You’re interested in a PR career but don’t know where to start — that’s okay because Mark Schaub is here to tell you how to find jobs in public relations. Forget Indeed.com, Monster.com and even craigslist; follow these tips and you’ll be applying for a PR job in no time.
Find Your PRSA’s Local Chapter
Your first order of business in your PR job search is to find your local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. You can do that by visiting www.prsa.org.
The PRSA is the overarching organization for the field of public relations. From here, type your city name in the search box at the top right and if a local chapter exists, it will appear in the search results (usually first).
This is the best place to start because the PRSA is the industry’s home for all-things public relations. For this reason, most available positions are posted to this site. That means you know they’re not sales and/or marketing jobs but rather PR-based.
Sometimes jobs are posted at the chapter’s page or at another web page entirely.
For example, my local PRSA chapter in Orlando has its own website (www.prsaorlando.com) where it posts jobs, news and events, but Memphis’ chapter keeps everything at PRSA.org (http://www.prsa.org/Network/Chapters/Minisites/custom/029/614/Memphis_Chapter/Jobs_Careers).
Typically a simple Google search with the phrase “[INSERT CITY/REGION HERE] PRSA jobs” will net you the right page.
If that wasn’t enough, you might find other professional organizations near you. In my home state of Florida we have the Florida Public Relations Association (www.fpra.org) complete with local and regional chapters.
There’s also the Hispanic Public Relations Association (http://www.hpra-usa.org/) with various chapters so you just have to do your own research for your city/region/state.
Bottom line: lean on your professional association’s website as you navigate the world of PR throughout your entire career.
Identify Your Dream Company and Search Its Job Board
This could easily have been my number one tactic, but the importance of being aware of the PRSA and your local chapter couldn’t be overstated. That said, you should always love the company you work for, which is why you should see if a PR job exists there.
It’s as easy as visiting your dream company’s website and peeking at their “Jobs” or “Careers” section and applying.
Determine If There Are PR Agencies Near You
While most local PR jobs will be posted by the PRSA, it’s still a good idea to know what agencies are in your area. Besides — in the case it hasn’t yet or doesn’t make it to the local PRSA chapter’s job board, you can find out directly on agencies’ websites.
Start with a Google search with the following phrase: “[INSERT CITY/REGION NAME] public relations.” For the most part, your search results will be filled with PR agencies in your area.
Don’t be afraid to click through multiple pages. Here in Orlando, I am able to net agencies all the way to page six.
You may discover in your research that most agencies cater to one or multiple industries. This is because their team is well versed in them which offers tremendous value to their clients.
If you’re coming from a particular industry — fashion, let’s say — you already know the in’s and out’s of that industry and therefore have something of value to offer a PR agency (no matter your PR experience).
Reporters trying to make the transition may have a beat that they cover and inherently have a wealth of knowledge on. It could be politics, health or even technology.
Agencies that specialize in the industry that you have the most knowledge in provide a great place to start and your easiest point-of-entry to the PR industry.
Reach Out to a PR Professional
Having a relationship with an established PR professional can be of great help in your search for a job in public relations. Those in the journalism industry should have a leg up in this regard. Reach out to multiple, if possible, and ask if they know of any openings.
This is a great strategy for uncovering the “hidden job market”: those positions not posted online or elsewhere.
These are jobs that simply may have not been posted yet for various reasons. For instance, maybe the company or agency is swamped and hasn’t had the chance to share it. In these situations, they likely need the position filled pronto.
This is incredibly good for you because if you can discover one of these jobs before other people do, you have less competition. And if time is of the essence, they could fill it quickly if the right person came along before they even have the chance to post it. Be that person!
And that’s why it can be extremely valuable to have a relationship with a PR pro. He/she might know of a situation suited just for you and not only that, but also provide introductions and recommendations.
No matter the circumstance, knowing someone in the field will help you as they can help guide you throughout your transition. But don’t expect them to do all the work or ask too much of them.
If you aren’t a journalist and don’t have that relationship with a PR professional yet, find one and strike up a conversation. You can do so via Twitter, LinkedIn or, if you know their email, send a message.
You can go the direct approach and tell them that you’re seeking a job in PR and that you’d love the opportunity to chat on the phone or in person for 15 to 30 minutes. Most people will grant you that but understand it might be a couple weeks or maybe even a month until they have the time.
What I like to recommend is warming them up to you first, mainly with the help of Twitter. Definitely “follow” him/her. “Like” and reply to their tweets. That way when you introduce yourself to this person, they will have become familiar with your face and name, and they have a sense of who and what you’re about.
No matter your approach, you want to be respectful. Don’t think of it as they’re required to help you.
There are jobs to be found on LinkedIn. It makes sense — it is the social network for working professionals.
What’s unique about jobs posted on LinkedIn is the option to apply by submitting your LinkedIn profile.
If you’re reading this, you likely have no PR experience to speak of. Due to this fact, using your LinkedIn profile as your application is of no use because it won’t match you with the job description.
You might have hard skills and work experience that can translate to PR, but applicant tracking systems act as a SEO of sorts for job applications. If your profile doesn’t mention public relations by name, your application is heading straight for the virtual trash can.
If possible, rely on the old-fashioned resume and cover letter. Granted, you’ll want to make sure the right keywords and phrases are contained in these documents because an ATS is still likely at work. But if it gets through, it had better speak to the hiring manager and convince him/her that your skills are applicable to a public relations job.
While we’re talking about LinkedIn, be sure that it’s 100 percent complete. Include a detailed title/headline, summary, job description, etc. Seek recommendations, have a flattering and professional profile photo, and state the fact that your skills are perfect for PR.
If you’re someone who is switching industries and not ready to declare it to the world, that’s understandable. But perhaps you can tweak it in such a way that if a PR executive was considering you for a job, that they could look at your LinkedIn profile and instantly understand why you’re capable of making the transition.
What About Indeed.com, Monster.com and craigslist?
While it is possible to discover PR jobs on these sites, most listings aren’t PR-centric. Most of the jobs that appear in the search results for the phrase “public relations” are based in sales, marketing and the like.
What is typically happening is companies post jobs and tag them “public relations” or the descriptions of these jobs contain the words “public,” “relations” or a combination of the two.
Stick to the methods described above and depend on jobs posted on www.prsa.org as certifiably in the sphere of PR.
Titles to Watch For
When unclear, look for the following words and phrases in a job title to represent a legitimate PR position.
- public relations
- social media
They are typically followed by…
Be wary of jobs with solely “marketing” in the title. While it is possible to come across a job title like “marketing manager” which includes PR duties, it may only be part of the job.
If you’re looking for something more public relations-heavy with marketing thrown in, look for public relations to also be in the title (“public relations & marketing coordinator,” for example).
Some other titles to look out for:
- account coordinator/executive/specialist
- Many agencies use these titles to denote their PR staff. It’s fancy, sure, and references the fact that you’d oversee multiple clients.
- community (relations) manager
- This one is tricky. Usually it’s more of a grassroots marketing or development type of role. I would definitely sniff out the job description on this one and determine if it’s more suited for PR folks.
PR takes on many forms but can be broken down by four functions:
- media relations
- internal communications
- social media
- brand journalism
If a job description is heavy in any of those, you’re golden.
What About Job Fairs?
Don’t waste your time.
No company is going to hire their next PR manager at a job fair; I guarantee you.
Do you know what jobs comprise a lot of job fairs? You guessed it: sales. That’s an overgeneralization, sure, but unless you’re going to an industry-specific job fair for PR pros, there are going to be a lot of sales jobs.
Nonprofits are a great place to practice public relations. I used to work at one and learned a ton in a short order of time.
Sometimes job postings for a non-profit don’t make it to job boards including the PRSA website, so go to nonprofits’ websites directly.
For a full list of nonprofits in your area, visit www.greatnonprofits.org. Type in your city at the top of the page and you get a lengthy list of local non-profits.
These organizations are a great place to start because even though they pay less versus bigger companies, corporations and agencies, more times than not you have to work with less which makes you more resourceful. In the end, it makes you a more valuable employee and a better PR professional.
But maybe the best reason of all is that, by their nature, nonprofits do such great work and therefore make it easy in a sense to generate press coverage. It’s a great portfolio builder in that respect.
That’s why I believe if you’re willing to tough it out for six months to a year, you can put together a stellar portfolio of press coverage rather quickly and parlay that into a higher paying gig somewhere else if so inclined.
For those journalists who are trying to justify coming to “the dark side” (which is phooey, by the way, from one journalist-turned-PR professional himself), performing public relations for a nonprofit like a charity is an easy way to quell those concerns.
Volunteer & Internship Route
No matter your age, you can volunteer your time and services anywhere that welcomes it. While that can mean working for free, I can guarantee hiring and PR managers don’t see it that way.
If you’re coming into public relations with no experience, the fact that you’re taking the initiative, putting yourself out there and willing to learn the trade without compensation (to start, at least) speaks volumes to your character and work ethic. Companies would be happy to invest in you if you can produce in the time that you’re volunteering.
Startups and nonprofits are excellent places to offer your help. Do some Google-ing and ask around for opportunities in your area.
And for college students and recent graduates, never undervalue a good internship opportunity.
Many internships are posted on PRSA job boards, so start there unless you know exactly where you want to intern.
Your college is another great resource as they usually have a physical job board on campus and/or online. Some companies have internship agreements with your school so be sure and ask so you don’t miss out.
If you’re overwhelmed on where to start, one idea is to picture the job you eventually want and see who currently has it or something similar with the help of LinkedIn. From there, see where they interned.
But don’t stop there — ask that person what internship(s) helped them achieve the success they’re experiencing. Important to note, however, is it’s not always where they interned but sometimes something else entirely, so start that conversation. You’ll learn something and network at the same time.
As you’re most likely aware, internships can sometimes translate to full-time positions (mine did). When they don’t, internship experiences stand out on a resume and help you to secure a job somewhere else.