Marketing, advertising and PR
Entry-level routes into public relations

How do I get a graduate job in public relations?

Public relations work may be glamorous, but before you can start hosting cocktail parties and schmoozing local journalists you will have to battle your way to an entry level position in PR.
It’s unlikely that you’d walk into Greenpeace straight off the bat, but even smaller charities sometimes need PR staff and are willing to take on those who need experience in the hope they’ll stay once fully blossomed.

There are normally two types of public relations (PR) positions; in-house for a company or working for an agency that is contracted out to clients. Both need you to handle campaigns, deal with press communications and write press releases as well as keep organised cuttings and handle outside enquiries. Increasingly search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are becoming important tools for those aspiring to make it in PR. You will need to be a dynamo at networking, meeting and greeting as many people in a room as possible and keep in touch with them afterwards.

Relevant degrees: public relations, journalism, marketing, communications

Entry route one: public relations assistant (in-house or agency)

Before you’re completely let loose on an unsuspecting client/crowd you’re more likely to be working in a support role alongside the rest of the team. They will want to see your organisation skills as you sort calendars, cuttings, files and photos and put together press kits as well as know that you can come up with research to aid on campaigns and smaller presentations. Creative and intelligent writing ability are also a must for those looking for a long term career. The skills and experience required will vary a little from place to place, but as a general rule promotion prospects in PR are quite respectable and you should be able to progress relatively quickly. Salaries for entry-level jobs in the private sector average around £20,000 to £30,000, but obviously change with the economic climate.

Entry route two: public relations assistant (charities)

Many charities require PR specialists to manage campaigns and put out press releases just as much as big corporations. If you track the media coverage of an NGO like Greenpeace, you might be surprised by just how extensive it is (it will perhaps feature as much as any large soft drinks corporation or manufacturer). It’s unlikely that you’d walk into Greenpeace straight off the bat, but even smaller charities sometimes need PR staff and are willing to take on those who need experience in the hope they’ll stay once fully blossomed. The skills will be similar to those needed working in-house or for an agency, perhaps with a more journalistic tint (you may find yourself focused more on journalists questions, dealing with research bodies and getting involved in organised events than promoting new products). Be prepared to get used to press kits, research, lots of telephone calls to and from media staff and honing your presentation skills. Working in PR for charities tends to pay less than the private sector, but starting salaries are normally in the same ballpark. You can find out more about working for charities in TARGETjobs' public sector and charity section.

Entry route three: account coordinator/junior account executive

This role is normally more suited to marketing graduates than PR and journalism grads, but junior account executive is potentially an entry level job. The level of responsibility is likely to be higher, particularly for large companies, and you may find yourself having more control over long term communication strategies and clients. Creative thinking and writing are key as you develop not only press releases and statements but also social media and strategies for other platforms. As both an account coordinator and a junior account executive you may start off in a more supportive administrative role to senior staff before you move on to handling your own projects.

Graduate employers in public relations

Here are some of the employers that recruit graduates annually. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does provide a good snapshot of what's out there to help you get started. You can search for more public relations graduate job opportunities here.

  • FleishmanHillard is a strategic communications firm that has clients in a range of industries including consumer goods, education, healthcare and technology. It runs a 12-month rotational graduate scheme. You will work in one of its agency disciplines, which include: brand marketing, creative services, public affairs, corporate communication, technology and financial services.
  • Chime Communications is a public relations, advertising and communications group. It runs a programme for graduates with a 2.1 who want to work in the world of public relations, advertising, sports marketing, research, corporate social responsibility and health communication.
  • WPP is a communications services group that employs people in 3,000 offices in 110 countries. It offers a three-year fellowship for graduates with a 2.1 in any degree subject. It comprises three one-year rotations with different WPP companies and in different disciplines. Graduates on the fellowship usually work in a client management or strategic planning role.