Starting out in PR

A debate on The Official Facebook Public Relations Group (log in required) over the best way to start out in PR is worth a slightly deeper dive. To recap – in the “social media is the be all and end all” corner is the estiminable Chris Clarke. In the “man the phones and network like crazy” corner is the irrepresible Julia Stein, my colleague and office neighbour.

Student PR at Work

Chris, who was hired in part because of his understanding of blogging and social media, says this –

…having an understanding of social media helps big time, and my boss has said that he will only hire you if you have a blog. Why? [because] the times, they are a changin’.

You don’t get jobs walking into agencies with a paper resume in hand anymore. You have to go out and meet the people at the top, sound smart, and convince them that you should be their next hire. I did it (don’t ask me how, but I did).

I can’t help but agree with Chris on this. I have a blog. I was hired. I still get job offers/enquiries. QED. The times are a changin’ and anyone with a solid understanding of social media has an immediate competitive advantage. Having a popular blog also gives you a profile within the industry space – and people are much more likely to hire the “devil they know” than take a punt on an unknown entity. So Chris wins…right?

Sophisticated Bohemian

Julia, who has seen a few agencies in her stellar career, has this to say –

I think you are giving too much cred to social media. People looking for jobs in PR can still easily get into the biz with a paper resume (sans typos of course). Networking and developing relationships with high profile PR people works to a degree, but the old fashion HR trick never hurt anyone.

I know at FH, and other agencies I have worked at, a resume, solid handshake and a good interview could still get you far.

Touche. My jobs before Fleishman-Hillard/iStudio were gotten through networking, tenacity, a solid handshake and a good interview.

While times are a changin’, they’re not exactly moving at light speed. From what I hear, there are still plenty of agencies that don’t give two hoots if you’ve got a blog, podcast or are a Lonely Girl.

The BMBY take

My advice would be this. Do what you’re comfortable with. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re fairly interested in the social media space. If you were reading the debate on Facebook, you may be more involved in social media than you thought.

Today’s young PR needs to be a hybrid of the blogging star that Chris is and the exuberrant outgoing media relations star that Julia is.

You’ll need to be equally at home on a blog as on the phones. You should have as many great contacts in the newsroom as in the blogosphere. You’ll need to talk widgets and feeds as well as deadlines and news releases. Your filofax should be growing as quickly as your OPML file.

It’ll be as exciting and challenging as it is exhausting. But choose the right job and it’ll all be worth it.

**Update** Erin Caldwell over at Forward says pretty much what I said, only better. Read her!

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10 Responses to Starting out in PR

  1. Chris Clarke says:

    Ed, I like your take on things, but you missed my point. You *gasp* misquoted me (probably to keep me from publicly disagreeing with my boss, so it’s an admirable error).

    You took out the part that mattered most:

    “I will say this, though: having an understanding of social media helps big time, and my boss has said (and I don’t think it’s a good idea, but he makes the hiring decisions) that he will only hire you if you have a blog. Why? ‘Cuz the times, they are a changin’.”

    I don’t agree with Joe’s “bloggers-only” hiring policy. I was just making a point that the times are obviously changing in this business when there are CEOs who will only hire people who are immersed in social media. I didn’t say “social media will land you a job,” as you suggest by putting me in the ““social media is the be all and end all” corner”. My words were “You have to go out and meet the people at the top, sound smart, and convince them that you should be their next hire,” – there’s no social media in that at all, just old fashioned networking.

    You also mis-attributed “networking” to Julia. I was the one who suggested networking – Julia said it “works to a degree.”

    The only thing I completely disagree with Julia about is paper resumes. Seriously, the days of walking into an office with a paper resume and getting a job are long gone. At the very least, meet the person who makes the decisions and put your resume in their hands, not the office admins.

    You stand a better chance of landing an interview dropping pennies into a wishing well than dropping off a resume at an agency’s front desk. You stand a better chance of being struck by lightning while walking on the sun than landing an interview by leaving a paper resume at the front desk. Dropping off a paper resume with office admins just gets your resume tossed into the pile with the rest of them.

  2. Ed Lee says:

    i definitely edited your comment, especially after your last strumpette fracar (sp?!).

    i can speak from direct experiance that dropping off a paper resume gives you as much of a chance to get a job as any other. even if you’ve met someone, chatted them up and sent them your resume, it’ll still go in the file. when an opening arises, our chief talent officer will go through the pile and choose the most appropriate shortlist. no contacts required.

    recent grads/students – if you are interested in working at FH, send me your resumes. my email isn’t too hard to find.

    one last thing about job hunting. always follow up. if you’re going to be a traditional or even new PR person, you’ll need to be able to give good phone. if you can sell an interview with you, you should be able to sell an interview with a client.


  3. David Jones says:

    As a direct participant in the careers of young Mr. Clarke and the rapidly aging Mr. Lee, not to mention being Ms. Stein’s supervisor on one of of our very major accounts at FH, allow me to weigh in.

    Ed and Chris both identified themselves to me through their interests in social media. Whatever you can use to get an intro to someone with hiring authority, I”d suggest you use it. Can you get a referral from another senior practitioner? Get one. Get a door open for you however you can. Make a connection. Shake a hand at an industry event, introduce yourself, pass out a few cards. The introduction is one very small part, though.

    You still have to demonstrate, in a face-to-face interview, that you’re likeable, capable and have growth potential.

    I’m always looking for talented people…how I find them, or them me doesn’t matter to me that much.

    However, I do ask most candidates now just what they get up to online.

  4. Scott says:

    A very valuable discussion with good points made on both sides…..

    From a student/academic perspective…..

    I’ve been in Humber’s PR postgrad program for over a month now. In that month, I’ve learned alot about PR. However, not once have I heard the words ‘social media’…..from profs or students. No talk of blogs, podcasts, wikis, feeds, etc.

    I’m in no way putting down Humber’s program. I still believe it is one of the stronger programs in the city and I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going. But, they are still very much rooted in the traditional side of PR…..and that includes networking/job recruitment. If a paper resume means nothing in today’s PR world, then Humber students are in big trouble……because that’s the way things are done around here.

    Anyways, just thought I’d put that out there. Even though the industry has embraced social media, it seems that some of the schools are a little more cautious. Maybe they’re waiting for the dust to settle.

    I guess that leaves it up to students to take the initiative. Who knows, maybe we’ll be the ones teaching the professors by the end of this semester.

    Props to guys like Gary Schlee over at A Class Act for staying on the cutting edge of PR and ensuring his students do as well.

  5. […] group one) leaves many personal topics untouched. That’s why I’m here, with a push from Ed Lee– but what I am working on now is focusing what I write about here. I think things will shake […]

  6. […] got me on this thinking? A post by Ed Lee at Blogging Me, Blogging You. A favorite blog of mine, and a good discussion about blogging and public relations, but also some […]

  7. […] group one) leaves many personal topics untouched. That’s why I’m here, with a push from Ed Lee– but what I am working on now is focusing what I write about here. I think things will shake […]

  8. I would to say thank you for sharing your experiences with us is really helpful. As a new comer in the business myself, I been hit the hard reality of the Market in Montreal. I been trying whole lot of strategies to pierce the work market in communications. Now I am thinking of expanding my search to the rest of Canada,Toronto seems to be a great city.

  9. […] Check out "blogging me, blogging you" Advice from PR students. [link to post] […]

  10. […] 2009-09-22T11:17:28  Best way to start out in PR: Know your social media [link to post] […]

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