How to Get a Job in PR

The job market today in public relations is the most difficult and competitive that I have seen in my 30 years in the business. This is not simply because of the economy, which clearly doesn’t help, but has more to do with the fact that too few job candidates are keeping up with the rapidly evolving environment in which agencies and their clients operate. The tools and technologies are more dynamic and complex than ever before. And the means and methods to clearly and effectively communicate a message to any audience are much more sophisticated and technology-driven.

For job seekers, that means agencies today are looking for candidates who are skilled, experienced, well-rounded and better equipped to meet today’s communication challenges.

At Qorvis, we receive more than 100 resumes each day. Of those, no more than four or five are invited into our screening process. At the end of the process, maybe 1 in 300 applicants are offered a position.

Why is this process so rigorous?

The simple answer is that so few applicants demonstrate the skills and experience needed to qualify for a job in a modern public relations agency. At the entry level, we are not seeing enough new graduates who have right educational background and basic skills in writing. For the more experienced professionals, too few have yet to adapt to the rapid changes in our business and have yet to acquire the right kind of professional development that agencies and clients need.

Here are some of the basic skills and experience an agency like Qorvis is looking for:

1 – Writing

Writing is the backbone of communication. All traditional and “new” forms of media depend on strong writing. It still surprises me to see how few professionals in our industry have strong writing skills. Whether you are fresh out of college looking for your first job or looking to reach the next rung on the ladder – written communication is an essential skill. I’m not referring to different types of writing styles – from a press release to ad copy – I’m talking about English and Writing 101. What should have been perfected in high school and college is too often not found in job candidates. If you are not a strong writer, it is time to get some additional training.

2 – Critical Thinking

We look for people who have the ability to examine a situation or issue, can clearly understand it from multiple angles and are able to recommend appropriate actions. We want people who are comfortable navigating ambiguity and who are solution-makers. Critical thinking is a skill that enables one to methodically consider information, separate facts from opinion or supposition and anticipate possible outcomes and consequences. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find strong critical thinkers. Developing this competency will certainly make any candidate stand out.

3 – Understanding the Newsroom

In our profession, much of our clients’ messages and information pass through the scrutiny of the newsroom. But few truly understand how a newsroom operates, how news decisions are made and what news is salient. Without this insight, which one cannot get from an HBO series, perfecting the art of media relations and media pitching is difficult and prevents many from engaging in one of the most critical parts of our profession.

4 – Social Media

All forms of digital and interactive media are no longer the domain of the specialist. Every public relations professional today needs to be proficient in all aspect of social media. Today, every individual is their own media conglomerate. Anyone can write, post, comment, blog and publish. How can we effectively communicate if we all do not have those same skills?

5 – Video

With the explosion of technology and bandwidth, more and more messaging is transmitted through video. Every PR professional today should have the skills and software proficiency to tell a story through video – from concept development through basic editing and distribution.

These are just examples of the more important skills and competencies an agency looks for in candidates today. It is far different from when I first applied for a job, but for those who have or can acquire these skills, the doors of the top firms in the country will fly open, even during the toughest economic times.