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

Industry news

PRmoment.com and PR Week cover public relations news, as does Public Affairs Networking

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 and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).

Find professional bodies outside of the UK on GoinGlobal by selecting ‘Professional and Personal Networking’ on each of the individual country guides. 

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 Explore Occupations 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
  • entering a PR-related competition

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

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

Finding work experience

Several large PR consultancies, such as Hanover, offer internships. Applications generally open around August/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

  • Careers Service: Internships, placements & shadowing – search for opportunities in the UK and overseas.
  • The Careers Service also offers flexible term-time and summer internships, working with companies in the North East. These are often in a PR/marketing/communications role. Search for these under Vacancies on MyCareer - look under 'Vacancy Type' for Term time or Vacation Work Experience
  • Gorkana - advertises internships in PR
  • Taylor Bennett Foundation - 10-week paid PR internship programme for black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates
  • W4MP Jobs - includes internships related to PR and public affairs
  • LinkedIn: Jobs
  • Follow companies and accounts on Twitter and Facebook and set up alerts on LinkedIn

Specialist recruitment agencies

Pathfinders media recruitment have a work experience programme for graduates to enable you to gain insight and experience within the media industry

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 Motive PR Agency: Golden rules for getting work experience in a PR agency.

In the North/North East

In the UK and overseas

You can also find organisations on MyCareer - click on ‘search organisations’ under the Vacancies tab.

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

See Graduate jobs for more vacancy sources.

Specialist recruitment agencies

To find opportunities outside the UK, see GoinGlobal and International Jobs.

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.

In the North/North East

In the UK and overseas

You can also find organisations on MyCareer - click on ‘search organisations’ under the Vacancies tab.

Work for Yourself

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 PR guide.

See also Econsultancy's blog article: A day in the life of a freelance PR & comms consultant for a useful insight. 

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