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  • Writer's pictureGemma Sowerby

How to get into PR and communications

Are you thinking about PR and communications, but wondering how on earth to get your foot in the door? I’ve been there. Or are you thinking, what even is PR and communications? I’ve also been there.

Now, I’m more two and a half years into my communications career, working as an Account Manager at LEWIS Global Communications. I spend my days telling stories, writing and brainstorming, speaking to journalists and influencers, and working with many different brands to create and build their reputations – and I couldn’t have hoped for a better career.

So what even is PR?

Simply put, PR and communications is the form of marketing that businesses use to build their reputation and public perception through the media. Agency professionals work with numerous businesses at any one time to help them position themselves and show the public who they really are. They’re outside consultants who advise, create, and deliver for the brands they represent. In-house professionals work inside one business to drive its communications, aligning with all the other parts of the business to communicate what they stand for, and often working alongside an agency to make this happen.

What binds all PR professionals is personality: storytellers, creative thinkers, idea challengers, and can’t-stop-won’t-stop self-starters. If this sounds like you, you might just have hit the jackpot.

Like almost every industry going, even in female-dominated PR there is a dearth of women at the top. While 66% of the global PR workforce is female, only 30% of board positions worldwide are occupied by women. This is why we need as many ambitious, driven, passionate young women to enter our profession as possible, so we can tip the balance for the future of our industry. At Women in Media, our goal is to make this a reality. This is where you come in!

Is PR right for me?

Compared to some professions, where ‘who you know’ trumps all else, getting into PR is much more about personality and drive than it is about contacts or experience. I could list hundreds of adjectives, but there are three key attributes every PR professional should have:

  1. You must be a hard worker and a go-getter, who can be trusted to do whatever it takes to land a story, keep overcoming roadblocks to make a project work, or deliver what a CEO asks for at a moment’s notice

  2. You should be adaptable and ready for change, as there is a never a dull moment in PR – every day brings a new challenge, and with the news driving so much of what we do, we’re always at the mercy of the headlines

  3. You should be a people person with a positive attitude, to bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm and flair to every piece of work, and to be relied upon as a real team player – even when the going gets tough

While personality is all-important, your experience is also very valuable. But you don’t have to have an internship at a top agency, or have spent a week in the marketing department of a high street brand – at least not for an entry level or graduate role. That said, there is some experience you definitely need, wherever that may be from:

  1. You must be a fantastic writer, equally capable of snappy one-liners as of riveting long-form articles

  2. You must live and breathe the news, knowing the latest on everything from Trump’s trade tariffs to Harry and Meghan’s charity work

  3. You must be a team player, to know what it takes to succeed as a team. It’s never a solo effort in PR, whether in-house or in agencies, and every story is the result of many people’s work – the better the team, the better the results

As I say, this doesn’t have to come from professional experience – it can just be from your hobbies or your time at university. I personally found my experience in student media particularly helpful – not only is it valuable writing experience, but it gives you a nose for a story, and the ability to make the news work for you.

This, coupled with my year abroad job in project management at a big corporate company is what led me to PR (I worked above a warehouse in the French countryside and often donned steel-capped boots and orange hi-vis – so your experience certainly doesn’tneed to be glamorous!) I wanted to tell the stories I loved telling as a student journalist, but do this in the world of business, working in a big, young team, and getting to plug into the news every single day.

Any form of storytelling is experience worth having in the world of communications – take broadcasting, creative writing, blogging, social media management, ghostwriting, and research, to name just a few. If you don’t yet have this experience, now is the time to make it happen.

How can I get experience?

Reach out to any of the hundreds of PR or communications agencies around the UK who may be hiring interns or work experience staff – there are agencies in every region – or to any local companies (big or small) who may be looking for support in their marketing or communications departments. If you’re on the grad job hunt, many agencies have formal graduate schemes in PR, marketing, communications or corporate affairs that might take your fancy – including at my own company, LEWIS Global Communications (applications close soon!)

At its core, getting into PR and comms is really about two things: having the drive, and having the heart. If you think that telling stories all day, working alongside other young, fun creatives, and getting to write and brainstorm for a living sounds like your cup of tea, then you might have just found your calling. I know I did.

PS. If you have any questions, please DM me on Twitter @gemsowerby!

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