A year after getting her Postgrad Diploma in Public Relations, Cullen Communications’ Emma Walker gives the inside track on breaking into the PR industry
College degree – CHECK! PR degree – CHECK! Graduate job secured – CHECK!
Once a month, the Public Relations Institute of Ireland sends out an online digest with the latest industry news, job opportunities and upcoming tenders. This month’s digest was, for the most part, like any other apart from one particular notice.
That notice brought it all back, all the memories from this time last year. Memories of spider-grams and endless notes, highlighters and past papers, plus of course a detailed explanation of what SMART stands for. If you’re in the exam boat, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Next week, students from colleges across Dublin will tackle six examinations to complete their Postgraduate Diploma in Public Relations. Half a dozen exams probing students’ knowledge on everything from change management to not-for-profit PR, digital marketing to activism and lobbying, and everything in between.
These tests are no mean feat, let me tell you! They are long, detailed and packed so closely together that even writing your name afterwards is an effort. However, they represent all the hard work that has gone into preparing students for working in the PR industry. Even so, there is only so much that a textbook or lecture can teach you and boy, have I learned that over the past year.
So, this blog is written for graduates from a graduate who has walked the walk, sweated the books, sat the exams and come out the other side with a job in PR. One year on, it’s time for me to look back and let you know what will make your first year in the industry so exciting and rewarding, just like mine.
Get ready to juggle
This is hands-down the first thing you need to learn when starting work in a PR agency: you’re going to have to juggle! A PR agency is a fast-paced, stressful environment with loads going on, but if you learn to prioritise your workload and manage your time, you can be that calm in the middle of the storm. That means lists, lots of lists, lists of lists.
Learn to love learning
You may be close to finishing your course in PR but never (ever!) underestimate the importance of continuous professional development and learning in the industry. Sign up to workshops, forums, conferences, industry events, short courses or even webinars and open your eyes to all of the innovative ways to excel in this sector. You’re learning, you’re meeting people, you’re building yourself up all the time.
Keep your eyes peeled
There are lots of advantages to staying on top of the news, not just for you but for your clients too. A lot of people view PR as a reactive strategy for business and of course, the concept of ‘media monitoring’ is largely the reason for that. Go the other way – monitor the news for positive opportunities to leverage a story and gain coverage for your client. Not only will they appreciate it but it will put you in touch with journalists and help you grow your network of contacts.
Know what you don’t know
The first few months in any job is incredibly exciting as you get to grips with new colleagues, new clients, new projects, new information. However, it can also be a scary time for graduates who might feel lost, out of their depth. That’s why it’s important to remember that you don’t know everything. Take a breath. Relax. You’re still learning. If you feel like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end, my advice is to stay calm, think the issue through and go to a colleague with some possible ideas and solutions. Not only will you learn the correct way to go about the job, you will be respected for knowing that you need help and taking a collaborative approach.
So from the Class of 2014 to this year’s graduates, I wish you the best of luck with your exams and here’s hoping our PR paths cross in the future!
Emma Walker attained her Post-graduate Diploma in Public Relations and Event Management in 2014, having previously graduated with a BA (Hons) in Spanish and Sociology from Trinity College Dublin. She joined Cullen Communications as an Account Executive in late 2014 and now works with clients including Ford, Office Depot and Enterprise Rent-A-Car