How to start a career in public relations

How to start a career in public relations

A successful career in public relations begins with the ability to communicate. Whether reporting quarterly earnings to stockholders, responding to accusations of criminal activity by the chief executive officer, or discussing the goals of a new fundraising program with a philanthropist, each public relations practitioner relies on the ability to communicate clearly and concisely, both in writing and when speaking.

There is not one road to becoming a public relations executive. For many years, public relations practitioners were almost exclusively former journalists. Many people still join the ranks of public relations practitioners from newspapers and television, but many colleges and universities now offer degrees or concentrations in public relations through their schools of journalism or communications. Other public relations professionals have training and experience in business, law, medicine, or engineering, and learned the art of public relations as part of those jobs.

There are many different job titles that perform the public relations duties. In a small organization, public relations may be handled by the owner and only employee, while large organizations may have a public relations staff of several hundred people scattered around the globe. Public relations can be called public affairs, public information, investor relations, community relations, government relations, media relations, development, special events, marketing, corporate communications, or customer relations, depending on the organization. While the basic function is public relations, each job is slightly different.

If you are interested in public relations as a career, begin by talking to public relations professionals in the fields that you are interested in. While the basic tools of public relations are the same whether you are working for a Fortune 500 company, a small community non-profit organization, or a public relations agency, the practice can be very different. Someone who has a career in the kind of public relations you want a career in can provide valuable insight, and may serve as a mentor as you begin your career.

Next, if you are just beginning college, investigate the public relations curriculum, if one is available. Public relations programs may be found in the journalism, communications or business department of many colleges or universities. If you are looking to change careers and are want to refresh your ability to write and speak effectively, enroll in courses through a college or university. No matter what your level of education or experience, organizations that help you improve your public speaking, or public relations professional organizations can provide useful information and experience.

Once you have begun your education in public relations, the next step is gaining practical, real-world experience. If you are just starting out, as either a college student or as someone looking to switch careers, begin by volunteering for the public relations committee of any organization that you belong to. Helping to publicize community events or fundraising activities may not feel like you are taking a step on the road to a high-powered public relations career, but this experience can help you secure an internship, which is the next stage of real-world experience.

Internships can be paid or volunteer, and can be found in most areas of public relations. Most university career placement offices can assist with finding a public relations internship. Talk to the people you know who are employed with organizations you would like to work for, or contact the human resources office of the company. Paid internships are often competitive, and having experience can give you an advantage over other applicants.

While you are interning or volunteering, keep records of your experiences. No matter how routine the public relations effort seems to be, keep copies of the letters that you helped to write, programs for events you helped to organize, and any newspaper clippings that resulted from your efforts to get publicity. While this information will be valuable when you are preparing your resume, it will also be the basis for your portfolio.

Your portfolio will contain samples of your very best work that you can show to prospective employers. While you may want to include everything you have ever done in your portfolio, quality matters more than quantity. Your very best work should be carefully assembled and ready to be produced at each job interview. Make copies to leave with the interviewer, and never, ever leave your original work. Your portfolio is vital to your career in public relations, especially when you are starting out.

Experience and a good portfolio can help you get your dream job, starting you on your way to a career in public relations.

Experience

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