5 Tips from Young Pros for Preparing for a Career in PR

By Susie Dunlea and Rebecca Kerr
March 4, 2021

As 2019 and 2020 college graduates, we know the stressful feeling of preparing for the “real world” all too well. After beginning our career in public relations, we’ve noticed that there were many actions we took in college that have helped us be successful—and also a few we wish we would have taken.

Based on our experiences, we put together five tips that may serve as a helpful starting point for those interested in a career in the fun, fast-paced, rewarding world of PR.

Get involved in student organizations.

Student organizations are the perfect way to gain leadership experience that will prepare you for your future PR career. They present great opportunities to make both peer and professional connections. If you’re looking for clubs that correlate directly to PR, try joining your school’s communications-focused organizations, like the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), or consider a position on the student newspaper staff. Some universities even have student-run PR firms, where members work with real clients on projects that may be added to their portfolios.

There are more ways to build your resume through participating in other various student organizations, too. Do you have any hobbies or specific interests? Join (or even create) a club related to your passions and offer to run its social media channels or manage member communications.

Intern in a variety of industries and settings.

As daunting as this may sound for those nearing the end of their college careers, interning in several different industries and settings—whether in healthcare, business-to-business, corporate, nonprofit, etc.— will really help you become a well-rounded PR professional. Not only will it allow you to learn what sector and types of PR that you enjoy most (or what you’d like to avoid), but it will also make you a versatile candidate for agencies that work with clients in different industries.

A great option if you are struggling to find a formal internship is to reach out local small businesses in that may not have PR representation and offer your services pro-bono. Explain that you are just breaking into the field and want to develop your skillset while simultaneously helping to promote them to the community. From there, you can develop a plan for media relations, social media outreach, reporting, etc.

Focus on honing your writing capabilities.

If there is one thing you need to succeed in PR career, it is strong writing skills. You can learn about clients, industries or products on the job, but the ability to write clearly, concisely and effectively should be a talent you possess before entering the field.

With that said, practice writing and study different writing styles. The most used is AP Style; however, some industries require APA, MLA or Chicago. In practicing writing, you can also build your portfolio to share with job applications and during interviews. Other great pieces to showcase include news releases, published articles, blogs, social media posts (keep in mind character count) and research communications.

Network with anyone and everyone.

We know you’ve likely repeatedly heard this advice, but that is because it is significant in many ways. WHO you know can sometimes be more important than WHAT you know. Not only can these connections help you land an internship or job, but they also may enhance your relationship-building skills. In the PR industry, strong relationships are critical. Whether it be with clients, reporters, community partners or even our internal team, we leverage relationships daily to continue to grow our business and do great work.

Learn relevant hard skills.

Proactively take the time to research the software and tools that you may not learn through college coursework. Start reading job descriptions for entry-level PR jobs to figure out exactly what skills and capabilities are needed. While you may not be an expert on all technology or software when beginning a career, anything you can learn to prepare will be helpful. At Inspire, we like to use several tools for media monitoring (Cision, Critical Mention), social media listening (Talkwalker, Hootsuite, Facebook Business Manager), email marketing (Hubspot, MailChimp, Constant Contact) and even simple design (Canva).

To learn more about what we do at Inspire and how our expectations of a PR career compare to reality, listen to our discussion on a recent episode of our agency podcast, Inside Inspire.

Have questions for us? We are happy to help! Reach out to us at susie@inspireprgroup.com and rebecca@inspireprgroup.com. And, keep an eye out for future job and internship opportunities with Inspire!