Though I live back in Doncaster now, I spent five years living, studying and working in central London where I learned a thing or two about marketing and PR.
By the time I had handed in my third year dissertation I had secured myself a full time job as a marketing and PR assistant at an independent book publisher. About six months into the job my superior left and I was promoted to head of the marketing and PR department. I really enjoyed the job and though I sometimes felt I was a little out of my depth and could have done with someone to ask advice, I learnt a lot about the business in a short amount of time. I would have stayed there longer if it wasn’t for some personal issues that meant it was time to move on.
After I moved back up North to my hometown of good ol’ Donny, I decided to continue the path into marketing and PR and I registered onto a Masters course in Public Relations. After successfully completing this I secured a full time job in a marketing agency, and from then I moved into an in house position focusing on writing online content and PR.
Basically, I know or thing or two about the business, including how competitive it is. Using my experience and some tips from some like-minded friends, I’ve compiled this guide, ‘How to Get a Job in Marketing and PR’ that I hope you’ll find useful!
Get a degree
First, I must add that getting a degree is in no way a necessity for gaining a career in marketing and PR, and many people would argue that it is actually unnecessary, but I am going to disagree.
Unless you land an apprenticeship in the industry (which is much more likely now than it was when I left school) you’re not going to have any experience and are unlikely to be given a job. If you spend three years getting a degree you will have important qualification that will go a long way on your CV.
I have an undergraduate degree in English which has opened me up to ALL of my opportunities since. If you want to work in PR, stick to a creative degree such as English, PR or creative writing. If you want to work in marketing, go for a marketing, events or business degree. If you’re not sure, then do a degree in something you’re passionate about. If you love history, then do a degree in that. All good degrees will equip you with similar skills: how to write and how to write for different purposes, how to put an argument across, how to stick to deadlines and how to manage your time. All of these are transferable skills that will prepare you for the workplace, and if you want to gain a career in marketing or PR you NEED to be able to write, manage your time and communicate well. It’s a deal-breaker.
Get some work experience
There is a lot of controversy about working for free and particularly surrounding unpaid internships. I am not suggesting you agree to work as an intern for free for a year, or to spend your summer making coffee for less than minimum wage, but I am suggesting you gain work experience and volunteer your time for free.
Experience is the number one priority employers look for in this industry, so without it, you will really struggle to get your foot in the door. There are SO many ways you can gain experience, and today there is a lot more choice than there was when I was starting out. I sound really old right now… anyway.
Here are some ways you can gain work experience, get exposure and build a portfolio of content and contacts so you can dazzle your prospective employers:
♥ Start a blog
Starting a blog is a free and easy way to showcase your writing, your skills and your qualifications. You could create a lifestyle blog, a beauty blog or a technology blog, just write about whatever you’re passionate about.
♥ Apply for work experience
Many marketing and PR agencies provide a structed work experience programme, as do most (if not all) publishing companies. Most of the work experience placements I undertook were two weeks long, and I worked Monday to Friday full time. Others may ask you to come in one or two days a week for a longer period. It’s very unlikely you will get paid for this, but most of the placements will be invaluable experience and if you’re at university and have time off, two weeks is nothing.
You can find work experience opportunities by following the companies on social media or by searching for keywords on Twitter such as #workexperience, #intern or #internship.
When I was searching for publishing experience in my third year at university I researched London publishing companies and compiled a list. I then headed over to their ‘contact’ page and most of them had a handy section entitled ‘work experience’ and applied thus. This will be the same for most marketing and PR companies, but if you can’t see a work experience section, just drop them an email – or if you dare, pick the phone up – and enquire. The worst they can say is no (which they probably won’t, PRs are worked to the bone and would appreciate the help).
♥ Write for a local or university publication
If you’re at university, make the most of your time and use your journalistic skills to write for local publications. If you’re not at university, there are bound to be volunteer organisations and publications that need a hand creating content, taking some photos or helping with editing. When you’re working for free, people really value your time and all of your work will count as experience that you can talk about in your next interview.
Perfect your communication skills
Marketing and PR are part of the communications industry. Some PR jobs are advertised as ‘communications’ roles, as that is essentially what they are. Your job as a marketing or PR professional is to communicate to customers on behalf of your client. This client could be a brand, an international company or part of the public sector such as a council. Whoever you are representing, your marketing and PR strategies are there to communicate messages to the rest of the world. This is why it is essential that your communication skills are top notch. If you want to succeed in this kind of work you need to be able to write, read, research, talk and understand.
Stay up to date with current news and events
This is important, particularly in PR, where news and events can determine your strategy. For marketing people, it’s also important to see what others are doing and how you can do better. To be good in this job you need to be up to date with what is going on in the world; read the news every day and understand popular culture.
Know your Snapchat from your Pinterest
Another important skill of any PR or marketer worth their salary is knowing all about social media. Social media is used heavily in all good marketing strategies and is growing every day. You need to know every single social media platform out there; what it’s for, what kind of audience it attracts and how to use it. Not all social media platforms will suit all clients, but it’s good to have the knowledge under your belt, especially if you want to impress an older colleague who has no idea what Periscope is.
So there you have it! I didn’t intend for this post to be so long, but hopefully it will help you if you’re thinking about going into marketing and PR. If you have any questions feel free to ask me, I’m on Twitter a lot and you can find me at @CarolanneKate.