Due to the rise of social media, Public Relations (PR) has become an even more promising and in-demand career choice and skill. In fact, recent stats show that employment in the PR industry will grow 12% by 2022. This is because it’s no longer limited to making press releases, meeting with clients, and answering phone calls although those things are still just as important. Modern PR also means operating Facebook pages, sending out tweets, managing online communities and conversing with other companies and consumers via social media. If you want a great job in PR, you need to understand these things and know exactly what to expect and what to say when you’re asked about them. In this article we offer some questions and answers so you can prepare for interviews during your PR job hunt!
Before you get into the specifically PR questions, keep in mind these standard questions you might get in almost any interview:
You should be prepared for these standard questions and have a few of your own questions to ask. Interviewers almost always ask you if you have any questions at the end of the interview and things get a bit awkward if you stutter or just say “No.”
You should also be aware of at least a few of the following terms (and more if you want to be super prepared):
Angle: The emphasis chosen for a story pitch.
Affiliate Network: An intermediary between publishers and brands that allows websites to reach a larger audience by promoting all programs in their network. An example of this would be a blog with affiliate banners on the side related to the blog content.
B-Roll: Video provided to broadcast outlets for background story footage.
B2B (Business to Business): A business that markets to other businesses or to its trade such as a manufacturer to a retailer.
B2C (Business to Consumer): A business that sells products to its consumers.
Backgrounder: A brief review of an organization’s history, mission, financial support, or any other information provided to the media with other publicity materials in order to provide basic info that may be used in a news story. It is also known as a Fact Sheet.
Boilerplate: The last paragraph in a press release that describes the company, product, service, or brand in question.
Earned Media: Favorable publicity gained through efforts such as word-of-mouth and editorial influence rather than advertising.
Gatekeeper: The individual who controls the flow of information from the mass media to the group.
Pitch: A document convincing a person or company to perform an action.
Placements: Stories that ran in the media.
Press Clipping Bureau: Organization that monitors a wide range of media sources in order to log mentions of the publicists’ product, service, or organization.
Press Kit: A branded packet of materials handed out to the media. It normally contains backgrounds, bios, photos, and news releases. It is also known as a Media Kit.
Reach: The number of different people who see an ad, post, email, etc.
You don’t want to be clueless when your interviewer starts using these terms! Here’s an exhaustive list, to help you out.
Now, let’s move on to the purely PR questions and answers gathered from our research and suggested by the aforementioned experts!
Just be honest here and have something interesting to say. If you’re passionate, it will be apparent in your answer. You’ll be able to show off your knowledge of the industry and the importance of PR. If you’re not passionate, maybe you shouldn’t be doing the interview in the first place. The last thing interviewers want to hear is “Well, it just seemed like a practical job to get.”
How would you balance advocacy and objectivity?
Part of PR is promoting your organization without deceiving the public. This is another situation where honesty is important. You don’t have to tell consumers every single detail of what the organization is doing but you should always report what is relevant to them with as little bias as possible. If you’re part of an organization you believe in, stating the facts in a positive way will be more than enough.
What writing experience do you have?
All of the panelists we talked to stressed good writing skills as part of an ideal PR job candidate. You need to know how to articulate ideas in a way that is undeniably clear, concise, and impossible to take the wrong way. Make sure to have writing samples ready or perhaps even an online portfolio from sites like Contently.
How would you put together a pitch?
Here is where you can talk about your research skills. Talk about writing skills as well if they have not already inquired about it. Cite past experience if you’ve done pitches at previous jobs. You should also make sure you know what kind of pitch they’re talking about. A pitch can be many things: convincing a producer to give you money for a new TV Show, pitching top executives a new product you want to roll out, reaching out to a reporter so they cover a story on your company, etc. However, there are shared ingredients. All good pitches give facts supporting why the idea is worth the investment of time and resources, why it is the best choice, and how the people helping you will benefit.
What media outlets do you follow on a regular basis? Why those ones?
You should be following outlets relevant to the job and industry you’re interviewing for. If you’re interviewing for a tech start-up, make sure you’re following places like Wired, Gizmodo, or TechCrunch. Don’t just pretend you follow them either. Do some serious research since interviewers are usually smart enough to know who is genuine and who isn’t. However, you shouldn’t pander or be dishonest. If you’re interviewing for a job at CBS, don’t lie and claim you get all of your news from CBS. They won’t be flattered. All of the PR professionals we interviewed also recommended Help A Reporter Out (commonly known as HARO) as a great resource regardless of your industry. Have a list prepared for the interview. Following specific reporters on relevant subjects is a big plus too. It’s not always bad to name drop!
Is there anything our organization has been doing lately that you find interesting?
If the interviewer asks you this question, he or she is probably referring to corporate news or news about the company as a whole. What do you think of a new product they released? Have they announced the acquisition of any start-ups recently? Did they donate a substantial amount to charity? Knowing these things will impress your employer since it proves you did your homework. If you’re feeling brave, you even talk about things you would do differently if you had power in the company.
How would you prioritize and start your work day?
This question is a bit similar to the last one except it stresses your work habits a lot more. Employers want to know how you would prioritize your tasks depending on what’s breaking. What sources do you look at first? Why are those the most important to check out before anything else? What do you do next depending on what you find in those sources? Give the employer an idea of your work habits and research tactics.
What skills do you have that would help communicate a client’s message?
Here’s a great opportunity to talk about your experience, what you’ve learned, and what skills you took away. Be prepared with specific examples or anecdotes about how you communicated a message for a client in the past. Stress your writing skills and other communications skills, especially if you have video production and editing skills.
How would you go about finding relevant contacts and sources?
Once again, HARO and social media are resources that experts recommend. Reddit and Quora can also be great resources for seeing what people are saying about a story, who is talking about what, and how current the subject is. As Gary Vaynerchuck once stated, you should remember not to conflate relevance and prestige. As Gary says, “Everyone is relevant!” Just because someone is from The New York Times does not mean they are a more relevant source than an independent blogger. The people you talk to should always be connected to the story!
How would you contact and communicate with a reporter?
You should develop a different rapport with each reporter so that you can account for their various interests, motivations, styles, and personalities. Some reporters might need more prodding than others. You might need to watch out for reporters known for misleading and spinning stories. As for contacting them, social media skills may come in handy in addition to the more traditional routes like email and phone calls. The aforementioned HARO should also come in handy.
How would you deal with a PR crisis?
Consumers will always find something to rip apart and send angry tweets about. However, they will respect you more if you are honest and transparent. It’s good to send a prompt and genuine apology and to address all the issues and concerns without lashing out.
What are your favorite social media platforms?
There isn’t a correct answer for this one. Just have a thorough explanation and make sure to talk about how you make the most effective use of the platforms. If you have lots of favorites, focus more on the ones most relevant to the job. Be prepared to explain niche platforms that the interviewer might not know about and do so in a way that isn’t patronizing or condescending.
Preparing for a Career in PR!
If you can follow this guide and score a great PR job, you’ll be joining a growing industry. Literally every major company in the world needs some form of PR so there will never be a shortage of opportunities. Use this resource to build your confidence and ensure nothing catches you off guard. Remember that killing it at an interview is a skill just like anything else. Time to practice that skill!
Want to kickstart your PR career? Here are some courses to help you get your foot in the door:
Postgraduate Diploma in Public Relations with Arranged Work Experience - Full Time - Dublin City Centre - 19th September
Diploma in Public Relations - Evening Course - Dublin City Centre - 11th October
You can apply here.