Today, I'm addressing a question from @ElifPoy on Twitter about how to break into PR. If you have a question of your own, always feel free to ask (links are at the bottom of this post).
"Recently, I signed up with the school newspaper. Any advice on how to sell myself to a PR agency as an intern if I'm not studying PR?" -@ElifPoy
Great question. First, congrats on taking a proactive step in the right direction! That kind of attitude will help you a lot on your journey to reaching your goal. PR people generally need to be proactive, social, and outgoing in order to get the best opportunities for their clients so it seems like you are already on the right track.
As for the educational side of things, keep in mind that you don't have to major in PR to take some related classes. Even electives in things like marketing, communications, sales, media studies, writing, and journalism can help you develop skills relevant to publicity and public relations. PR agents represent their clients and communicate with the public on their behalf, so anything you can do to help you get better at writing, working with people, planning events, and communicating effectively in all mediums will make you a stronger candidate when it is time to apply. So, even some seemingly unrelated departments psychology, web and graphic design, sociology, and political science can offer opportunities to learn more and develop relevant skills.
Translate the experience you do have into your resume to focus on your skills in writing, communication, and relationship building as these are some of the skills you'll use most in the field. Fortunately, a lot of the skills needed to get started in PR are soft skills that you probably have from other jobs as well. Sure, there are industry specific terms, certain key connections, and databases and directories you will need to learn in the long run but that's what interning is about, learning. So, even seemingly simple things like writing your own blog, working at a restaurant, or doing volunteer work may have still given you experience managing your blog's reputation, interacting with customers, or sending out press releases on behalf of that organization. Don't get me wrong, this is not at all about lying, and doing so would be a mistake, it is just about learning to see how skills used at one seemingly unrelated job can actually apply directly to what you really want to do. In your case, for instance, working at the paper gives you the chance to develop experience writing and build a portfolio of samples. Keep in mind that although companies will be looking to hire the strongest intern candidates they can find, they do not expect you to know everything or have a perfect resume. Even if your goal is ultimately to intern at one of the competitive top firms in a major city like New York or Los Angeles, you can always build experience by starting locally.
If you don't feel like you have enough experience to compete yet, then get a little creative for now. If you get any connections to PR agencies through your work at the paper then try keep in touch. If they are local, ask to talk to them about their job and experience and see if they can connect you to anyone else you might be able to talk to in the name of education (being a student is a huge benefit in this area). Even if you're not studying PR at school, if there actually is a PR major, it can't hurt to try to contact people in the department and see if there are any activities you can get involved with, any classes you could take, or even if you could talk to the professors themselves to get advice. Study any press releases you do receive and try to get some practice writing them. In fact, one of the best ways to do that might be to find a local band (or even a non-profit that takes volunteers) you like and ask if you could help them out with their publicity. Most bands would probably love the help and it will give you a chance to get experience and build some contacts in the industry.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!
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