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12 March 2011

Graduates and the dilemma of ‘which PR Sector’

When I started my public relations course at Uni I knew there was more to PR than just pseudo events, crisis managements and CSR. What I didn’t know was the fact that PR is a much more complicated discipline than many people think it is. It’s not only either B2B or B2C. In today’s complicated business and consumer markets it is just a natural thing that public relations, with its broad concept, has developed into many specialized areas. In fact, there are so many different sectors within the PR sector that I’m beginning to think that many fresh graduates might find them selves confused after leaving universities and entering the working life.

Different Sectors

At school they teach you the most important things about PR. Everything seem to be easy and understandable. And yet, you leave the academia and suddenly ‘public relations’ becomes such a generic term. There is political PR, public affairs and public sector PR, there is consumer and corporate PR (and even these have their even more specialized sectors). There also is PR for NGOs and charities; PR for beauty, healthcare, lifestyle and entertainment (which I actually discovered only while job hunting and although at some level I was always aware of such PR sectors, I hardly perceived them as something different than consumer PR. To my previous surprise they are different. Some of them often require specific qualifications such as for example science degrees, which – again - makes me wonder whether my public relations diploma is going to help me in landing a job in communications); and there of course is technology PR – the most trendy, on demand PR there is.  I don’t think I even need to mention the social media side of PR industry.

The vast number of different public relations sectors might seem a little bit overwhelming. How the heck one should know which specialty to go into when we were thought how to do PR in rather general terams, and not in specific industries? The good thing here is that although all of the above areas of communications might seem very different, in fact the practice of PR in all of them is similar. All the basic/general rules apply to most of these sectors. Every public relations profession requires similar set of skills and attributes, such as good communication skills, ability to quickly grasp opportunities and react to crisis, be creative and proactive, to be confident. Of course, in every sector these are being altered to some extent. There are no two work environments exactly the same.

What makes them different
The difference between all the various PR sectors lies in the type of a client, the audiences and messages which will be sent to them, the public relations services, and of course the language used to communicate with the clients as well as the public (including the media). In my experience the most difficult to master is the language which is used in communication with different audiences. It requires a lot of understanding of the particular business (for example, pharmaceutical industry in UK where most  messages are directed not to the public but to the medical staff, etc), and if someone has no interest in this specific sector, they might find themselves struggling doing their job. Public relations entail a lot of research, a lot of reading especially news about the industry involved. This at times might become a daunting task. That’s why it’s important to find for yourself a PR sector which reflects your interests. No wonder employers are looking for people who have genuine interest in their business. If you like what you do, you commit to it and you do it better.

The Dilemma 

On the other hand, there are so few job openings for PR graduates and then each of them asks for someone knowledgeable and interested in the specific industry, that it’s difficult to follow your personal fascinations. Sometimes you just have to reach for something that is there and then just grow your interest on the job. The important thing is to be willing to expand your interests and show it; but this will involve a lot of hard work and determination.

6 comments:

yashuaib said...

This is interesting Aneta, especially your versatility in bring forth those new thinkings and development in PR.
YAShuaib

Neta said...

Thank you Yashuaib, I'm glad you liked the post. I wanted to share with other graduates (or graduates to be) what I've experienced and maybe point out a few things that are important while chosing a career in PR sectors.

Jaya said...

Thanks Neta . This post has been quite helpful as I was in PR sector a decade back and left work after marriage . Now that my children are grown up and can look after themselves , I wanted to start back , but was so confused as the whole PR scenario has changed . Did;nt kno where to start..but I think I'll hav to choose a sector n start afresh...Wish me luck and please do guide me as is it the right time to start from scratch...
Thanks , Jaya .

Neta said...

Jaya,

you just made my day! I'm so happy that you enjoyed my post and I wish you best of luck in your career. I'll have new posts in the nearest future. Meanwhile, fingers crossed for your new PR career :)
Can I just ask you, which sector did your chose for youself, and why?

Freya Sophie Howard said...

Hi Neta,

Would you be able to give me some much needed advice? Im 37 years old and considering a career change. After a great deal of contemplation ( I feel like a graduate again!) I think a career in PR would suit me. I love the marriage of creativity and analysis involved. The trouble is, having a family means I cant afford an internship, and I cant afford to do a Masters either. In your honest opinion, am I faced with a hopeless task to get a job or is there another way?

Neta said...

Freya, apologies for responding to your comment so late. I must admit I neglected my blog recently. I would love to give you a practical carer advice but it’s difficult when I don’t know much about your background.
I’m currently working as in-house Marketing and PR executive. It’s a competitive industry but there are plenty of career opportunities out there, so don’t give up on your career –change dreams. In PR and marketing it’s important to be creative, have good writing skills, be able to spot opportunities which means following news and current affairs, and be a little bit bold (but I’m sure this is something you can actually develop while working). Follow PR pros on Twitter, read and comment on their blogs, read PR week and Marketing magazine to see what’s happening in the world of campaigns, understand how people in PR work etc.
I see you’re writing a blog which is great, include it in your portfolio to show samples of your writing, write about something relevant to the industry you want to work in, or about PR, show your potential employer that you take your career seriously. Create your profile on Linked In and emphasize where you would like to work; focus on skills you’ve gained from everyday life, your hobbies, school and previous work and which are relevant to your chosen career – for example managing social media accounts and building social networks, writing blog, etc…
Although PR is very competitive I think if you put enough self-determination in fining the job you want – you will get it. First, postulate it though!

Best of luck!

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