How to start a career in PR
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Joe Konderla recently joined San Francisco Agency as a Communications Specialist. With years of copywriting experience under his belt, here are a few of his thoughts on kickstarting his PR career after a couple of weeks on the job.
After working as a copywriter for three years, I decided to join the good people at San Francisco Agency and start a new career in PR. Sure, moving from copywriting to start a career in PR isn’t much of a change. My new PR role gives my typing fingers a decent daily workout. But I still have a lot to learn, so I’m glad to have an excellent team to help me hit the ground running.
If you’re looking to start a new career in PR, too, these handy tips may help you along.
Choose a team of likable, talented people
All PR companies are successful. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in business. So when you apply to a PR firm, don’t put too much thought into references or client pages. You’ll learn all about that later on. In the beginning, it’s best to look at the team, the company’s code of conduct, and the diversity of the company’s services.
Starting a career with a team that’s happy to teach, support, and make you feel welcome is essential for success. The folks at San Francisco Agency are multi-talented, highly experienced, and hardworking professionals. But they are never too busy to teach, chat, and even have a bit of fun. As their code of conduct explains, they value honesty, individuality and are even big enough to admit past mistakes.
Learn new things, even in subjects you’ve mastered
I knew I’d learn lots of new things about PR while starting at San Francisco Agency. But I didn’t expect to learn anything new about copywriting. I was wrong.
Copywriters write articles and blog posts for company websites and social media etc. But PR reps sometimes write for journalists, who may have little or no knowledge of the subject. What’s more, they certainly don’t have the time for a leisurely read.
So when I wrote an opinion piece for one of our clients, I concluded a paragraph by stating, “(our client) gives customers amazing results.”
This statement would be ok for someone reading content on a client’s website. But journalists need hard facts. And as my mentor, Tim, explained in his proofreading notes, I needed to provide real examples. What exactly are these amazing results? How do they benefit customers? Why should journalists write about our clients?
Being taught new things about your expert subject is humbling. But writing is like playing an instrument. There’ll always be a different way to arrange notes and chords, and you must change the style to suit your audience.
Put your existing talent to good use while learning new skills
PR firms hire people based on a mix of their potential and experience. My experience is in copywriting and social media management. I’ve written about everything from luxury hotels and children’s clothes to robotics and cosmetic research.
So I put my writing skills to good use straight away by taking some opinion pieces and pitches off the teams’ very busy hands. Getting involved with the work immediately shows that you value your role, are a good team player, and lets you show off your skills.
But don’t show off too much. The ability to understand and admit your shortcomings is an underrated skill. Saying “I’m not sure” helps you learn new things. What’s more, admitting your weaknesses makes people like you more.
Say goodbye to your comfort zone
As a typical introverted writer, I feel uncomfortable pitching to journalists over the phone. At least, that’s what I’ve always thought. But after looking at the editing notes left by my team, I’ve learned that I “don’t come across as introverted at all.” But I’m not going to delete this statement. It’s a beautiful example of the blind spots we all deal with when we try to self-analyze.
At San Francisco Agency, we often email journalists we already have relationships with. But cold pitching is sometimes required. I could’ve shied away from this, but I decided to embrace the challenge and try new things.
I’m surprised by how excited I get over the challenge of selling a pitch, and I love speaking to journalists around the globe. Just today, I’ve spoken to journalists in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Share your ideas, even when they’re silly
When you start out in PR, you’ll have ideas you think are amazing but are actually idiotic. But that’s ok. Recently, I thought it would be a good idea to Tweet a national newspaper journalist about a small Finnish company. This was a village idiot caliber mistake, and I’ll explain why.
The company I was pitching is amazing, but trying to sell a story about a Helsinki-based business to a national British newspaper is a waste of time. There’s nothing in it for the journalist, and you don’t win friends with pointless pitches. That being said, doing this also showed that I have initiative, drive, passion and that I care about our client. So let’s call it a positive screw-up. After all, they can teach you about PR. Passion, on the other hand, is innate.
So, if you want to build a cracking career in PR, be sure to find a team that supports you and appreciates your skills, personality, and ideas. And remember this: trying to become a PR pro is like chasing the horizon; you’ll never get there. Excellent PR professionals are always learning new things. But, with the right work ethic and attitude, you can be an excellent addition to the team from your very first day.
The writer is San Francisco Agency’s Communications Specialist, Joe Konderla. Joe is San Francisco’s newest team member and has over three years of copywriting experience. Legend has it that he can write about anything from construction technology to cosmetics. In his spare time, he enjoys running, reading, and playing the guitar very badly.