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Public Relations | The Careers Service Public Relations – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

Are you news aware? Can you work quickly and accurately to very tight deadlines? Are you good at writing interesting and creative copy? Do you have good communication skills? and Do you cope well under pressure? If yes, then a career in public relations may appeal to you.

Public relations is all about reputation management. The CIPR define it as “the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. […] Reputation is often the one feature that can make a fundamental difference to a company and thus, give it a competitive edge”.

PR professionals create, maintain and manage a positive public image for the company they represent. The profession covers a broad range of areas, from crisis management to re-branding an organisation to producing publications. Another key role of a PR company or agency is to identify potential clients through market research, and to establish how companies can best reach them through advertising campaigns and targeted marketing.

Industry overview

The PR and communications sector is one of the fastest-growing professions in the UK. With the explosion of online media over the past few years, PR is more important than ever, and companies are hiring more agencies and PR staff to manage Internet relationships. The skill is being able to keep up-to-date with huge amounts of information in the fast moving platform of digital media. Increasingly search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are becoming important tools for those aspiring to make it in PR. Social media is a challenge for PR executives as sites such as Facebook and Twitter are beyond the control of companies and their marketeers. Other work includes organising press conferences and media briefings, issuing reactive statements to journalists, dealing face-to-face with journalists and with their requests and enquiries, briefing spokespeople, and acting as a spokesperson yourself. It also includes event management such as attending exhibitions and trade fairs. The publications element includes producing corporate publications, such as in-house magazines, promotional literature and corporate websites. The role may also include internal communications and crisis management – keeping staff and key stakeholders informed about company developments through briefings, blogs and staff intranet sites.

handle campaigns, deal with press communications and write press releases as well as keep organised cuttings and handle outside enquiries. Increasingly search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are becoming important tools for those aspiring to make it in PR.

Types of job

Public relations takes many forms in different organisations and comes under diverse and differing titles, including public information, investor relations, public affairs, corporate communication, marketing and customer relations. Whatever the title, as a PR professional you can either work in-house or in a PR consultancy.

In-house

Working exclusively for the firm you are employed by, managing the reputation of the firm and running campaigns for the firms services or products (and potential services or products). You will gain an in-depth knowledge of the firm and the market within which it operates.

In a consultancy

PR Consultancies range from International to niche companies, they will work for a range of clients and most likely you would be working with more than one at any time. Over half of the UK’s top 30 PR consultancies are now owned by global marketing groups such as WPP, Publicis, Chime, Interpublic and Omnicom.

You will gain a broad insight to different organisations working in a consultancy but it is also common to specialise in a particular industry after time such as sport, retail, finance or public sector.

The main areas that PR Professionals work in are:

  • Consumer/lifestyle public relations – gaining publicity for a particular product or service.
  • Business-to-Business(B2B)
  • Financial public relations – communicating financial results and business strategy.
  • Crisis communication – responding in a crisis.
  • Internal communications – communicating within an organisation.
  • Government relations/public affairs – engaging government departments to influence public policy.
  • Education (ie Universities)
  • Charities/Not for Profit
  • Food-centric relations – communicating specific information centred on foods, beverages and wines.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Entry points

Small PR consultancy firms will hire individuals at entry level when there is business demand and as such this will be on an ad-hoc basis. Job titles may include;

  • Media Assistant
  • Press Executive
  • Account Executive
  • Associate Programme Executive
  • Junior Consultant

Larger PR consultancies’ offer graduate training programmes which usually open sometime between September and November, with a company taking on anything from two to ten new graduates. A useful starting point to find out about internships and graduate schemes is PR Weeks 150 Internship & Graduate Schemes (2018) as well as, PR opportunities on CareerConnect.

You’ll find a number of roles in PR agencies use varying job titles for entry level positions from Media Assistant, Press Executive, Account Executive, Associate Programme Executive, Junior Consultant and more. Below are two different examples of PR roles within an agency and an in-house environment. They should give you a good idea of the variety of work you could be doing in any given day.

Postgraduate qualifications are not an entry requirement, however, there are a number of specialist postgraduate courses that are CIPR accredited.  Look carefully at destinations of alumni from the course to weigh up the financial commitment with the potential reward.

Skills & experience

Roles in PR are very varied, tasks may range from planning strategies and researching and writing press releases to sourcing sponsors and liaising with media and community groups. As such a broad range of key employability skills are required including;

Skills needed

  • Good interpersonal skills, with the ability to interact with people from all backgrounds and at all levels in an organisation.
  • Strong communication and presentation skills.
  • Good project management skills, with the ability to juggle different priorities and meet conflicting deadlines.
  • Commercial awareness: an enquiring mind with an interest in current affairs, particularly in socio-political and economic developments that impact upon business and potentially your client.
  • Analysis Skills: you should enjoy analysing problems and be able to suggest creative solutions.
  • Technical Skills: you’ll need an ability and interest in working with all digital and social media channels.
  • Flexibility, adaptability and ability to think of solutions quickly.

Experience

Employers will want evidence of your interest in PR, and work experience is central to this. Get involved in activities at university such as: writing for student publications, raising funds and organising events for your college, a charity, drama or sports group. Apply for The Agency  (a joint initiative between the Careers Service and The Careers Service and the Oxford Advertising and Marketing Society to help students gain useful hands-on experience working within an environment similar to a traditional creative agency – with real clients comprised by local businesses, charities and community organisations.

The understanding and use of different forms of social media is essential, so get involved in producing your own blog, Twitter feeds, podcasts and join discussion groups on LinkedIn.

Many PR consultancies offer work experience placements throughout the year, or summer internships. See the list above, CareerConnect and the sector vacancies list at the end of this briefing for some initial ideas. There is a commitment to increase diversity in the profession and there are a number of organisations that are proactive in this. See Equality, Diversity & Positive Action section for more information.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer as well as on the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Getting a job

To be successful in finding a job in PR, you must be able to promote yourself as really wanting to be in PR and knowing what the work involves. To help accomplish this:

  • Stay up-to-date with the industry, companies and campaigns via  online periodicals and journals such as PR Week, the Chartered Institute of Public RelationsThe Drum,  PR Moment and Campaign
  • Become a Student member of the CIPR. Membership costs £35.00 and enables you to access training and networking events.
  • Talk to someone doing the job. If you are a student member of the CIPR, access their website to identify a local PR practitioner to conduct an informational interview, either in your home area or here at Oxford. You may also wish to attend events run by the local regional CIPR group.
  • Produce an online ‘brand’ of yourself via media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. Use networks such as LinkedIn to make connections with new people and build your network of influence. Do this by joining groups – or setting up a group if there isn’t one already – and participating in online discussions. Keep it fresh. It’s important that you keep reviewing your brand at regular intervals. Are you portraying yourself the way you want to, consistently?
  • Make speculative applications using Hollis UK Public Relations Annual (an invaluable source of contact names and addresses for PR consultants) and the PR Week Global Power Book 2018.  
  • There are two principal PR trade associations in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). Use these links to research best practice and build up your knowledge of the PR industry.
Our resources

 

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • The Public Relations Handbook (4th Ed), Alison Theaker
  • Careers in Advertising and Public Relations, Wetfeet Insider Guide
  • Careers in Brand Management, Wetfeet Insider Guide

Videos

Getting into Advertising – This panel talk includes representatives from M&C Saatchi, Diversified Agency Services (DAS) and Possible/Grey. Hear more about the various roles available in advertising from account management, to copy writing and account planning. The talk includes top tips on how to get into this exciting and diverse sector; giving you suggestions of people to follow on Twitter and how to get noticed.

Equality, diversity & positive action

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they are a Disability Confident employer or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

The PR and communications industry is keen to improve the diversity of its staff and a number of initiatives exist to encourage applications from diverse backgrounds into the sector. There are a number of organisations that strive to increase the diversity of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic(BAME) into the PR and corporate communications sector. The Taylor Bennett Foundation  offers BAME students and  graduates (within three years of graduating)  a number of programmes., which include a Training Programme of a ten week work-based training initiative(for graduates), mentoring and a Summer Stars Programme  of lectures, mentors and a four week work placement for current BAME students and graduates (within three years of graduating). Creative Access offers internships and mentoring too, for those interested in PR and communication roles.

The Government Communication Service  has its own 6-12 week Internship Programme  for BAME, care leavers, disabled or socially and economically disadvantaged students. It is also  one of the Departments that hosts  a placement   through the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship or Early Diversity Internship Programme, To be eligible, you must be  meet the diversity requirements Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), socially or economically. disadvantaged or have a disability.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

This information was last updated on 30 August 2018.
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Recent blogs about Public Relations

Arts, Advertising & Media Fair 2018

Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 18/10/2018.

 

  • When: Thursday 25 October, 14:00-17:30
  • Where: The Careers, Service, 56 Banbury Road

Full details are in the fair booklet – now available to download.

Meet creative professionals

  • Find opportunities in a wide range of creative sectors;
  • Meet creative professionals to learn about routes in and how to gain experience;
  • Speak with relevant student societies;
  • Bring your CV along to get feedback in our CV clinics. Appointments given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Attend our fair talks:

  • Researchers and/or alumni@ Arts, Advertising & Media Fair. Pre-fair talk: 13:30 – 14:30
  • Working in PR and Brand Consultancy, 14:45 – 15:15
  • Working in the Creative Industries, 15:30 – 16:00
  • Insight into Theatre with the Oxford Playhouse, 16:15 – 16:45

Meet recruiters:

  • Butterfly London
  • City, University of London
  • Darktrace
  • FTI Consulting
  • LEWIS Communications Ltd
  • Mountview
  • National Film and Television School
  • News Associates
  • Oxford Student Publications Ltd.
  • Palm PR & Digital
  • Portland Communications
  • Press Association
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Seven Hills
  • Sotheby’s Institute of Art
  • Tamarindo Communications
  • The Value Engineers

Estée Lauder Scientific Research and Development

Blogged by Julia Hilton on 26/02/2018.

A Beautiful Journey: Prestige Beauty Science at The Estée Lauder Companies

  • When: Wednesday 7 March, 17:00
  • Where: The Pichette Auditorium, Pembroke College
  • Book: Registration is essential, via Eventbrite 

Lisa Napolione, Senior VP & Leader of Global Research & Development at Estée Lauder is coming to speak to Oxford students and graduates on Wednesday 7 March. Lisa will be talking about their approach to R&D, including all aspects of the company’s development and the wide range of R&D roles for scientists and engineers across consumer targets.

This event will take place at 17:00 on 7 March 2018 in The Pichette Auditorium, Pembroke College, Oxford. It will be followed by a free drinks reception. The event is free and open to all. Registration via Eventbrite is essential.

Creative Data Programme – FREE

Posted on behalf of IDM. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 31/01/2018.

Data is the world’s most valuable resource, so why wouldn’t you want to work in one of the fastest growing industries? The Creative Data programme will introduce you to the opportunities available to you in this fascinating and rapidly evolving industry.

Skills in maths, social sciences, human behaviour, insight, technology and analysis are high in demand and if you have great analytical skills, the data industry is perfect for you.

Join the Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) at one of their 3-day immersive academies to explore the scope of career paths in data available within the data and marketing industry. Or, if you’re looking to get a taste of what working in data and marketing is like, go along to one of their 1-day hackathon style laboratories.

3-day residential academies will run in the following locations:

  • Birmingham, 26-28 March 2018
  • London, 4-6 April 2018
  • Edinburgh, 26-28 June 2018

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors (DM TrustREaD GroupRappData IQ and Global), IDM are now able to cover the £300 cost per student, so all places on academies are now free to attend.

Find out more and apply online

Exploring Careers for Arts Students

Blogged by Julia Hilton on 14/11/2017.
  • When: 16.00-17.00, Monday 20 November
  • Where: Denis Arnold Hall, Faculty of Music

Have you wondered what to do with your degree? What have alumni studying English, Music, Classics or History of Art done? How do you navigate the huge range of options out there and are there any relevant internships available? Come along to answer these questions and more at this Careers Service event. There’ll be plenty of examples to inspire next steps and practical information on how to be successful in the graduate labour market.

You do not need to book a place at this event but please bear in mind that spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first served basis and popular events may fill early so arrive in good time.

Real Life Mad Men: Careers in Advertising

Blogged by Julia Hilton on 18/10/2017.

Join us for our advertising industry talk: ‘Real-life Mad Men: Careers in Advertising’ which is taking place at the Careers Service during the Arts, Media and Marketing Fair on Thursday 26 October. The talk is from 16.00 to 16.40 and includes three very different agencies: M&C Saatchi, Jack Morton Worldwide and RD Content. Each speaker will be talking about the real nature of working in advertising and giving the audience top tips about how to break into this creative, competitive industry. All of these agencies are also exhibiting at the Arts, Media and Marketing Fair which runs from 14.00-18.00 (exhibitors from 14.30 and first talk from 14.00 about working in Film & TV Production).

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.