How to get a job working in PR?
April 20, 2010 5:08 PM   Subscribe

How could I (a junior in high school) eventually work in the public relations industry?

I asked a similar question in November about marketing, and the general consensus on that question seemed to be that the best plan to work in that field would to just get a broad liberal arts education with internships rather than to major in marketing.

Does the same hold true with public relations? Should I try and get a broad education and try and get relevant internships, or would it be better to get a degree in public relations?

If you can't tell, I don't really have my career path nailed down yet, but as I'm applying to colleges next year I need to figure out whether going to a school without a major in public relations would basically keep me out of that field, or whether that shouldn't especially concern me.

posted by kylej to Education (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely do not major in public relations. It is wholly, 100% unnecessary. I worked in PR in various capacities for the better part of 10 years, and I have to say, the people I encountered who majored in PR were no better prepared than anyone else (and frankly, they were, on the main, pretty dumb). I was an English major. My longest-term boss was a music performance major. My mother, who represented some of the biggest A list Hollywood stars before semi-retiring (and still has a couple of pretty notable clients) did not even graduate from college. PR is about writing, being personable, and being cool under pressure. If you got it, you got it. If you don't, you just shouldn't do it; there are much more fulfilling and lucrative careers out there.

Instead of majoring in PR, if you really want to pursue this as a career path, just intern. Have a PR project going at all times. Actually having experience will be much more attractive than having a PR degree.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts:

(1) Most juniors in high school have no idea what they want to do for a career and those that do tend to have a very idealized conception of their assumed future career

(2) Talking with people who are presently working in public relations will yield much insight about the profession. I would be very surprised if the people who do well in public relations majored in something like public relations in college. Maybe political science or communications.

(3) Broadly speaking, one's undergraduate major doesn't have much bearing on one's future career. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but for things like marketing and public relations, there's no real connection between their academic study and their practical application in the business world.
posted by dfriedman at 5:50 PM on April 20, 2010

It's true that you don't NEED to major in PR to obtain a job in it - I have met people who have majored in journalism, psychology, communications, English and even history who now work in the industry. The benefit to studying a PR track in college is that it helps you create relevant writing samples throughout your academic career that you can eventually show to future employers for internships and full-time positions. What really ends up mattering in the end are your writing samples and your internship experience. Proofreading/writing skills, real-world experience, and connections (that are gained from real-world experience) is what really sets you ahead in the competitive PR game.

If you really want to shine, start a blog and a twitter feed to show that you are passionate about the field of writing and communication. Definitely become fluent in all forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) as it is a growing digital aspect of the industry. Most job descriptions I see these days even require you to be active on Twitter and Faceboook

Also I'll be the thousandth person to tell you this but there is absolutely nothing wrong with not knowing what you want to do in high school, and even college.
posted by windbox at 5:53 PM on April 20, 2010

Your best path to a great career in PR (or any related field, really) is a strong talent for expository writing. Study journalism, literature, and writing technique. Write for your school paper/magazine. Learn what journalists and editors are looking for in a story so you'll know how to pitch something compelling. A degree might help you network with others who have PR degrees, but you certainly don't need it to work in the field. Great writers who can connect stories with audiences are the stars in the PR world.
posted by judith at 6:44 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mother is a journalist who is now working in public relations (and hires people for PR positions). She thinks PR degrees are a waste of time. Major in something where you write a lot and find extra curricular activities that involve writing. Edit others' work whenever you can. Basically, you should be able to show that you're an awesome, clear, concise writer who can meet deadlines and you'll be able to find a job in PR.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:17 PM on April 20, 2010

Be a great writer and learn to tell amazing stories. Also be a great networker!

You can get a start at mini-PR by starting a blog and learning how to promote it and doing outreach on your stories. Pick a niche subject and get writing!
posted by avex at 7:34 PM on April 20, 2010

I would contact either Public Relations Student Society of America (it's for college students) or even just the full org Public Relations Society of America. If there are colleges/universities you're already interested in, see if they have a PRSSA chapter and see if any of them want to talk to you.

While I'm not in PR myself, the industry does strike me as very much "it's who you know." Getting an early start is only going to help you.

Also, keep up with the industry, even just casually. And like others have said, be active on social networks, but manage your image. That's not to say you can't -- or shouldn't -- be yourself, but just be mindful of what you post (it does seem that PR as a whole has gone to more "personalities" and being real -- check out Frank Eliason of Comcast as an example of this -- but you still need to be careful what you say).

And no, you don't need to know exactly what you want to do right now, but having a vague idea and a direction to go in is good. I did, and while what I ended up doing is a little bit different, my vision did help me to get there. Good luck.
posted by darksong at 7:35 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

My main advice based on the people I know who are recent college grads that have good jobs in PR: internships, internships, internships. Internships=connections and connections=jobs. and sometimes internships=jobs because people get hired at places where they interned. Make sure you apply early and put effort into internship apps each summer.
Also, major in something to do with writing, seems like English, Advertising, and yes PR, were the most common majors.
posted by ishotjr at 7:44 PM on April 20, 2010

I don't know anyone who has a degree in PR, but I did PR for a while and this is what I think is important:

- Know people. You need to be good at schmoozing. Become friends with *everyone.*
- Know what's going on. Memorize all the names and faces of important media members, political figures, etc.
- Be a good writer! You are going to be writing a lot of press releases. You will look like an idiot if they're poorly written.
- Be memorable. Dress sharply, be friendly, have an outgoing personality. Don't be fake, just be likeable.

Definitely internships are a great start. Also maybe start getting involved in some clubs/organizations and try doing the PR for them. I got good at PR/marketing/promotions from being very involved in promoting my college radio station.
posted by radioamy at 9:18 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh also, if you are planning on being a spokesperson or doing any tv/radio interviews, learn how to interview! It's very scary at first, but the more you practice the better you will be.

The thing that a lot of people don't realize about interviews is that *you* have a lot of control over the direction. Notice how politicians always manage to steer the conversation back to their key points. You can do this. You just have to really know your topic. Also, for the most part, the interviewer is not there to antagonize you or try to trip you up. They are on your side!

For me, college radio was great for this because I got comfortable on a microphone. Also my Management Communications class in grad school taught me to be a great speaker/presenter.
posted by radioamy at 9:22 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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