How to Get a Job in PR: Understand the Power of Connectivity

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I gave a presentation called Connectivity: Empowering You, Empowering Your Career a few weeks ago to the PRSSA organization at the University of Kansas. My advice: getting a job in PR is all about understanding the power of connectivity, for sure. But it’s also about understanding marketing and the role of the Internet in business today.

Since many of the readers here are at the early stages in their careers and/or looking for jobs, either in the Public Relations field, in Marketing or as Social Media Community Managers, I thought the things shared to the PRSSA group might be interesting.

I began the presentation by telling my ‘story’ – by the numbers. In 2008, I had zero social media presence. That means zero Twitter followers, zero Facebook friends, zero LinkedIn connections – and zero blog readers. Probably best explained by the fact that I didn’t have a blog and didn’t participate on social media networks. I decided that was dumb. So I changed it. How’d I do it? That’s what I talked with these students about. And when it comes to getting a job in PR, understanding the importance of connectivity – beyond just friends on Facebook – is pretty critical. Where to start? There are four simple things to remember:

Think Big

You don’t get what you want in this life by thinking small. You dream big, you act big (but not arrogant), you fake it until you make it, you work your tail off, learn the ropes, pay your dues, always be true and do the right thing, never settle and reach for the stars. Sounds easy? Great. Go do it.

Go Out on the Limb

All kinds of things constitute going out on a limb. Starting off in social networks and building a base of friends and meaningful relationships. Writing your first blog post or writing a guest blog post for someone else. Talking your way into a job, then having to prove you’ve got the mettle to do it. Going out on a limb is scary, because you’ve got to let people see who you are and what you think and what you can do. But you rarely get anywhere – at least anywhere worth going – without taking a chance on yourself and crawling out there.

Plant Your Flag

Planting your flag is tricky. And often scary. Sometimes it means deciding who you are, what you believe in and what you’re willing to own. It often goes hand in hand with going out on a limb. Planting your flag is a lot like deciding you love something, and are good at it, or want to be good at it, or want the opportunity to prove you’re damn good at it. But if you don’t plant your flag and speak up about it, you might not get the chance.

Raise Your Hand

Opportunities rarely come to you; you go and get the ones you want. And you do that by raising your hand. Asking for a chance. Asking for the job. Suggesting change. Being brave enough to share your thoughts, opinions. I can’t stress this enough – especially to women – if you don’t raise your hand, and often, you might get passed over. Speaking as someone who learned this lesson the hard way, remember it. Raise that doggone hand. Often.

Social Networking Leads to Opportunities

The other part of my message to the J-School students was about understanding social networks. Realizing that, in addition to finding lots of people there their own age, social networks are filled with people that they might want to hire them. And making an impression, building a reputation and a base of connections can, and often does, lead to job opportunities. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and especially LinkedIn, are all networks where they should be spending their time meaningfully. And I’d have been doing them a disservice if I didn’t remind them that people that know how to use the Internet use it to vet candidates before they show up for a job interview, so being careful about their behavior on social networks is more than a little important.

Understanding the Web and Digital Marketing is Critical

The Internet has changed everything. And while young people today are so accustomed to the omnipresence of the Web they don’t consider it, business people (and companies who might hire them) are very much aware of how much the Web has changed our lives. Especially when it comes to business. And PR is all about business.

Business is about just one thing: selling more stuff to more people. Doesn’t matter if you function in the B2B or B2C world, every business everywhere wants to do that one thing. Sell more stuff to more people. And understanding the role the Internet plays when it comes to business is critical. Google is your client. Whether you’re in marketing or PR, that is a fundamental truth.

Knowing how the Internet of today works, and understanding the tactics businesses employ to drive leads and sales – including things like having a well-designed website, email marketing, SEO, video, mobile marketing, coupon offers, etc., is critical. And understanding the importance of an integrated marketing effort, and how PR compliments and enhances marketing … well, if you get that, you’re a whole lot more valuable than many of your peers.

The Power of Personal Branding

A lot of people like to diss the term “personal branding,” but there’s really no downside to owning your spot, your name, your reputation – you name it – on the Web. Surely if you’re reading this blog, I don’t have to tell you to Google yourself. And if you’ve not yet done it, do it. Immediately. See where – or if – your name appears. Don’t think your future employers aren’t going to do just that.

What elements can help you create a robust online brand? There are some simple things you can do:

  • Google yourself
  • Create a Google profile
  • Have a fantastic LinkedIn profile
  • Own your name
  • Set up Google alerts
  • Get a Gravatar
  • Read blogs, leave comments
  • Contribute guest blog posts
  • Start blogging and participating meaningfully in social channels

The presentation can be found here and includes examples that speak to all the elements mentioned. I hope that if you’re in college and thinking about a future in PR that some of the things mentioned here are either things you’re already doing – or things you’re now inspired to get started on.

And one final piece of advice: when you’re not sure, stalk. It’s relatively easy to watch how others do things, find people whose style you like, pay attention and emulate them. You can easily do this on Twitter, and as you broaden your connection base on LinkedIn, you’ll find many people with great profiles that will help you figure out how best to develop your own. And when it comes to blogging, the best advice I (and all the writers who contribute to PRBC will agree on this point), just get started. Don’t be afraid to put your thoughts in writing and toss them out there. The company on that limb is mighty fine – and once you step out on it, you’ll see. And wonder what took you so long to get out there.

Good luck! And if you get stuck anywhere, stalk me on the Interwebzzz, I’ll be happy to help.

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  • Great post Shelly!

    The only thing I would add, for the love of all that’s reasonable, please keep the Twitter-rump keeping to a level where no one would notice.  At certain times of year (e.g. approaching graduation, bonus season, etc.) it can sometimes become plainly obvious to see what sector, region or company job seekers are looking at.

    Suddenly a stream goes from school-, social-, or otherwise irrelevant conversation to messages directed specifically at individuals that fit a certain profile.  And if I’m noticing, the people who are getting talked to are definitely noticing (at least if their attention is being snagged at all).

    • Anonymous

      Did you mean “rump-kissing” … because, for the life of me, I can’t find “rump-keeping” in the dictionary. And yes, I agree!!

  • Lightbourne Creative

    Excellent advice for college students…so I shared it with my own PR students! Thanks for the commentary….

    • Anonymous

      Thanks so much – glad you enjoyed!

  • Really great advice, Shelly!

    I think your point about raising your hand is really important. I was super timid when I first started my career, especially when it came to networking at events, and then moved to connecting with people online or commenting on blog posts.

    One of the best things I ever did was reached out to Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon and asked how I could help with Help a PR Pro Out because I realized no one from Michigan was part of the team yet. I was really nervous because I had never interacted with them, but I’m SO glad I did it! It has led to some awesome experiences and opportunities.

    Advice like this is so important for people just starting out in their careers!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Nikki … raising your hand is always the hardest and once you do, don’t you just ask yourself “Now WHY did I wait so long?” So happy to hear you did it. And now, what’s next? Wanna write a guest blog post for the V3 blog? Bring it, sistah.

      • I absolutely would! Email me if you want to chat more – nicolena.stephan AT

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  • Great advice for students and professionals! Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Lori :)))

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  • Kevin Meed

    Nikki you have it right. It is pointless to respond to hundreds of job ads.

    Pick the companies and industries you want to work in and start contacting people there. Services like or can help you find the right people to get in contact with. Then send your resumes and even go old school and make phone calls and start talking with people at those companies and in your industry. This is how our parents did it before there were job boards on the internet where we could easily respond to ads all day.

    (protip: the easier it is for you to apply for a job, the easier it is for everyone to apply for that job)