What PR firms want from junior employees

By Pauline Blum

25631761_sDo you have the skills to succeed in public relations?

If you recently graduated college and want to know whether you have the knowledge and expertise to succeed in a public relations career, you may not have to look far for your answer.

PR is a continuously evolving field that requires employees to be hardworking and dedicated. However, there are other traits and skills that PR firms look for when hiring junior employees.


A recent survey of various PR agencies concerning what qualities they look for in candidates covered:

  • Education

  • College major

  • Basic skill set

  • Knowledge

  • Personal attributes

The results were both surprising and intriguing.

Hands-on experience supercedes advanced degrees

When asked what level of education PR agencies prefer in junior employees, many agencies expressed that while they consider it necessary for employees to hold bachelor’s degrees, they often value quality experience working in the industry over a master’s degree.

Many prefer or even require their employees to have had a PR internship to ensure they know the basics prior to beginning a career. Agencies want entry-level employees to be fresh thinkers full of curiosity and drive.

PR remains the most common major

The survey asked the participating agencies to choose their preferred degree majors for candidates from among these options:

  • Advertising

  • Creative arts

  • English literature

  • Journalism

  • Marketing

  • Mass communication

  • Public relations

  • Other

Unsurprisingly, 93 percent of the PR agencies interviewed stated that among the seven listed majors, a major in public relations was preferable in junior employees. However, many PR firms also expressed that they aim for diversity in the workplace and refrain from hiring only candidates with PR degrees. Seventy-three percent highly valued a journalism major and 64 percent would hire marketing majors.

Writing and media pitching skills

The survey also asked the participating PR firms which basic job skills they look for in junior employees. The agencies were given these options:

  • Media “pitcher”

  • New business developer

  • Planner

  • Researcher

  • Writer

  • Other

The study found that of the PR agencies interviewed, a majority stated that strong writing skills were one of the most crucial in entry-level and junior PR employees. Media pitching skills came in at a close second, followed by research skills.

While being a talented writer seems like an obvious requirement, many PR firms complain that good writers are very difficult to find among college graduates. Many college students rest on performing the bare minimum in their writing rather than further developing their writing skills. PR experts know the folly of this mistake as excellent writing skills are vital in a successful PR career.

Other valuable skills that PR agencies look for in candidates include:

  • Public speaking

  • Presentation delivery

  • Storytelling

  • Digital and video familiarity

  • Critical thinking

  • Technical computer competence

Overall, PR agencies look for employees with a variety of skills to diversify the workplace.

Familiarity with social media

For their top three choices in topics of knowledge that they want junior employees to possess, a whopping 88 percent of agencies picked social media as one of their choices. Sixty-nine percent listed PR practices while 60 percent chose marketing basics. These were the skill sets from which the agencies chose:

  • Budget basics

  • Business basics

  • Marketing basics

  • New business basics

  • PR history

  • PR evaluation

  • PR practices

  • Social media practices

  • Other

These results emphasize just how prevalent social media has become to the PR industry and profession. PR firms value professionals who are comfortable and thrive working with social media.

Personal attributes that PR firms looks for

The survey asked the PR agencies to pick the top five most important personal attributes they look for in junior executives. The majority of firms chose:

  • Articulate

  • Motivated

  • Strategic thinker

  • Cooperative

  • Client-centric

Other attributes the agencies chose among included:

  • Focused

  • Assertive

  • Budget-conscience

One of the agencies interviewed further indicated that it looks for employees with diverse backgrounds and abilities. When hiring a candidate, PR firms want to know what new and useful qualities she’s bringing to the PR agency. They want candidates to be keen on the latest economic and global issues, trends, advances in the industry and more, and they want them to be able to discuss these topics comfortably with clients.

This information comes from Gould + Partners. For more about this study, go to www.gould-partners.com. To learn more about internships and employment opportunities at Axia Public Relations, visit www.axiacareers.com.

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Pauline_BlumPauline Blum is studying marketing at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduates with a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: Public Relations, Featured

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