Crave PR’s Tips for getting a job at a PR agency

Job Hunting

At Crave PR, we receive several job applications every week - some of them are well-written, but others make us scratch our heads and end up getting filed under "G" (as in garbage). We aren't hiring right now, but I thought I'd provide some of my best advice to job seekers looking to land a job at a PR agency.

GET TO KNOW THE AGENCY

Before sending an email, cover letter or resume to any company, do your research! Strong research skills are needed at PR agencies and doing your homework shows you have these skills.

  • Visit their website to learn more about what they do, their areas of specialty, their client roster and anything else you can glean from their site.
  • Search for the company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn presence. Follow or become a fan and pay attention to the conversation.
  • Google the company and/or search for press releases about the company to learn more about what they are up to. Did they recently win an award? Did they just win a new client?
  • Does the company have a blog? Join the conversation with well-thought out comments.

MAKING THE APPROACH

  • Email a well-written, short, compelling, thoughtful “pitch” in the body of your email and attach a 1-page resume in MS WORD format or a PDF, or hyperlink to your resume online.  Incorporate the information you gleaned from your research above. Comment on a recent campaign they did, or about something you read in their blog. Think of your job application as a media pitch to a reporter.  I like reading something that sounds authentic.  I hate SPAM, don't you?

HIGHLIGHT THE SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE THAT AGENCIES NEED

While it’s great to mention your “life-long dream to work in PR”, agencies are looking for candidates that can DO the job without a lot of training. Here are some of the most important skills many agencies are looking for in potential candidates. And don’t just say you have these skills, point to recent job experiences and examples that illustrate these abilities.

  • Strong organizational and administrative skills. The job may seem glamorous, but a lot of time is spent reviewing and searching for information, filing, photocopying, updating media contacts, writing reports, making lists, and stuffing media kits. Still want the job? If so, keep reading.
  • Superior ability to manage competing deadlines in a fast-paced environment. That means keeping your cool while doing eight things at once.
  • Amazing writing skills (be prepared to show 2-3 examples of your work and include a hyperlink to any online examples.
  • Professional, mature, well spoken – Many agencies will ask themselves, can we put you in front of a client? If, you umm....like....really...like....ummm....PR....then maybe consider brushing up on your presentation skills by taking a ToastMasters course.
  • Media savvy – Can you name 10 reporters that you regularly follow? Do you know the names of the national news anchors? Do you know who is covering health, food, lifestyle, etc at the top daily newspapers (Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Sun and Toronto Star)? If you aren’t reading the newspaper everyday, you should be. This business is about engaging the media – if you don’t have an interest in news, then this might not be the business for you.
  • Pitching ability and experience. Are you comfortable pitching a reporter about a story idea? Are you good on the phone? Can you write a compelling and engaging pitch?
  • Social media savvy. Most PR agencies are adding social media elements to their traditional PR programs. If you can demonstrate social media know-how, this may be a huge competitive advantage. If you don't know anything about social media, then head to the bookstore and get up to speed. Start with David Meerman Scott's book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR.
  • Passion for the industries the agency serves (at Crave PR, we specialize in food, wellness and lifestyle) and for the PR industry as a whole.

FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS:
If you are a high school graduate and want a job in PR, Crave PR recommends you take a course at one of the many colleges that offer PR /Corporate Communications programs.

COLLEGE STUDENTS
If you are starting your job search and don’t have a lot of experience, why not volunteer. There are many not-for-profit organizations and small businesses that could use some assistance – from writing a press release, helping with an event, writing some copy for their website or other publication. Visit, charityvillage.com for a list of organizations that might need help.

Get involved with the two professional associations, Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and International Association of Business Communications (IABC). Both have a Toronto chapter. They offer all kinds of professional development and networking meetings. Also, check out Third Tuesday meetings.

WHAT NOT TO DO

  • Don’t send an email to a company with 1 or 2 lines asking if they have any job openings.
  • Don’t send a blanket/mass email to potential employers. Every email should be customized and personalized.
  • Don’t use a boring form letter that looks like it came from a book about how to get a job.
  • Don’t write about what YOU want, your dreams and aspirations – Write about what you can DO for the employer.
  • Don’t admit you don’t have any experience. Volunteer to get some relevant experience.
  • Don’t make any spelling errors.
  • Don’t give up -- but know that agencies don’t hire that often. It may take some time to get your foot in the door.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Searching for a job can be a full-time job.  Spend at least 80% of your time networking and only 20% of your time sending unsolicited resumes.  Join professionals associations, volunteer, attend networking events, book informational interviews and show your passion for PR in person. Create your own business card with your contact information. Ask everyone you meet to refer you to 2-3 people in the industry. Stay current and be prepared to talk about the industry when chatting with people.

Hopefully the tips above help you land a great job. Good luck in your job search!

9 Comments

  1. Amanda Cullen on January 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Great tips! Even when you have a job, it’s always a good idea to update your resume periodically with any new skills you’ve acquired while working. Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Maryjane Martin on January 9, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Very thoughtful and helpful tips. I like your suggestions to volunteer to gain necessary experience and follow the firm on social media sites to get a good understanding of the work they do. MJ Martin

  3. Tara Leyden on January 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Great post! Many of you’re suggestions could be applied to the Financial Services field as well. Great site, great newsletter! Looking forward to the next edition!

    Tara

  4. Kendra Stephenson on January 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Thank you for the extremely helpful and insightful information on this post. I am a university student who is actively exploring the possibilities of my future, and posts like this create an opportunity for me to think seriously about where my interests lie.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Christina C on January 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    This is excellent insight! I am currently on the hunt for a position in the field and definitely need to make some adjustments to my current approach.

  6. Amber Cordeiro on March 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Helpful post for people looking to get into PR. I am trying to help my younger brother find the perfect summer PR internship right now. I definitely agree that volunteering, and especially interning are great ways of getting involved. IABC offers great networking opportunities. Do not give up! Remember that the reason it is difficult to find a job in PR or media is because they are highly coveted jobs and there are lots of other candidates out there with great skills. Read as many news sources as you can and any courses that can help you build skills in PR, marketing, writing, etc.

  7. Michael Ianni on April 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    This is all great information. One or two strong points I often forget about too. Thank you Saskia Brussaard!

    Make it a great work day.

    Michael Ianni

  8. Rachel Scott on September 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks, Saskia! This is very welcome advice for a PR student like myself. Looking for a job/internship can feel really daunting, it helps to have some insider info. Love it!

  9. Stefanie Marotta on October 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    This is so informative. I especially liked the points about not just knowing what’s being focused on in tier one media, but know who’s reporting it.

    As a university student looking to break into the industry, I’ll definitely bookmark this blog post for future reference. Thanks!

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