Make no mistake, I still consider myself a young PR person. With a little over 2 years of experience in this industry, I’d by no means call myself a professional. However, as somebody with a brain that will literally not take a break, I’ve learned so much in my years of working within the Public Relations industry.
An industry which, regrettably, isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should. (I’ve spoken to PR Week about this previously, but let’s not open that can of worms again).
As such, I thought I would do something different on my blog today. It’s nice to take a break from talking about campaigns day in day out, eh?
What I wanted to do was to put together some words of advice for people who are looking to move into the PR industry, who may just be starting out. It doesn’t matter what age you are, nor what background you come from, anybody who’s just starting to dip their toe in the water with PR will need a little help.
It’s an ever-evolving industry and we’re all still learning, but it certainly helps to have some advice from the experts when getting started. Especially seeing as wider education on the PR sector is pretty sparse.
This is why I’ve called upon an army of specialists in PR and marketing (I’m not kidding anyone into thinking I could have written this blog post by myself) to share their best advice for getting ahead in the communications industry.
These tips and advice are broken down in to…
- Learning tips (where you need to begin, start learning and don’t stop)
- Networking tips (get your foot in the door of the industry by meeting and learning from people)
- On-The-Job tips (some advice for your move into PR, tips that help me get by on a daily basis)
- Words of advice (things to bear in mind throughout your career)
…And I hope there’s something here that’ll help you out!
PR Tips For New PR Pros – From The Experts
Below, I’ve listed out several digestible PR tips and words of advice. Some that were offered to me, others that I’ve learned along the way when advancing through my career…
- Know that PR isn’t just press releases – FIRST AND FOREMOST, I spent a lot of time thinking that working in PR was just writing and sending press releases. Which it isn’t, at all. My days can involve anything from content writing, social media marketing, event managing, campaign planning and also just being a reliable point of contact for a client. PR is all about strengthening reputations, not just getting coverage.
- Be a sponge – Laura Hampton of Impression advises that when you’re starting out in PR, you need to literally be a sponge… Absorb “everything, get an understanding of SEO, of traditional PR, of paid social. Be inspired by everyone – agencies, brands, individuals, the press etc.”
- Intern everywhere – I did so many internships while I was at university, it was this that led to my first job in PR. It’s so hard to get experience in a job when every job requires some level of experience in the first place (total catch 22, right?) so doing short bouts of unpaid work really helped me to get my foot in the door. Do be mindful not to take on too much work for free though, I would stay 2 weeks is enough.
- Understand journalism – I think a key area of PR is understanding journalism, and moreover what makes a good story to them. Journalists are great people to connect with at the start of your career (for more reasons than one) and you can learn a lot from them.
- Understand psychology – if you have an interest in psychology, you’re on to a winner. Being able to tap into how people think and how they’ll perceive your brand is an invaluable skill. I’m reading ‘The Choice Factory’ at the moment, and I’d really recommend it to any young PR professionals.
- Google everything – look, take no shame in using Google for everything. If you don’t understand something, read up about it. You can find a lot on the web, to writing press releases to understanding what a forward feature is. I can’t stress this enough. And if search engines fail you, don’t be scared to ask people. I’m always up to dish out advice (where I’m qualified to give it, that is).
- Read the news – I use Feedly to curate different publications that are helpful to me, it’s a tool that gives you all your news in one place. I have different feeds, some are filled with Comms titles (such as The Drum, PR Week etc.) and others are for my clients so I have news on tap for what’s relevant to them.
- Keep learning – Fran Griffin of Digitaloft comments that “just like any industry, PR doesn’t stand still. As the profession evolves to align with digital and SEO goals, there’s always big changes to keep an eye on. Don’t get into the habit of just reporting in a certain way, or running a certain type of campaign “just because it works”. Challenge the reporting format, suggest new and ‘out-there’ ideas, keep your eye on digital developments… just don’t stand still!”
- Take inspiration from others – there’s nothing wrong with checking out what other people are doing and learning from them. The best ideas sprout from other ideas, after all. I have tweet notifications on from Digital PR Examples and Famous Campaigns, they’re both great for your daily dose of food for thought.
- Talk to PR people – One of the best things I did when starting out in PR was to make a Twitter account and follow whoever I could that worked in the industry. Through doing this, I’ve met many great people who’ve given me so much invaluable information (many of whom will be featured in this blog).
- Make time for coffee – Puja Kotecha of Contrast Digital suggests “don’t just email journalists. Go down to London for the day and book in meetings for a friendly coffee.” I couldn’t agree more. Like I said, you can learn a lot from journalists.
- Write a blog – I’m a little biased but this blog has taken me to places I never thought I’d reach. If you’re good with words and like to write, I would really recommend starting your own.
- ‘PR’ yourself – Something I wholeheartedly agree with, Laura Wilson from 26 Digital says “starting to build a social presence for yourself in the industry works wonders, share your work, praise other peoples, follow whoever you can and network, social media is so powerful for that.”
- Join Twitter chats – I’ve met a lot of great people through Ella Minty’s #PowerAndInfluence Twitter chat which takes place at 8pm (UK time) every Wednesday. If you want to learn more about comms, you should really follow this hashtag (and get involved if you can, too).
You’ve got the job… Now what? You’ll learn a lot from getting that hands-on, practical experience in PR, but here’s some extra handy tips which may help you perform just that little bit better (I certainly could have done with knowing a few of these when I first began).
- Dropbox for the win – Tabby Farrar of Further says “because any two journalists might want totally opposite things from your pitch, work on ways to please everyone. For example, because I know that some journalists love attachments and some hate them, I send images and videos using a Dropbox link so that there is no massive file attached, but people still have everything they need in that first email.”
- Make your emails stand out – Journalists get hundreds of emails a day, if you’re pitching a story to a competitive publication you need to make your message stand out. My best tip is to write your email subject or media release title in the same style that a journalist writes their headlines. Carrie Rose of Rise At Seven also has some great advice on this here.
- Leverage media requests – my favorite way of building links without any creative budget… media comments! Look for what journalists are writing about and are needing expert comments on (you’ll be surprised at how many articles are populated with third party comments), then match them with the clients you work with for quick coverage. I love following the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter, using HARO (though this is largely USA sites) and ResponseSource’s media requests.
- Find the right journalist for your story – I touched on this above, but one really important piece of advice from me is if you’re pitching to a journalist, make sure they cover what your release is about. The best way to do this (I find) is to find similar stories to yours, then take a look at which journalist wrote it. They normally have mail links on the news website, but if you can’t find their email, try having a look for them on Twitter. A lot of journalists pop their email addresses in their bio (and don’t we love them for it).
- Don’t stalk journalists – By the same token, stalking a journalist is the worst thing you can do. Most journalists will have professional Twitter accounts that you can contact them on, finding their personal accounts and Instagram and Facebook feeds, on the other hand, is not okay. Incessant email is also a sure-fire way to want a journalist not want to write up your story, so just be mindful of that (I learned this the hard way when I first started out!) Journalist Cate Lawrence covers this really nicely in Hackernoon, or you can take a look at what I learned from surveying several journalists here.
- Brainstorm for the best ideas – teamwork makes the dream work. My best ideas without a doubt come from talking to other members of my team. The way you’ll be able to complement one and other in your creative thinking process is fantastic.
- Always add links in your press releases – it baffles me that people still don’t do this. I could shout until the cows come home about this and it still wouldn’t be said enough. When writing a press release, link to your client’s website somewhere in it. A journalist might take it out, but there’s every chance they won’t. Then, you’ll have the added SEO benefit of coverage too, there’s literally no reason why you shouldn’t do this. What more, it gives a journalist the opportunity to find out more about your client, if they should feel so inclined.
PR Advice For New PR Pros – From The Experts
Words Of Advice
- Mistakes are okay – Bethanie Dennis of AGY47 quite rightly points out that “you will get it wrong, and you will get an angry person on the other end of an email [from time to time]. It’s happened to the best and worst of us, and will probably happen again.” I think that’s such an important piece of advice to share to budding PRs, as it’s human nature to make mistakes – and you aren’t any less of a superstar because of them.
- Take your time – Jasmine Granton of Aira Digital stresses that hard work takes time, and that “it’s better to take your time and know that the people you’re pitching to are super relevant than sending your campaign out to every journalist you can find”. This is something I wish somebody told me sooner. I think I sent my first ever press release to over 100 journalists (including ones from the same publications – YIKES). In actual fact, it’s quality over quantity. And as can be learned from Mark Rofe’s recent ‘Date Mark‘ billboard purchase… It sometimes only takes the interest of one journalist to kickstart your campaign and spread it everywhere.
- Follow your gut instinct – Guts, we have them for a reason! Alex Hickson of Edit says “never be afraid of following your gut instinct. If you think a campaign idea isn’t right, then tell your strategist/manager. Talk it through, see if there is another angle you can go with. Never let the hierarchy stop from making a good campaign into a great one!”
Have anything else to add? Please add your own advice in the comments below! (Or you can send me a tweet).