media update’s Aisling McCarthy guides you through the signs PR is the right career for you, tips to getting an interview with an agency, the daily struggles of the job and the reasons to love working in PR.

Signs a career in PR is right for you

1. You’re always looking at your phone

Although they’re not playing Candy Crush, most PR professionals have their phones at hand, ready to answer incoming emails and calls and quickly respond to social media followers.

A job in PR is not your average 9 to 5 job, particularly if you work on digital campaigns. Social media never sleeps – so you have to be ready to act whenever that notification comes through.

If you’re okay with being interrupted during your favourite show and having six different conversations on WhatsApp at the same time, you’ll excel in PR.

2. You work better with deadlines

Working in public relations means working with clients and feeling the pressure of their expectations. Deadlines are always looming and ever-tightening – and only those who can keep pace will come out on top.

If you don’t crumble under pressure, but instead are motivated to problem-solve and produce ideas under the wire, PR will be a great career for you.

3. You’re great at building relationships

No, not everyone who works in PR is an extrovert. They are, however, skilled communicators who can maintain relationships with customers, clients, partners, vendors and other parties that organisations require.

Working in PR also means collaborating with marketers, advertisers, salespeople and human resources departments. If you listen well, understand what people need and excel at bringing people together, PR is the right field for you.

4. You’re detail-oriented

You set measurable campaign goals and objectives. At events and press conferences, you ensure that the media members’ press packs have all the necessary information, and you know that the audio-visual equipment is working as it should be. PR professionals understand that the ‘big picture’ is made up of hundreds of tiny details.

If you want a chance to be creative in your job – and are always triple-checking your work – PR will suit you just fine.

5. You write well

Working in PR doesn’t mean that you have to be the next Stephen King, but if you can deftly turn a phrase, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself with more career and client opportunities.

A good place to start is to cultivate effective writing habits and have a solid handle on an editing style. Trust us, the journalists you reach out to – and your clients – will thank you for it. The only way to improve your writing is to start writing – and keep doing it.

If you’re unsure as to why the media rewrote your content – ask them. Then implement those changes in any future content you want to send them. Remember that there’s always room for improvement in everyone’s writing.

But if you can write fairly well and generate relevant, desirable content, you’ll find yourself in high demand in the PR industry.

6. You can handle rejection

‘NO’. Get used to hearing it. Or more likely, get used to hearing nothing at all – particularly from reporters who you send pitches to.

This is especially true when your pitches are filled with irrelevant subject matter or non-news.

Rejection is just part of the job; however, keep in mind that it extends beyond just pitches. Clients can turn down your campaign ideas from the start, or even veto your ideas when their shiny new campaigns aren’t getting the results they expected. Try to stay determined – your hard work will eventually pay off.

If you take ‘no’ as a challenge to be persistent and to do better, PR is right up your alley.

How to get an interview at a PR agency

Getting an interview at a PR agency is the culmination of an application process fraught with areas where mistakes can be made. The challenges to being granted an interview are many, so what is the best way to go about it?

Here are some tips to help you secure that interview:
  • Never send your CV without a cover letter
  • Always address your cover letter to the correct person so it does not look like a ‘cut and paste’ you have forwarded to various different companies
  • Make sure you have read the job specification correctly
  • Go the extra mile and research the company where you are applying for a position
And the two most fundamental rules when it comes to sending out your CV:

Rule 1: Always check that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
Rule 2: Never send a blanket email without a personalised cover letter.

Once you’ve secured your interview, try and read up on the agency and its clients as much as you can. This will give you some good talking points when you have your interview and shows that you have a genuine interest in the company.

Proactivity is an important skill to have when working in PR, so it is expected from interview candidates right away.

The struggles of a job in PR

So, now that you’ve secured your spot in a PR agency, it’s time to take a look at some of the struggles PR professionals face on a daily basis:

1. The ever-evolving job description

No one knows exactly what it is that you, as a PR professional, do, and sometimes you aren’t even sure what it is that you do. You are meticulously managing events, integrating partnerships, writing marketing communications and pitching to clients.

“This is what keeps PR interesting though – you’re never left doing the same thing day after day!,” says Gabriella Brondani Rego, founder of urban espresso PR.

You do a little bit of everything, whatever it takes really, to ensure the best possible results for your brands.

2. Keeping up with news 24/7

Staying on top of the news is one of the best ways to build, enhance or protect your brand’s reputation. “Listening is important,” says media specialist from Jenny Griesel Communications, Jenny Griesel. “I am online every day, consuming a lot of media and I network with people in the [PR] industry.”

There is never a shortage of enticing headlines and intriguing articles, so PR professionals are no stranger to working around the clock to stay informed.

3. Creating relevance

As PR professionals, you are expected to constantly find new ways of pitching your clients’ messages to the media. This means that you have to have your finger on the pulse when it comes to trends in the media landscape.

Samantha Watt, owner of GinjaNinjaPR, says, “To remain relevant, you need to create the opportunities. This proactive approach has long been an issue in the PR industry. Don’t wait for the client to give you an angle, find one yourself and make it work. PR is only successful if it is consistent, thus requiring proactive attempts at creating relevance.”

4. Dealing with demanding brands

You are in the business of building brands. Brands want to know that you’re always ahead of the game when it comes to managing their reputation and crafting newsworthy stories that will generate great media coverage. You’re also tasked with making sure that all publicity is good publicity.

Samantha Watt says, “It is vital to talk to the right people, so many companies get this wrong. Having a good reputation as a PR consultant is established by engaging with the right people.

She continues, “Having a comprehensive media list is one of our most valuable tools and differentiators. It drives coverage, and that is what clients want after all.”

5. Creative block – it’s a real thing

Whether you’re working for your favourite brand, or have the most generous budget, some of the best ideas take time, research and, of course, imagination. Creative block can strike at any time, which is less than ideal in an industry that thrives on tight deadlines and quick turnaround times.

PR professional at total exposure, Jeremy Briar, emphasises the importance of maintaining a proactive work/life balance to combat the dreaded creative block.

“I try to plan my time as carefully as possible so that I will be able to cater to the times when I have to deal with limited inspiration. This usually means an early start to my every day.”

“Prioritising physical activity and family time is always important but it is also vital to step out of the daily routine with something like travelling. Even things as simple as watching a variety of YouTube videos can give you a fresh perspective and new ideas.”

6. Maintaining media relations

Building and maintaining relationships with the media is key in this industry. You are responsible for understanding the media landscape. This means that tailoring your pitches to the people you reach out to will allow you to secure media coverage for your clients.

“The better you understand the media that you reach out to, the better your relationship with their journalists, editors and station managers will be,” says media specialist Marina Kruger from Target Media Directory.

Having access to accurate information when pitching your client’s message to the media is the best way to find new media opportunities and build existing relationships.

Here’s the thing about PR professionals: Despite these #DailyStruggles, it only takes one look to know that you couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything else because you love the grind.

Reasons to love working in PR

A job in public relations isn't an easy one. It's not your average 9 to 5 job and requires great flexibility from those brave enough to work in this high-paced environment. Despite its complexities, there are so many reasons to love working in PR.

Here are four of them:

1. No two days are the same

“The diversity keeps things [be it campaign ideas or solutions to problems] interesting and fresh, and ensures that you never get bored – or complacent,” says Gabbi Rego, owner of urban espresso.

2. PR changes lives for the better

“There’s something amazing about working with people within companies and brands who have such passion for what they're doing, and being able to help them spread that passion is so special and makes it all worthwhile,” says Kgomotso Mamabolo, founder of Passion Projects.

3. Watching a plan come together

“The late nights, the rewrites, the negotiations, the disappointments and the challenges can all be exhausting, but that moment when you can quickly smile and see it all coming together before you move on to the next thing is still a special one,” says Claire Jackson-Bernardo, MD of Alerting the Media!

4. Train future PR professionals

“I get to spends many hours a day with young South Africans who are hoping to become PR professionals,” Jackson-Bernardo says. “When I walk into a lecture room filled with students who are keen to learn and be the best, I am inspired and motivated.”

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PR is an industry that is always changing, so be sure to stay at the top of your game by checking out our article, 10 of the best PR stories from 2018.