Today we bring you a guest post from Ilana Zalika, Principal & Co-Founder of NJ/NYC firm Resound Marketing.
It’s a question I get asked a lot: how do I break into PR? The truth is, there are many different types of public relations – from fashion and tech, to healthcare, beauty, and entertainment – and each one operates in a different way. But as with any industry, there are some universal truths that apply across the board.
1. Personality goes a long way.
Nobody expects you to know everything about PR when you walk in the door, especially because every company will want to train you on its own approach. Ultimately, we want to see that you’re sharp, enthusiastic, and ready to learn. That means personality and skills have the potential to outweigh experience, especially with entry-level applicants. At the end of the day, your ability to communicate confidently is the most important asset you can offer. If I can’t envision you calling a reporter or talking to a client, I can’t picture you on my team.
2. Get yourself an internship.
This is an often-dispensed piece of advice that should not be undervalued. When faced with a decision, I will almost always choose the applicant with relevant internships. School teaches you a lot, but there is nothing like on-the-job experience – especially in PR. No class can prepare you for what you’ll face in an agency or in-house PR environment. It’s fast-paced and requires multi-tasking, quick thinking, and accountability. (Don’t worry – it’s really fun and rewarding, too!) If you’ve already been somewhat in the trenches, you’ll not only look better to a potential employer, you’ll give yourself a better opportunity to feel out this future career for yourself.
3. Make your major work for you.
No PR major? No problem. Being successful in PR requires a lot of different skills – you need to be analytical, a great writer, have a grasp of consumer psychology, understand how business works, and more. In fact, majoring in something other than PR gives you a fresh perspective to bring to the table. I was an English major, my co-founder was an Economics major. The key is to sell it. If your background isn’t directly related to PR, you need to convince me as to how it’s related. PR is all about pitching, after all.
4. Be prepared for the interview.
This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Too many candidates still come to interviews unprepared for the conversation. First, the basics: bring multiple copies of your resume to the meeting, and review the company’s web site in advance so you can ask some thoughtful questions about their clients, approach, etc. Do your homework about the industry, too: managing red carpet events versus pitching a tech startup story versus launching a new pharmaceutical drug are very different, so make sure you can speak intelligently about the job for which you’re applying. Again, think of your interview as a PR pitch…for yourself!
5. Be prepared for the job.
PR can be extremely challenging but also incredibly rewarding. I’m often asked what a typical day is like, and the answer is always that there is no typical day. You’ll most likely be doing a lot research, creating reports, writing pitches, making phone calls, and more – but also have to be ready to put it all aside to accommodate an urgent client or press request. Don’t take things too personally, and keep working to keep the pipeline of PR interest and opportunities full. Remember: your client is counting on you to help them make their mark, and the media is looking to you as a resource for great stories and content. If you can master how to keep them both happy, you’re well on your way to being a successful PR pro.
Ilana Zalika is Principal & Co-Founder of Resound Marketing, a top 25 NJ PR firm with offices in Princeton, NJ and Midtown Manhattan.