5 surprising skills that could land you your first job in public relations
Whether they comprise a small team with only a handful of clients or a global corporate managing the reputation of household names, most PR agencies tend to look for the same key skills in prospective employees. Our very own @TopLineFounder has already written extensively on what she looks for in potential candidates for a B2B PR job – great public relations skills like attention to detail and great writing, communication, organisation and time management skills are all essential for those wanting to do well in PR.
But there are a number of other skills that you may possess, but might not think to emphasise on your PR job application – skills that would in fact make you a valuable, if not essential, member of a PR team.
PR isn’t all about the written word. Being aware of what pictures and video can bring to a piece of writing – from initially catching the reader’s eye to summing up in a few seconds what might otherwise have taken paragraphs to achieve – is an important skill to have and one that can be developed through work experience at a London video production company.
With smartphones, pretty much everyone now has a camera capable of producing video or images to a passable standard in their back pocket, and you may suddenly find yourself called upon to step in as an amateur photographer or cameraman. This is particularly true if you’re involved in hosting an event, where networking and selling may be at the forefront of the client’s mind (and budget) rather than opportunities to create content to be used later for PR.
Granted, it’s more likely to be used for a blog post than an article targeting the nationals, but having an awareness of what makes a good shot – factoring in aspects such as lighting, framing and perspective – will ensure you produce something of a high quality, and impress both your client and your boss.
Of course to really capture the moment with a recording that will stand the test of time, the best option in situations like these is to budget for a professional photographer or a company that specialises in event video production.
It’s almost becoming cliché to talk about how PR and social media go hand in hand, but it’s a simple fact that those who understand the power of social media will do far better in a career in PR than those who don’t. Agencies are looking for far more than how many Facebook friends you have (or indeed the number of meals you’ve instagrammed and hashtagged this week).
Being able to demonstrate that you know how to build and engage a following, particularly when starting from scratch or for a certain target audience will prove invaluable. With Twitter, for example, demonstrate that you can identify relevant influencers, compile lists and interact with them, all whilst creating regular interesting content using a tone that is appropriate to the account.
Why not head over to the B2B Guide to Social Media to discover more ways that social media can be used to boost the effectiveness of a PR campaign?
Blogging is an integral part of modern PR and many of those looking to get into the industry will have had a crack at starting their own. A blog is great for showing off your writing skills and putting it on your CV (making sure it’s been regularly updated and that the content is quality, of course) will very likely mean it receives visits from potential employers looking for examples of you work.
But the skills behind setting up and running a blog are also important too, as often PR teams take responsibility for their clients’ blogs to promote them as thought leaders. Knowing your way around sites like WordPress is a great start but understanding how to decipher and edit HTML is a valued skill.
For example, Microsoft Word is notorious for copying over extra code that can lead to all sorts of formatting errors when trying to upload information into a blog post. Being able to view the source code and make fixes can take seconds if you know what you’re looking at.
Taking this one step further, you can then show off your skills by embedding video or images into posts to make them really stand out. There are lots of easily searchable guides on how to get the most out of HTML and it’s worth putting in the time to really understand how code works, not least because it’ll save your company having to pay to outsource this work instead.
Most basic HTML questions can be answered with a quick Google search but for tutorial videos and a place to test your coding skills, sites like LittleWebHut are a great resource.
image editing and design skills
A common task for any entry level PRO is to compile coverage reports. Being able to edit images to a high standard will come in handy when clipping coverage and will help make your reports look as professional as possible.
Often blogs, websites or email accounts have limits on image sizes. Knowing your jpegs from your pngs and your DPIs from your megapixels means that you can resize and upload images with little hassle and negligible drop in quality when an editor asks you for an accompanying client logo, for example.
Images can sometimes be the difference between an article getting published or not. At the eleventh hour a journalist might request a picture of that one client who still hasn’t got a proper headshot sorted. Being able to remove a wayward shadow or crop their arm out of a hastily taken selfie, although not ideal, can make the best of a bad situation and hopefully save the day.
Smaller agencies are ideal for those really wanting to flex their creative muscle, as they will not always have the budget to employ a professional designer for a project. Those with design skills will be able to have real creative input on projects and quickly prove themselves a valuable asset to the team.
There are many free alternatives to Photoshop that you can practice image editing on such as the open-source software GIMP or web hosted editors like Pixlr.
statistics and excel
An easy way to spot a news story that has originated from a PR company are phrases like “statistics from” or “a survey by” in an article revealing a fascinating (or perhaps not-so-fascinating) market trend or consumer preference to hook the audience in. These figures are not plucked out of thin air and it is usually up to the more junior members of a PR team to sift through pages of statistical data when the team is formulating interesting angles. This is why being up to scratch on your maths is no bad thing.
Knowing how to use advanced features of Microsoft Excel can make things even easier, more accurate and less time consuming. Excel’s formulas and sort and filter features let you pull statistics (such as percentage totals) out of your raw data and also effectively manage and display only the information you need. Getting your head around stats will help you keep your data organised, accurate and uncover the angles that will eventually become your story.
As the papers like to remind us, the job market is particularly competitive for recent graduates and those looking to take the first step on the career ladder. Often it’s hard for employers to separate potential candidates based on academic qualifications alone. Recognising how the examples above can be applied in the PR workplace to become essential public relations skills will turn you from a good candidate into a must-have employee.