If you’re not working at a big PR firm, are you even a PR pro?
We hear all about PR professionals getting positions in big PR firms, and most of the examples in our textbooks refer to pros who are working with large organizations in big cities making big waves. However, this is just not realistic for every student – there are simply not enough large PR firms to make it happen.
When I first began studying PR, I did feel this way. I thought that gaining a position with a large firm would be much more prestigious than working in another location. I think this, like I mentioned above, has a lot to do with the examples and work that we are exposed to while studying PR in university. If we tour firms, we tour large firms. If we hear about PR on the news, it’s usually about a large firm working on a large problem.
So what are the other options?
Something that we often overlook is the concept of working in a small, boutique PR firm – just as much a PR firm as one that would supports hundreds of clients. Especially in the South, there are hundreds of boutique PR firms that house 10-15 employees. Some are even smaller. When I interned with a boutique PR firm, Gray PR consisted of two hardworking employees. This is a great option. And, if PR is certainly what the chosen career path, a student could start their own PR firm.
Many organizations have some sort of PR representative, as well. This lessens the cost to the group if a crisis occurs. This would be another viable choice for a student working in PR. There are hundreds of thousands of organizations that would be looking to hire a Communication professional. The term ‘Communication Professional’ is key, here. Sometimes, the job you’re looking for does not come in the neat package of PR professional. It could have a different title. A student would be limiting themselves if they stuck only to jobs that contained “Public Relations” in the title.
Another option for a student studying PR would be working with an NGO or non-profit. Again, these titles might be slightly different than what you were hoping for. However, these organizations need a strong PR professional to lead the charge, as well. This may extend to media relations or other areas of communication; however, having experience in multiple communication areas will only increase your worth to the organization.
Currently, I am hoping to apply the knowledge I have learned in PR to a career in magazine editing. Although these two have seemingly little in common, having the PR background to understand campaigns, writing skills, advertising and crisis control would be only beneficial to an amateur editor.
As I mentioned, it’s getting over the title of PR professional that would be key to growth within a student’s career. Although large PR firms would be a great experience and likely a solid career, the other options cannot be discounted.