9) Write good emails. When writing to friends and family, practice writing in a businesslike manner. Stay away from smiley faces and LOLs. Use the correct punctuation and pay attention to capital letters. Work correspondence is not the same as writing to your mates and it can sometimes take some time to get used to not saying “cheers” and putting kisses at the end of your messages, so it’s good to get into good habits before you start in your new job.
10) Write a presentation. Pull together a presentation which sells you as a PR practitioner. Presentations are part of PR life – you’ll pitch for new business using them, you’ll use them for training, you may present to clients using them – so you might as well become a PowerPoint or Prezi expert now. You don’t have to use masses of text – in fact less is more when it comes to presentations – but relevant points and impressive visuals will make a great impression. Check out Slideshare.net for some fantastic examples.
So you’ve just left university and you’re hankering after a job in PR. What should you be doing? Here are my ten top tips.
1) Treat job hunting like a job. Get up, have breakfast then sit down at your computer and apply for a minimum of five jobs a day. Make each application specific to that particular job or company. It is hard work, and it can be tedious and disheartening but the persistence will pay off. Don’t get sucked into daytime TV.
2) Attention to detail is vital. Whether that be in your job applications or in your first job. You may sail through interviews and be offered a position but unless your attention to detail is good you won’t keep that role for very long. Ditto punctuality and humility – you need both of those too.
3) Networking is important. Keeping in touch with people you have meet. It will be vital for your career progression. Go to industry networking events – keep building your contacts.
4) Pay it forward. If you see a vacancy that is not right for you, but might suit a friend – then pass it on. Once you’re in a job, let your university know when your firm has graduate vacancies so that others might also benefit.
5) Keep working at your writing skills. Set up a blog and write on it regularly. Employers list good writing skills as an absolute essential when hiring grads into PR so it’s important you keep them up to scratch.
6) Keep reading the papers. Lots of them. Lots and lots and lots of them. Consume news everywhere – in print, online and broadcast. Don’t limit your reading material. It will help you both in interview, and in your first job. The more you read, the more of an interest you will develop in current affairs and the media and that can only be a good thing.
7) Be nice to other people. Don’t treat people badly as you’re going up the ladder, you may need their help and advice when you fall from grace. This is true of both colleagues and of more junior staff. Be especially nice to receptionists and admin staff – they hold the key to diaries and often are the heartbeat of a company.
8) Don’t forget to say thank you. The impact of a nice thank you landing on someone’s desk should not be underestimated. Twitter and email are also good thank you tools.
9) Be brave. If you are nervous at interview, or in your new job, then fake confidence until you actually feel it. Don’t be afraid to ask (relevant!) questions. Don’t sit in a brainstorming session in your new job and say nothing – no one will remember you.
10) Be kind to yourself. You have just left university. No one expects you to know everything. Everyone makes mistakes and as long as you learn from those mistakes and do better the next time your manager will understand. Failing to improve when you make an error is when managers get frustrated. You will continue to learn throughout your career – the process never stops.