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Completing the First Level: What Grads Need to Know About Entry-Level PR

Posted At: March 26, 2012 2:15 PM
by Katie Bishop and Anna Ellis

Important abilities

Many students preparing to graduate — who have spent countless time and money on a proper education — are expecting immediate job offers post graduation. But this expectation is going to be harder than ever to fulfill, as senior-level professionals are losing their jobs and taking lower-paid positions. Entry-level PR professionals must be equipped with the skills that set us apart from and above our competition.

In his article “14 Keys and Attributes for New Public Relations Professionals,” Dave Fleet, vice president of digital media in Edelman’s Toronto office, explained that the skills PR graduates need to possess have evolved over the years. Fleet stated that although “there’s a new game to play” in PR, the recent graduate should be equipped with all the traditional PR skills. He lists 14 important, traditional skills and online skills for entry-level PR professionals. The traditional skills include writing, communication, attention to detail, media relations, proactiveness and work ethic.

Stephanie Woodham, freelance public relations professional in Columbus, Ga., stated personality can also have an effect in landing an entry-level PR position. “An ability that I consider most proficient as an entry-level PR professional is aggressive media pitching,” said Woodham. “But during the interview process a person’s personality can dictate whether they land the job; they must have an outgoing, positive attitude.”

Fleet also noted the importance of skills with online media. He lists eight attributes he considers necessary for entry-level PR professionals in this new era of PR: blogging, microblogging, social networking tools, search engine optimization, basic HTML coding, blogger relations, social media ethics and RSS.

These may be just a few of the important skills for recent PR graduates, but to be able to compete and set themselves apart from others in the field, recent grads should consider becoming comfortable with all of these skills.

Entry-level positions

The entry-level position that a PR professional decides to take can be crucial to their future success in the industry. The purpose of this entry-level position is to provide the professional with a thorough understanding of the field and, most importantly, client relations.

An entry-level PR professional may work in a PR agency or in-house for a company or organization. Some of the responsibilities range from interacting with the community, event marketing and handling business-to-business marketing to assisting customers, media planning, and coordinating marketing and promotions activities on a day-to-day basis.

Woodham’s first PR job title was storyteller at the Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, Fla. “Some of my day-to-day tasks included organizing PR events, planning familiarization tours, drafting and pitching press releases, client meetings and creating PR plans,” said Woodham.

Finding an entry-level position in the PR field can be difficult, mainly because companies are not always willing to hire recent graduates with less experience, but the field is not impossible to crack. If recent graduates can become familiar with the skills expected at entry-level positions, it will only better their chances of success when searching for that perfect job.

Location relevance

Entry-level professionals typically seek guidance on where to look when first entering the job market, but the possibilities now seem endless. As the PR field continues to gain relevance, it seems that finding a job in certain locations would become easier for recent college graduates. Metropolitan areas have always been seen as the oasis for finding jobs in PR. Luckily, that idea no longer holds to be true.

Jennifer Jenkins, president of JJPR in Mobile, Ala., believes the first order of business is to pick a city you want to work in and then begin the search.

The current location of a job applicant would never act as a hindrance. In fact, many employers – especially in PR – look to add diversity to their team.

These days, even smaller towns thrive in the PR industry. In small-to-midsized towns, you can seek out organizations with communication needs that may or may not be accounted for, such as real estate developers, manufacturers or the cities themselves.

If you have the guts to work independently, then there are no limits to the possibilities of where to work. This avenue would more than likely mean getting off to a slow start, beginning with close clients such as family, friends and even some pro-bono work. If you have self-direction and a vision, a great deal of overhead is not needed. Even if you fail to survive financially, working independently will look good to potential employers.

If you are passionate about a cause and don’t mind not earning top dollar, then nonprofits are another realm you might want to consider. You could even pitch yourself to them if the position does not exist.

According to Jenkins, searching for a job should never be a full-time focus. “There are many professionals who are willing to take students with them to professional meetings and luncheons to network with others and to hear about potential job opportunities,” Jenkins said. “Intern or take part-time jobs to get experience during your search. Idle time does not look good on a résumé.”

Of course, if one’s goal is to work at a more international agency, then working in a larger city, such as New York, Washington, D.C., or Chicago, is inevitable.

Finding a place to work where meaningful experience can be gained should be the ultimate goal for any recent college graduate. “I loved my first job because it gave me the ability to do a little of everything — writing, graphic design, event planning, media relations, you name it,” Jenkins said. “This helped me to be able to widen my skill set early on.”

Ultimately, what is of utmost importance to employers is the set of skills the applicant carries with them. According to Jenkins, these can overcome a lot of obstacles including location and experience. “Be outgoing and enthusiastic,” Jenkins said. “It is important to be a great listener, be organized, pride yourself on high ethical standards and be sincere.”


  1. Post comment

    This article gave me mixed emotions. On one hand I am comforted that many of the skills that Dave Fleet says are key to becoming a PR practitioner I am learning in many of my classes here at UA. It gives me some peace of mind that the hard work and long hours are going to hopefully pay off in the future. However on the other hand, reading about all the different aspects of job searching is overwhelming. I still have one more year here at Alabama but the process seems to be creeping up on me. I hope that when the time comes when I will need to begin deciding where I want to live and what kind of company I want to work for that the tips in this article will help me find what I am looking for.

  2. Post comment

    I thought that this article was extremely well written and very informative. I also thought that this article was extremely helpful to students who are going to graduate soon like myself, which is why I began reading it in the first place. The article helped me to see what steps I would need to take when thinking about getting a job and it also showed me that I might want to broaden my skill set. For example, although I am very avid in social networking I have not blogged much and after reading this article I definitely think that is something I should start working on. On top of that, I liked how it stated that you should pick the city you want to work in first and then search for a job in that city. Hearing this gave me hope that I will be able to find a job that I will enjoy as well as a city that I will enjoy too. I know that the job search will be hard, but after reading this article I feel like I have definitely learned some very helpful tips for entering the PR field.

  3. Post comment

    I am about to enter in my last semester at Alabama. While I am extremely excited to be done with college, I must say this is the most intimidating time of my life. Recently, I have been overwhelmed with what to do and where to go upon graduation in December. Your advice to pick a city where you want to go first, and then search for a job was extremely helpful to me. Reading the advice from the professionals you interviewed about personal qualities and skills was very helpful. I would say that I am a very hard working and outgoing person, but there are some areas I need to improve on. I feel that I need to make my online presence stronger, and become more experienced with social media. This article was extremely helpful to someone like me, and I appreciate the insight you all gave. This article helped me recognize my strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement as an aspiring PR professional. I appreciate both you taking the time to research this topic. Good luck to the both of you in your future careers.


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