You’ve made your mind up – you’re set upon a glittering career in Online PR. With the world of social media and online marketing developing at a breakneck pace, it’s a tremendous job for anyone who seeks a new challenge everyday, who’s creative and loves to write. But how do you get there? What should you study? And, most importantly, what are the skills you’ll need? Luckily, Further’s PR and Social Media Consultants and Further founder Steve Jaggard are on hand to answer all your difficult questions…
What should I study?
Steve: Degrees in English or journalism-related subjects give an employer confidence that you can write, because it’s surprising how many people coming into the workforce don’t have a command of either spelling or grammar.
Vicky: I would try to find a degree with an element of journalism. You need to be able to find a story, write about it cohesively and know who to pitch it to – so being able to write properly is a must. I’d aim for English or Literature degrees; something that encourages you to look at text in a new light and reconstruct it. Saying that though, work experience is really useful, so if you could find a placement at a PR company after your A-Levels, I’d say run with that and see where it goes. Employers love to see that you’re serious about your chosen career; and that you’ve started early.
Liam: Whatever you choose to study, you need to be able to demonstrate to your employer that you can research and write well. English, History, Politics and Media Studies are good choices, as they all need excellent communication skills. If you want to get into PR after your A-Levels, make sure you have a good grade in English. Having an A-Level in a modern foreign language would be impressive to employers too as it shows you’re passionate about other cultures and you could impress future clients!
What will impress prospective employers?
Liam: Being able to demonstrate your love of communication. Try starting up your own blog and write about the things you love. Perhaps you’re a book worm, a film nut or a big foodie. Show some passion in your writing and you’ll be sure to catch their eye.
Steve: A passion for what people do always impresses! I always look for excellent communicators and those with a strong understanding of online media, communities, blogs, networks – and how to use them. I also look for creative thinkers who will find the right angle that will get news published, as that’s often what make the difference.
Vicky: Keeping your eye on the cutting edge of online technology and trends will definitely show you understand the world you’ll be operating in; it’s fast moving and you need to keep up. Having ideas on how to promote very different businesses and being able to show that you can vary style and tone is always good. Also, having a vivid imagination is a winner.
What skills will I need?
Vicky: The ability to learn very quickly, be a dab hand at a multitude of social media platforms and to understand the basics of SEO. Also, get to know your audiences; the chances are, you’ll be working with more than one client, and you need to know how to juggle their needs.
Liam: Excellent social skills – you won’t get very far if you’re not of a friendly disposition! You need to be reliable, committed to your clients and feel passionate about what they sell or do. Above all you need to be a team player and not be afraid of rejection.
What are the most rewarding parts of the job?
Liam: Finding a story with your client where no-one else would think to look.
Vicky: Seeing a promotion taking off, and seeing your work published online, probably.
What are the hardest parts?
Vicky: I’ve always found writing new articles for Wikipedia is a real struggle; so much virtual red tape! Getting your press releases to the right people, and making them interested, always takes a fair amount of imagination. It’s quite important to develop a thick skin and not take things personally.
Liam: Building up a list of contacts you can approach who will be receptive to your ideas and/or press releases. Journalists are busy people, and if you can’t grab their attention within 10 seconds or so you’re unlikely to succeed.
What companies can I contact for advice and work experience?
Steve: Try and find work experience with a reputable company. If this proves difficult and you are getting nowhere, revert to Plan B – find a friend, relative, or neighbour who has a business or online presence and prove your worth to a potential employer by offering them free online PR. This shows initiative, and you have tangible results to show at your interview and on your CV. Also, you must ensure your CV demonstrates your obsession with online, so always name sites/communities/groups that you belong to.
Liam & Vicky: If you’re planning on leaving school after your A-Levels, notgoingtouni can provide some excellent advice. If you are planning on Uni, there’s always UCAS. The Direct Gov site has some really good pointers and sites like Monster and Total Jobs can always help you find local companies that are hiring/advertising work experience. Sometimes chatting to other students can make a difference; The Student Room is good for that. If it is an unpaid stint you’re after in order to get your CV started, I’d advise you to contact all your local PR firms using a site like Yell and politely ask them whether it would be possible to work with them for a week or so. And when it comes to the inevitable job hunt, Indeed is ace.