A graduate’s guide to starting in PR

Many new graduates may be taking the summer to contemplate their next step now that their student days are over. Having embarked on the world of work myself recently, may I suggest a career in PR?

“PR,” I hear you ask. “What’s that?”

Since I left university, the questions from well-meaning relatives about career, love life and long-term plans have been coming thick and fast. But by far the most common one, I find, is explaining what I do for a living.

“So where are you working/what do you do?”
“I work in PR.”

People react to this in a variety of ways, but few really understand. People want a nice one-liner. They want the essence of the occupation distilled in an easy-to-digest soundbite. You can see them thinking of a nephew who is a doctor. He heals people. A cousin is a journalist. She writes for a paper. Why can’t public relations be so easily defined?

Perhaps it is because PR is a mixture of so many skills and services. Some clients need to protect their reputations, others have to create them. Some clients are required to be reactive, some proactive. As a result, PR professionals wear many different caps. For a couple of hours you might become an expert on the Venezuelan irrigation system or corporate tax evasion in the cardboard box manufacturing industry. On a given day, you could spend the morning writing a well-argued opinion piece for a quality financial daily, before spending the afternoon calling up 30 journalists to secure an interview with a client. Sometimes it’s all about research and finding out as much as possible about a topic or a company or what people are saying about your client – or their competitors.

The result is interesting , varied, but still hard to define to your aunt over afternoon tea. After several attempts, I feel I have hit on the answer. My new go-to response is “public relations is all about helping organisations communicate, so they are better understood and their reputation is protected.”

OK, it still doesn’t trip off the tongue, but it just about – or maybe not really at all – sums up the rich variety of the never boring world of PR.

Alex Sword joined Stampa in November 2013 as an Account Executive in our London office. He recently graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA Hons degree in History.

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