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?
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.
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!