Careers Service Occupations

Public Relations

Public Relations

About

PR practitioners work across a wide range of sectors and industries – from finance and fashion to government and charities. You can work in-house for a company or as part of a consultancy.

According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), PR ranks in the top three most popular career choices for UK graduates.

Gaining relevant experience and proactive networking is vital to getting a graduate level job in this competitive field. You will need to be resilient and self-reliant, with strong commercial awareness. 

Experience in this field tends to come through speculative applications.

Careers advice

Guardian Careers: PR careers has a range of interesting articles, including: 

Industry news

PRmoment.com and PR Week cover public relations news as do Public Affairs Networking and Public Affairs News

The Drum and Gorkana also report on the industry.

Professional bodies

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. 

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them on LinkedIn or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include the Chartered Institute of Public Relations - see careers in PR and CIPR approved courses, and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).

Making contacts

Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field come through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insight and opportunities to make contacts. 

Regular events for this sector include our annual Creative Careers with speakers from a range of careers in the creative sector.

For more events for this sector, see Careers Service events or External Events.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in Advertising and Marketing.

Or see our other occupational pages for more options.

Roles & Skills

PR consultants need to keep up-to-date with current trends and issues, stay informed and react quickly to developments that could affect their clients.

The job may involve a lot of writing (press releases or newsletters) as well as emailing clients. It may also require travelling to conferences and events to build networks.

At entry level, work may involve research and monitoring. This would likely move to more client-focused work as your career progresses. 

As an in-house PR officer, you could be promoted to PR manager or head of communications. In agencies, you could progress to senior account executive and account manager. 

You could also choose to become freelance, or move into advertising, marketing or journalism.

Talk to people in the sector, eg through an informational interview, to get insight into what a PR role entails.

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

Public relations officer

Public relations account executive

Public affairs consultant

Political research assistant

Skills employers look for

Employers look for skills including:

  • strong writing skills – for example, gained through writing for a student newspaper or blog
  • a keen interest in the world around you and a passion for current affairs and the media
  • communications skills - people who can listen, are articulate and persuasive
  • excellent research and analytical skills

You also need to be able to think on your feet and thrive in a fast-paced, pressured working environment.

Gaining Experience

Getting into public relations is extremely competitive.

A postgraduate qualification may improve chances of securing a PR position, but is not essential. Work experience can be invaluable in developing relevant skills and demonstrating commitment to recruiters.

Relevant ways of getting experience could include:

  • working in PR departments and consultancies
  • volunteering for charities and voluntary organisations
  • writing for a student magazine, newspaper, blog or social media, or working on student radio
  • being active in student societies, organising events and balls or in a promotional capacity
  • joining the Careers Service’s Brand Ambassadors team, to promote its events on campus
  • entering a PR-related competition, such as the CIPR International’s Douglas Smith Student Award

Start networking to build contacts. Attend events, read and comment on PR blogs

Follow companies and PR professionals on Twitter (eg #commschat, CIPR North East) and join a professional body.

Finding work experience

Several large PR consultancies, such as Hanover, offer internships. Applications generally open around September, with closing dates as early as October and November.

Smaller consultancies often don’t advertise opportunities. You may need to contact them with a speculative approach. Do this early, as it can be competitive.

Internships

PRCareers includes a list of PR agencies who may offer internship opportunities. See work experience for more opportunities.

Specialist recruitment agencies

Pathfinders media recruitment can arrange vacation and two-week unpaid work placements in London agencies.

Finding companies

Find agencies that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. 

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlighting any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

For more advice on how to approach companies, see Behind the Spin: Golden rules for getting work experience in a PR agency.

Finding Jobs

Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and research employers for speculative applications.

Vacancy sites

Graduate schemes & entry level jobs

Specialist recruitment agencies

See Graduate jobs for more vacancy sources.

Finding companies

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach agencies or find work through networking in the industry.

Find agencies that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. 

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Self-employment

Working as self-employed or freelance is quite common in the PR sector.

Take a look at Live Q&A: a guide to freelancing - media and PR  from Guardian Careers (July 2010).

You could also visit Freelance UK: Freelance marketing and PR news and industry guides.

For more information and advice on self-employment, visit our Work for Yourself pages.