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15 tips to launch your communications career

Weber Shandwick Seattle takes an integrated approach to communications. We engage, always. We spark conversations, keep them going and turn ideas into global movements.

15 Tips to Help Launch Your Communications Career

December 7, 2012

We recently presented at a UW PRSSA meeting to discuss the transition from college to agency life, breaking it down into 15 tips. We focused on three phases – how to brand yourself, tips on getting an internship and tips for navigating agency life. The tips seemed to catch on, so we’re sharing them widely for other college students to absorb.

Have any tips that have helped guide your career? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Brand Yourself

1. Be a leader. Age is no excuse for hiding in the shadows. It’s a competitive market out there and to stand out, you must be a leader. A great example is the folks behind Living One One,* a group of students that filmed a documentary during college on what it’s like to live on a dollar a day in a rural Guatemalan village. Instead of applying for traditional jobs out of school, they decided to launch their own non-profit and share their story with students across the country. What started as a small passion project has now turned into a national phenomenon. Students are packing auditoriums just to hear their story.
2. Maximize the college years. You don’t have to major in PR to become a “PR Pro.” Take advantage of your time in school – volunteer with organizations you are passionate about, foster your creativity, try new things – it’s your chance to really hone your skills and discover your passions.
3. Create a portfolio. It’s no longer sufficient to just talk about your skills and work – you need to show it. In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever before to create a basic website that showcases your work. If you’re a writer, publish your articles. If you’re a photographer, we want to see your photos. Showcase what you do well and help bring your story to life.
4. Study the digital industry. The communications landscape is changing. Digital strategy is no longer an add-on to communications plans, it’s a fundamental component of our work. It’s also an industry that is constantly evolving. Study the trends, follow the top digital strategists and continually push yourself to be on the front lines. A few of our favorite blogs to follow are Copyblogger, Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute and Communications Conversations.
5. Create a personal brand. Have you Googled yourself? Do you like what you see? While you may have a great report card and resume, it’s critical to pay attention to your online persona. It’s the first place that potential employers will look before and after an interview. Use Twitter, LinkedIn and your personal blog to showcase your best work as well as to interact with industries you’re passionate about.
 

Tips on Getting an Internship

6. Get an internship. When we’re looking through resumes for open positions, we first look at your internship experience. Time in the classroom is important, but to really thrive in the workplace, you need real-life work experience. Network with PR pros and peers and find an internship that fits your skills. If you’re just starting out, consider volunteering to help with communications at your favorite non-profit – I guarantee that they will be thankful for the help.
7. First impressions matter. A lot. Our intern committee sees hundreds of resumes a year. Our first impression of you is critical. Don’t make common mistakes that are easily avoidable – triple check the spelling of names, proofread your resume and don’t even think about copying generic language from the internet.
8. Prepare for interviews. So you’ve perfected your resume and landed yourself an interview. Time to prepare. Our best piece of advice for turning your interview into a job offer is to think through your past experience as mini case studies. We want to hear about the challenge you were given, your approach and your results (with numbers!). We don’t want to hear about what we can do for you, we want to hear about how your skills can help us to meet and exceed our business and client goals.
9. Get out of the classroom – and your comfort zone. Agency life is nothing like the classroom and you need to prepare. Skills that may not seem important before will be critical to your success – hone your prioritization skills, your email writing skills and approach each project with eagle-eye like attention to detail.
10. Learn to write very well. The most important trait to have in the world of communications is to be an excellent writer. Communications plans, social media, press releases – they all start with the written word. Grammar and sentence structure is obviously important, but so is brand voice. Learn how to alter your tone and voice for different types of brands. If you’re able to easily switch your writing from a fun, passionate voice to a more technical and authoritative one, you’ll have a valuable and needed skill.
 

Tips for Navigating Agency Life

11. Hone your professionalism and attitude. You nailed the interview and got the internship. Now what? To get the full time position, you need to stand you. You need to be what we call a Rockstar intern. To get there, make the most of your internship. Ask smart questions, be resourceful, pay attention to the details and add value. Most importantly, network. While you are helping your clients with their PR, you have to also consider your own PR strategy. Meet with people across the office and showcase your skills outside of your assigned team.
12. Follow brands you admire. In the communications world, we are constantly building on old ideas and incorporating new trends into our client work. To do this, it’s critically important to follow brands you admire, analyze what they do well and have your head in the marketing space. You’d be amazed at how small ideas inspired by others can help to spark new ideas for your own work.
13. Understand the power of content (and maybe start producing it yourself). Content is currency in today’s communication landscape. Brands are no longer relying on the media to tell their story, they are telling it themselves – through interactive content. Study the space. Watch what types of content other brands are producing and analyze what audiences gravitate towards. Communications plans now depend on creative content marketing ideas for success.
14. The communications landscape is changing. We no longer only do public relations for our clients. We are integrated marketers. Therefore, describing yourself as ‘PR professional’ is just as broad as claiming to be a ‘businessperson.’ We are now specializing in ways that traditionally were only seen at advertising agencies. In our office alone, we have graphic designers, videographers, media relations pros, content directors, SEO experts, web developers and digital strategists– all on the same team.
15. Keep your eyes open. To be successful in this industry, you’ve got to love it. Constantly push yourself to be on top of trends, be creative and see the bigger picture and you’ll go far.
 

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a rock star PR intern? We just so happen to be hiring and we’d love to hear from you.

*Living on One is a client of Weber Shandwick