I may be just a second year student but I wanted to write my own 10 top tips for PR students who may be experiencing ‘information overload’. Let me explain what I mean by this: when you begin a degree in PR you are completely bombarded with things you need to do and it’s hard to organise it all in your head. E.g. get a placement, publish a press release or article, organise an event, create a portfolio, create a blog, Twitter, network, create contacts. It’s very daunting, you’re not sure where to start and you’re not really aware of how important these things are. Let me tell you, they are important.
Here’s my top tips for getting the best start in your PR career at University.
1. Get experience
It seems impossible (no-one wants anyone without experience, so how I am ever meant to get any?!) but start small and work your way up. Try volunteering with a charity and helping out an event, or even organising your own fundraising event for a charity. It’s great experience, you can put it on your CV and talk about it in interviews and anyone can do it. Don’t dive in at the deep end and start sending your CV to every huge company you’ve ever heard of – chances are they won’t even look at it. Try contacting a small company in your local area – they are always looking for people to help. Once you have a little bit of experience on your CV you can apply for better things and build your way up!
2. Network, network, network!
Social media is one of the most important factors of PR right now and you must be involved. The best way I found was through Twitter. Believe me, I found it confusing. When I first got it, I had not a clue what I was doing. But now I am totally addicted and my twitter reputation isn’t doing too badly. It’s all about following the right people and tweeting the right things.
3. Get a blog
You may not think that you have anything interesting to say; but you do. A blog is a great way to demonstrate your writing skills and show that you care more about something that your next night out. You don’t necessarily have to write about PR – you can write about anything that interests you; whether its shoes or salads. It’s a great piece for your portfolio, it’s a great way to network and it will impress lecturers and employers.
4. Be pro-active
Don’t think that the only way you can be involved in PR is through placements. Our PR department in our Student Union was set up by a PR student; why not check if your SU has one? If it doesn’t – set it up, and if it does, then join! Does your SU need PR to draw more students in? Or what about the new gym you just joined – do they need more members? Being pro-active means always being on the lookout for PR opportunities, and not just assuming the only way you can do it is through placement. Do the things that everyone else doesn’t want to do – sign up to be the student representative, enter that competition. By doing work off your own back it shows initiative and will really impress employers.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization. This is not as confusing as it sounds! SEO is simply typing your name into Google and seeing what appears. When you go for an interview, 9 times out of 10 employers will Google your name so be careful with your Facebook privacy settings; they probably won’t be too impressed with last nights drunken Facebook antics. The best way to optimize your SEO is by creating a blog, a LinkedIn account, a Twitter account and commenting on people’s blogs. Make sure you keep a check on your SEO by searching your name every week – that way you can see whether it needs improving or updating!
6. Create a strong portfolio
Your portfolio isn’t just a good way to get great grades, but it’s also a great way to impress your employers. If you walk into an interview with a strong portfolio, it will set you apart from other candidates and really show an employer that you have the skills they are looking for. Be creative and make it look professional. It may be scary wondering how the hell you will ever get anything published – but you will! Don’t worry, I never thought I would get a thing published. No-one expects you to get an article in The Sun or Cosmopolitan; people probably wouldn’t believe it if you did. Try your student newspaper – they are always looking for articles or BehindTheSpin.com, an online PR magazine which publishes students articles.
Make sure you always know what’s going on in local and global news. As a PR person its one of your responsibilities to keep your finger on the pulse – but you need to start as a student. Employers will want to know that you know what’s going on in the world today – so follow stories and make sure you can comment on it. It’s also important to know about a successful PR campaign and be able to comment on it and say why and how it was successful. (Think about the one I talked about in my previous blog post!) Be able to comment on a not-so-successful one as well and be critical of it. It will impress!
8. Work Hard
Don’t forget – it’s fantastic to get as much experience under your belt but if you walk away with a degree under a 2:2 employers won’t be too impressed. Make sure you stay motivated and complete your university assignments to the best of your ability – if you stay motivated within your academic life, you will stay motivated to go out and seek work and get a great career. This is also like being pro-active; don’t wait for work to come to you. Go out and actively seek it yourself and you will get somewhere.
9. Demonstrate your skills
If you think your greatest skill is writing – then demonstrate this. Write press releases and feature articles on whatever you want; it doesn’t matter if they do not get published – they will help build up your confidence in writing and will show that you can write. (In fact, do this if writing is your weakest point, it will help you get better!) Or if you think Events Management is your forte, then organise a fundraising event at your university. Most charities will provide you with a fundraising pack that will give you the ideas and tools to create a great event. Try and get experience with an events company as well!
10. Be confident
Believe in yourself. Being confident is key; PR is all about communication and being able to talk to others and new people effectively will make you shine from the rest. Don’t be afraid to talk in front of the class for that presentation – you’ll need the practice for the amount of pitching you’ll be doing once your employed! Being able to talk confidently on the phone is always a bonus for employers; they want people who are confident to liaise with press and journalists.
I hope this helps you and I would love to hear your comments. Feel free to leave your own suggestions – I would love to hear them!