By Erin Hartwig, Lauren Ho and Giuseppina Chiaramonte
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
But you might not necessarily have a “traditional” public relations background.
Maybe your school didn’t actually offer an undergraduate degree in PR, or maybe you’re looking for a career change. These days, it’s less about having a specific degree in a field than it is about having the right kind of experience, training and passions.
PR is all about communicating, so any degree or experience that is geared toward improving your writing skills may help you secure a job in PR. Think: Marketing, Communications, English or even Business.
But it doesn’t have to stop there.
Our Hoffman-ites come in all different shapes, sizes and backgrounds. See where they’ve come from and what tips they have to help YOU:
I graduated from my college’s business school with a major in Marketing and a minor in Economics. So not only could I pull together the basics of a marketing plan, but I could balance a balance sheet and calculate the time value of money.
In school, I was always more attracted to the messaging side of Marketing and have always enjoyed writing. I thought a PR internship at The Hoffman Agency would give me some great exposure so I could make an informed decision as to whether or not PR might be a career path for me. I’ve been here ever since!
In a perfect world, your job seamlessly aligns with your major. But sometimes that isn’t the case. If you’re starting to realize you might be going down too narrow of a path, pay attention to the things you DO like about your major or other classes you’ve taken. It’s most likely these skills and knowledge will translate to a job that is right for you.
Don’t turn down informational interviews. Just because there isn’t a job offer at stake, it doesn’t mean an informational interview is any less important.
Giuseppina “Jo” Chiaramonte
I got a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature and was planning to do a Ph.D. Somewhere along the line, I decided graduate school wasn’t right for me and wanted to start working.
I got into PR after reading an article about how public relations is a great industry for liberal arts majors. The main thing to have is insatiable curiosity (article in question here).
I thought “I have that,” so I applied directly to the company that the author of the article worked for. I got an internship there to get my feet wet, and the rest is history.
My advice to you: don’t stop soul-searching. If you have an inkling about PR and think it’s the right career, then dive deeper. Read industry magazines, such as PR Week, PR Daily and The Holmes Report. Research agencies and what they specialize in: social media, consumer, tech, business. Then ask yourself, “Can I see myself doing social media? Contacting journalists? Devising news stories?” At the very least, you’ll have done your research for when you do go in for a PR interview.
Also — another tip — always strive for greatness when writing. And by greatness, I mean clarity of ideas, concise language and logical flow. This isn’t just my “English major” showing — 90 percent of PR communications is written, so good writing is essential.
Here’s a secret. Three years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about PR.
I graduated from U.C. San Diego with a degree in International Studies, a minor in French Literature and zero clue on what kind of career I wanted to pursue. So, when an opening for a PR internship in Hoffman’s Singapore office opened up, I just had to jump on the opportunity. After all, it was a way for me to get some real work experience and satisfy my wanderlust at the same time.
Right from the start, I fell in love with the creative writing aspect of PR. But one thing I’ve learned is that it’s not enough to just be a good writer. You have to be a good story hunter as well. Bringing life to your writing and learning how to pinpoint that winning story arc is a thousand times more effective than some cut-and-dried messaging — no matter how well-written it is.
Another thing — learn how to prioritize. A career in PR is fast-paced, and you will have a lot of stuff thrown at you (you’ve been warned). Making lists and checking in with your manager are good ways to help you stay on track.
Bottom line — you don’t need a PR degree to succeed in a PR career. In my opinion, real life experience is going to teach you more than anything you could ever learn in a classroom setting.