It is one of the most dynamic careers out there and even in these difficult economic times, Public Relations is still a great option for graduates. So what can you expect from a career in PR?
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) public relations is ‘the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour’. Every day newspapers and magazines rely on PR professionals to help them source news and feature items, and in many ways those in PR have as much to do with setting the news schedule as journalists.
Ann Mealor is the deputy director-general of the CIPR. She says a good PR professional should possess ‘good communication and written skills, be self-motivated, organised, and able to think creatively and strategically. Flexibility is also a good quality to have if you want to work in a fast-paced and challenging industry like public relations.’ She adds: ‘Having the ability to juggle different priorities and meet deadlines is important too, as is an awareness of the news agenda.’
Given that PR now touches on virtually every industry sector there are many degrees suited to this profession. For example, if you studied law you could work in-house for a law firm’s PR department, or if you studied English you could be ideally suited for a copywriting role at a PR agency. However, Mealor has some words of warning: ‘If your degree isn’t in public relations but you want to make this your career, you are going to need to put in some ground work and find out as much as possible about the industry.’ But, she points out there are essential PR skills you can learn through short training courses, or by doing a PR qualification such as the CIPR Advanced Certificate. She says the courses are designed for graduates in any subject who would like to go into PR and those in the first few years of their PR career. She adds: ‘The Advanced Certificate provides a solid grounding in all the key concepts, techniques, theories and skills needed to perform effectively as a PR practitioner.’
Mealor has some further advice: ‘Try to get some practical experience. Getting work experience demonstrates to potential employers that you are truly interested in the industry and that you understand what public relations really involves. Just make sure when organising your work placement that you have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it and what the company you are working for wants from you.’
But, given the economic climate, is PR still a good career option for graduates? ‘In times of uncertainty it is even more vital that organisations communicate with their stakeholders (i.e. their customers; shareholders; suppliers; regulators; employees; the media etc),’ says Mealor. ‘And you continuously need to demonstrate to them why they should want to work with and be associated with them. In order to effectively communicate and successfully manage their reputations, through boom times and especially during downturns, organisations need the advice of professional communicators. Consequently, the PR industry will always require good graduates and there will always be opportunities for career progression for those who are outstanding.’
Tips from an insider
Ann Mealor, deputy director-general, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, tells us what advice she would give a graduate considering PR as a career:
‘It is important for new industry entrants today, regardless of whether or not you possess a pure PR degree, to be committed to continuous training and keeping your skills up-to-date. You can stand out from the crowd in another way too. By becoming a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the professional body for PR practitioners in the UK, and signing our code of conduct, you are showing prospective and existing employers that you are committed to the highest levels of professionalism. Plus, by joining the CIPR you can benefit from being part of the UK’s biggest and best PR network. You can build your own contact book and stay in touch with fellow practitioners in your area and industry sector of interest through the CIPR national, regional and sector groups.’
For more information about careers in PR, PR training and qualifications, CIPR membership and the PR industry in general, visit www.cipr.co.uk