Public Relations

Public relations (PR) is about building reputation and communicating with people about brands, products, organisations, ideas and information. Every organisation and individual depends on a positive reputation if they are to be successful and the work of PR professionals is to achieve this through effective media relations, social media, online campaigns, conferences, sponsorship and other strategies. This career is open to people with a wide range of different qualifications, but you will need to network with employers and media industry figures to support your application and get yourself noticed. Relevant work experience will also help you to be competitive when making applications.

There are 3 broad areas with in PR

  1. In-house - working for one company and developing specialist, in depth knowledge tailored directly to their needs
  2. Agency - organisations which are contracted by a range of clients across different projects and campaigns
  3. Consultancy - Specialised expertise providing an independent service to many different clients in different sectors

Finding work

  • Networking is very important so it is vital that you read, write, blog, tweet, etc.  You can get yourself noticed by contributing to blogs such as  - the magazine written by PR students for PR students.   Make people aware of you  …in a good way! Be brave, be curious, be interested. 
  • Keep up to date with what is going on in the world, in the UK, in the media, and in the PR industry.  Employers really do like people to have read the news and know and be able to comment on current affairs.
  • Read PR Week/trade press. Follow and join professional organisations, such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). Be aware of key issues and keep up to date. Take advantage of training courses and networking opportunities.
  • PR is everywhere around us so a good starting point may be to identify your own interests and start targeting organisations who work in that area. Having said that, you might need to be prepared to take any PR related work, even if not in your preferred area, to get a foot in the door. Try any opportunities offered and give 100% but work out where your real passion lies and develop a strategy to work towards achieving that.   However, you need to make sure that you are not exploited by a company you work for  if you are carrying out a placement or internship - check the PRCA's Intern Guidelines and make sure that  the organisation you work for complies with them.
  • If unable to break into PR, try to work in an organisation with in-house PR and learn other aspects of the business. You could also  volunteer for as much as possible and blog and tweet about PR-related issues in your spare time.
  • Recruitment practices are changing. Often, rather than having a specific graduate intake, internships are ongoing and employment happens when vacancies arise. Whilst traditional practices continue in many companies, in others you may be asked to send a video covering letter, create an advertisement for yourself or comment on creative briefs. Face-to-face interviews are expensive and time-consuming so you may need to ensure that you can market yourself effectively on video.  
  • It is extremely important to make sure that your digital footprint is spotless and exactly what you would want an employer to see. Lock down those privacy settings, especially on semi-private channels like Facebook. Potential employers will check them.

Employability skills

  • Digital and social media are fundamental elements of PR work. Multi task and demonstrate your ability to work competently on multimedia platforms. Connect with appropriate contacts through LinkedIn. Be as pro-active as possible, but always be polite and courteous.
  • Video is now a key part of PR.  Teach yourself how to shoot and edit basic videos using tools such as YouTube video editor.Be an expert in time management so you can seize opportunities to learn and share skills. Attention to detail is vital, accuracy is essential.
  • Be flexible. Recent graduates working in the industry advise "Never say no. If you do not know how to do what you are asked to do, be prepared to find out and do it". Be prepared to try anything, learn as much as possible on the job.
  • Relevant work experience will help you. You need to be able to understand and adapt to the needs of different audiences and organisations. Be aware of appropriate styles and cultures and how to use them. Try to vary your work experience so that you can demonstrate you have this ability.
  • A key skill in PR is managing expectations. Learn to anticipate potential problems and identify solutions and be prepared to give specific examples of how you have achieved this. 

Further studies

Further study is not essential for entry into PR jobs. However it can enable you to develop specialist knowledge and help you move into the PR world if you have no previous experience. Courses are available at universities and through professional organisations.  When choosing a course, it is useful to consider whether it has professional recognition and worth remembering that Sheffield Hallam run an MA in Public Relations which is professionally recognised by CIPR.


Self-employment and freelancing usually happen after gaining experience and building up contacts. If you are interested in self-employment, excellent support is available from the Enterprise Team at Sheffield Hallam University. You can have free professional advice on a range of topics for up to five years after graduation.

Last modified: 
Friday, August 11, 2017 - 09:23