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9th Nov 2012

How To Be A... Public Relations Officer

A wide range of educational and employment backgrounds are suitable for entry into public relations. Often there is no direct route into PR and personal attributes are just as important as academic qualifications. You need to be determined, thick skinned and outgoing.

Johnny Stewart, a senior account executive at Weber Shandwick, graduated from the University of Ulster with a degree in Communication with Public Relations. He says:

“My degree didn’t include a placement, so I took a full time trainee role in a local communications agency after second year where I had a whale of a time.

“Despite my enthusiasm, companies simply were not recruiting when I graduated. My experience paid dividends and meant I had plenty to discuss during interviews. If you haven’t shown that you have really grafted to gain experience, another candidate will pip you to the post.

“It wasn’t long until I secured my first graduate role. Although part-time, I supplemented my income by working in a home heating business, and subsequently secured a permanent role in a small agency in Belfast.

“As client needs evolved I performed a number of PR, event management, lobbying and community engagement functions. The diversity from project to project is definitely what keeps me interested.

“I now work as Senior Account Executive at global PR firm Weber Shandwick. Working within a large agency allows me to work across a mixture of local, national and international accounts.

“To succeed in a communications role you need to have a general interest in business, politics and governance; and be willing to invest time building relationships with key stakeholders. Know your media, and before gong into any interview, do your homework!

“Opportunities exist to work in-house or as a consultant so be sure to look at all your options.”

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