Are you managing your PR career?

With legions of PR practitioners set to hit the job market as a result of government cutbacks in this area, I wonder how many have ever thought about pro-actively managing their careers?

British Journalism Review recently advocated journalists moving into PR, which has been the traditional route “across the fence” and many existing PR communicators facing redundancy may be relying on their media relations and writing skills for future opportunities. But is that enough in these more sophisticated PR days?

I was interested to hear at a meeting with a number of motoring journalists last week that few had ventured into social media – despite acknowledging its increasing use by PR practitioners. The same may well be true for PR practitioners, few of whom can probably include a robust understanding of strategic social media on their CVs (resumé).

Keeping your skills and knowledge up to date is essential if you don’t want to reach a career plateau. Being competent in your existing role may mean that your skills are those that were important in the past rather than being a springboard for a future career.

As well as looking to update skills, existing competencies can be deconstructed and “repackaged” to show contemporary relevance. For example, journalistic skills are maybe more relevant if seen as an ability to manage “corporate narrative reporting” something ironically the UK government is keen to see reach a higher standard.

Drawing on career strategies identified by Greenhaus et al (Career Management) there are three broad approaches those hitting the jobs market can adopt:

1. Professional development: Acquiring and enhancing the skills, knowledge and competencies valued by employers/clients through training, gaining a qualification (eg CIPR Diploma or Advanced Certificate), volunteering or self-directed study (such as reading books or using online resources).

2. Development of supportive alliances: Seeking, establishing and maximising relationships with a range of contacts (personal and professional) to share information, guidance, support and opportunities. This may include mentoring or more informal options. There are plenty of online ways of doing this (such as LinkedIn) as well as face-to-face meetings, email, phone conversations and so on. At the least, you should ensure your contacts are provided with non-work details for you including email and a personal mobile phone number (if you currently rely on a work-provided one).

3. Reputation management: Increasing your profile is vital to ensure you stand out about the job-hunting crowd. As a professional PR practitioner, there is no more important client than yourself. So look to use your abilities to ensure those seeking talent, know about you. And, ensure your “promotional” materials are of the highest standard, reflecting a well-designed, professional personal brand.

More than 3 years ago I wrote about the importance of a social media CV – something that still seems to be lacking in most job-seekers’ armoury. Ensuring you have an up to date profile online is a basic first step – this can readily be set up using a blog format eg WordPress. A Twitter account is another zero-cost option alongside that LinkedIn profile. This need not be onerous to update either using a system such as Hootsuite.

Ensure each of these reflects your communication strategy – with consistent messages, a professional “logo” and identity, and evidence of your assets. You can follow these through in person – I reflect my “Greenbanana” identity with clothing, stationery (check out Moo for creative business cards and innovative ideas) and accessories which are recognisable and memorable.

Reviewing your Facebook privacy settings – or clearing out any potentially embarrasing photos etc – is another easy step. And whilst you are at it, Google your name. A pro-active social media strategy will improve your “juice” and highlight any “digital dirt” that might need removing.

The good news is that talented professional PR communicators will always be in demand – even if there are fewer vacancies available. Focusing on managing your career regardless of whether or not you are immediately job-hunting is one way of demonstrating your talent and driving your rise to the top.

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.