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The Importance of a Digital Portfolio in the PR Industry

Published on November 7, 2023, 1:13 p.m.
by Alison Reed.

The idea of creating a portfolio is often associated with careers in creative advertising. In the past, both art directors and copywriters would craft a physical collection of the work they have created; however, creating a portfolio has become a necessity for anybody pursuing a career in communications. Prospective employees are now expected to compile their work into their own personal website in the form of a digital portfolio.

Henry Chassaignac, president of Zehnder Communications, stressed the importance of a portfolio for upcoming graduates. “You need to have a digital presence for yourself by the time you graduate,” he said.

Chassaignac explained that employers value a person’s portfolio as the one space that showcases everything an applicant has done.

Portfolios can take many different shapes, but the easiest way to compile all of the work that one has contributed is to create a personal website, according to Chassaignac.

In a collaborative LinkedIn article, Cory Charles, founder of The SpeakHero Mindset, said communication professionals of all roles and specialties need to make a digital portfolio for the current hiring landscape.

Photo by opolja via Adobe Stock

The specific role or focus of an employee will determine how the portfolio will take shape. As Chassaignac explained, potential employees of all departments and practices need to be able to “show how you contribute[d to a project].”

With the diverse roles within the communications industry, digital portfolios can take shape in many different ways.

According to Kindra Svendsen, vice president of client partnerships at Speak Creative, employers are looking for applicants to “show knowledge of what they are doing” when it comes to their work.

That said, a practitioner has to tailor their digital portfolio to specifically illustrate their role with various forms of client work.

Even if their role in a client project isn’t the most visually appealing, applicants can still provide the creative assets and a written description of their role in bringing the work to life. A strategist can explain their method for collecting the insights that directed a

campaign, an account executive can convey their role in communicating client needs, and a media planner can explain the media plan of a campaign and the reasoning behind it, explained Chassaignac.

In addition to providing examples of the work, both Chassaignac and Svendsen recommended that prospective employees showcase who they are as a person on their website. By creating a personal brand, practitioners can truly give employers a feel of exactly who they would be employing.

The time is now, according to Chassaignac. Whether someone is a current college student or an industry professional, they can still create a portfolio that illustrates their goals and accomplishments as a practitioner.

By starting sooner rather than later and collectively adding to their portfolios, communicators can make the job application process easier. Kate Lyons, a “T-Bird Nation” blog writer for Southern Utah University in 2022, wrote in her blog, “It’s best to build your professional portfolio as you go so you don’t forget anything important.”

Photo by _KUBE_ via Adobe Stock

A portfolio is a living document that can change and grow with time.

Svendsen explained that recent college graduates and entry-level employees should only have a one-page résumé.

However, it can be hard to include diverse experiences and personalities all on one page. A digital portfolio can supplement a résumé and provide a more in-depth profile of an employee both personally and professionally.

Chassaignac and Svendsen agree that résumés should be tailored to each job for which a practitioner applies. A digital portfolio, on the other hand, is a more holistic and consistent view of an employee.

“I often look at a digital portfolio first; then I go back and thoroughly look at the résumé and cover letter,” stated Chassaignac. Digital portfolios can give employers an overview of who an applicant is and what they have done; then, their résumé and cover letter can be used to specifically appeal to a company’s needs.

Creating a personal website has become extremely accessible for anybody pursuing a career in communications. From Wix to Squarespace, many platforms have emerged to make website-building easier than ever.

Photo by terovesalainen via Adobe Stock

With both templates and custom options available, website platforms allow users to create high-quality sites that will help employees illustrate who they are as an employee and a person.

All questions answered
Just like a résumé or cover letter, no two portfolios should look exactly alike. It has become most common for digital portfolios to be

in the form of a website, but the appearance and branding of the website should reflect one’s personality and skills. After all, digital portfolios have become a valuable addition to the job application process that allows professionals like Chassaignac and Svendsen to have a well-rounded impression of an employee and their experience.

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