PR Graduates: How to get a job in Digital PR
Alice Buttery Digital PR Lead
9 min read
Friday, 31st July 2020
Updated: Tuesday, 15th February 2022
I’ve been there - you've graduated, got the certificate and now you've got the challenge ahead of actually using your degree. For PR graduates finding a job out of university can be an overwhelming experience but it’s also the time to put your money where your mouth is and chase after what you really want.
I’ve been with the team at Rise for about six months now, having joined as a Digital PR Intern which was my first job out of university. I’ve had so many messages on Linkedin from people looking for some tips on how to get into the industry, all tips I would have found so useful for when I first applied here. Back then I didn’t even know what Digital PR really involved so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in an entry level position.
If you’ve decided you want to work in Digital PR you’re in for a treat (I’m not biased I promise) and there's several ways you can stand out and be the graduate that teams really want:
Experience, experience, experience
So this probably goes without saying, right? The best way to for PR graduates to appeal to a PR team is having experience. Our founder, Carrie Rose, spoke about her experience and how she joined the industry buy throwing herself into work experience and free work.
As a graduate this is difficult though, and I know how it feels to be told you don't have enough experience straight out of university. It can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, because of course you feel like you need that entry level role to gain the experience but there are other ways.
You don't need to have worked directly within a digital PR agency or even be a PR graduate, you can enter the industry with any degree background. And whilst work experience would look amazing on your CV it's not essential. As a graduate no one is expecting you to be the most qualified, but there are other ways to gain an understanding of the role. Take initiative, think about the core skills you’ll need behind you and gain experience in these on your own. If you want to stand out you need to show that you’re willing to go over and above.
Out of office experience
One of the best ways to do this is to run your own blog. Before working in PR I’d been blogging for about 10 years - it was a hobby that ended up helping me out tenfold and was my only piece of real experience before I started at Rise. Make it about anything you like and familiarise yourself with one of the biggest blogging platforms. Running a blog will build on your content writing skills, and you can also begin to understand the basics of SEO, page building, web design and self-branding.
If you feel like you need to build on your industry experience, try gaining some by volunteering your services to brands or agencies. You could help a small business run their social media or run some PR for them, reach out to an agency and see if you can shadow someone or do some work experience. Putting yourself out there will not only help you add to your experience but you'll also learn a lot and gain good connections.
It's important to remember that opportunities are not going to come looking for you. If you want something you need to chase it, and if that means going out of your way to bulk out your CV or make connections then do it.
Passion is Key
You might not have the experience so you need to have the drive. Your personality and willingness to learn is going to be what gets you through the door. Show that you’re motivated through your attitude and through the time you’ve put in to better your skills. If you’ve got an interview for a role make sure you've researched the company and you can show that your attitude matches theirs. The interview experience can be so nerve racking but try not to let this get to you - just remember that you’re talking to another person and they’re not really that scary. Try to be personable and chatty, ask questions. Behind experience and skill sets managers really want to hire people that they’re going to get on with so make the effort to build a connection.
There are so many free resources available if you look for them and by spending time learning you’re going to come across better. You can talk about being motivated and passionate but you need to back it up. There's so many great Youtube videos out there that will teach you the basics. Lots of PR lovers host free webinars and chat to industry leaders - these are a goldmine and will give you some real industry insight before you’ve even stepped into an office. If you can comfortably talk about writing press releases, chatting to journalists and campaign ideation without industry experience you’re going to show that you’ve put in that effort. PR graduates often have lots of theoretical knowledge but reading outside will help expand your industry knowledge.
Twitter is your best friend
Learning more about the industry and the agencies you want to work for is as so important and I’ve found the best way to do this is through Twitter. Digital PR’s love to talk about themselves (guilty) - most of us share our work through tweets and often provide tips behind successful campaigns which makes it the perfect platform for PR graduates. Get to know the people you want to work with before you’ve even applied for the job. Not only will this help you to understand more about the wider PR industry but you will also begin to learn about who works with who, what type of PR they love the most and you'll probably discover some top tier GIFs too.
My top ten Twitter accounts for to follow for inspirartion:
- @DigitalPREx - share great digital PR campaigns from the best agencies in the industry.
- @louisevparker - Louise is the Digital PR Director at Propeller net. She shares campaigns, tips and also makes some excellent Digital PR Tik Toks.
- @CarrieRosePR - Carrie is Cofounder and Creative Director of Rise at Seven. She shares some seriously motivational stuff and some of our most successful campaigns.
- @amyirvine322 - Amy is a Digital PR Strategist at Reeboot Digital and often shares campaigns and their national coverage!
- @WillHobson - I couldn't miss Will out of this list. He’s our Digital PR director and the king of newsjacking. He shares some really useful outreach tips, some #relatable digital PR struggles and lots of Gemma Collins gifs.
- @techseowomen - a support network set up for women in Tech SEO which is great to follow if you’re looking to connect with more women in the industry.
- @jbh_jane - Jane is the founder of JBH and runs some really helpful webinars on Digital PR. If you’re looking for tips on outreaching to journalists, ideation and content this is a great place to start.
- @jessicapardoePR - Jessica is a Digital PR Executive at Source. She shares some amazing Digital PR tips alongside her campaigns and runs a really helpful PR and Communications blog too!
- @markcporter - Mark is an SEO expert and also runs Content Curated, a newsletter which covers the best content in the biz.
- @theweeklypr - The Weekly PR is a weekly newsletter which shares some of the best Digital PR campaigns every week, their Twitter is a great way to keep up with what's going on in the industry.
Linkedin is also an obvious place to learn more about PR, discover agencies or freelancers and somewhere to have a little stalk if you’ve got an interview and want to read up on the person you need to impress. It's a little more professional than Twitter so it is lacking in Gemma Collins memes but it's a great place to interact with people in the industry. I personally think that if you want to reach out to someone directly Linkedin is probably the best place to start. Often if you’re prepared to ask many people are willing to have a chat about just about anything so if there’s anything more niche or industry-specific you've got questions on this is where to ask them. Being active and sharing ideas or campaigns on Linkedin is also a great way to get your name out there and is an easy way for PR graduates to connect with employers and agencies.
In the six months I’ve been with Rise we’ve begun to see some of the most creative job applications out there. We’ve had PR graduates apply with TikTok videos, CV’s written as news articles, press releases selling an applicant, raps made up about the team and a breakdown of some campaign ideas for our top clients. Any time someone breaks the mold and gives something like this to Carrie it makes it straight into our WhatsApp group chat and is seen by the whole team. By doing something clever and creative you will stand out.
I don’t necessarily think this means doing something crazy but instead think about your talents, or the job role you’re applying for, and how you can work that into an application. Make sure that it still allows for your skills and experience to be seen so that it's not just a novelty which lacks substance. This will allow your personality and passion to take the lead, which is important for a role which requires less experience and makes it much easier to be noticed especially when you’re competing with hundreds of other applicants.
Be a sponge
Being a graduate you need to show an agency/brand how you’re going to add value to them. People with little experience are going to require more time and money for training so you need to show them that you’re going to be worth it. Once you’re in the door, take every opportunity to learn and learn about anything and everything - the SEO team are talking through their favourite tools? Listen. The content team are running through a deck on the value of blog posts? Take notes. You’re going to spend a lot of time developing your skills in Digital PR but that doesn't mean you should limit yourself to your department. Agencies work because everyone collaborates and the more you understand about each aspect of the process the better you’ll become at delivering for your clients.
Be ready to fail
Like with any industry there's a slim chance that the first role you apply for will be the one you get. Rejection doesn't feel great but just remember that missing out on a job just means it wasn't a great fit. Be prepared to follow up with your interviewer and get feedback - this will be so valuable to you. Persevering is important - if you want something hard enough and you’ve put in the effort to gain skills and experience then something will come along. There’s also nothing wrong with looking at other entry-level roles outside of Digital PR. This doesn't mean you have to give up on getting into the industry, instead gaining experience in other areas of digital marketing will only help later on. There are so many opportunities out there for PR graduates and working in Digital PR is just one of them
I hope that these tips have proved helpful. Moving into industry after finishing your degree will probably be the most difficult job search you have but it’s not going to last forever. Putting in the extra effort to appeal to managers will take you a long way and will probably be the difference between a yes or a no!
Want to be a part of Rise at Seven?
Are you looking for your next challenge? Check out our careers page and you could be our newest team member - we're always keen to talk to passionate PR graduates!