How to land a job at a top 150 UK public relations agency
Entry level pay in public relations remains an issue but there’s never been a better opportunity to start out. Sarah Stimson recently published a guide to graduate and workplace opportunities at the UK’s top 150 agencies. It’s a must read article that is packed with insight for any young person looking to break into the public relations business.
Sarah is the course director of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a work-based training programme that encourages encourage black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates to pursue a career in public relations.
We caught up to discuss her list and talk about opportunities for young people staring out to get ahead in public relations.
#1 Where would you start looking for a job?
The top ten agencies on this and last year's list get the most clickthroughs and therefore, I suspect, the most applications. Savvy applicants should look towards the bottom of the list where there will be less competition.
#2 Would agencies outside London be a good place to start?
Regional agencies continue to improve their work experience, internship and graduate role offerings so it's not always necessary to be London based. Again, I suspect there is less competition for those roles.
#3 Your list focusses on the top 150 agencies. What about in-house roles?
In-house internships are harder to come by but many large companies will take students and graduates for short work experience placements and some offer one year placements for students on public relations degrees.
Knowing someone in an internal public relations department is a good way to hear about opportunities so networking is key. If you want to get experience in-house it's often better to approach smaller, lesser known companies.
#4 Is entry level pay improving after the attention that the issue has received in the last two years?
No. There are some agencies that don’t pay minimum wage for internships or work experience. Where I discovered they didn’t pay I made sure to put it in bold in the listing. The tide is definitely turning in favour of payment with pressure from both the CIPR and the PRCA.
#5 Surely we’ve stopped expecting young people to work for free?
Agencies which don’t pay the minimum wage do it because they can. They get lots of applications for experience even where it’s an unpaid role. The only way to change that is to not apply to those agencies, or to pursue them through HMRC for pay.
#6 Looking through your list there appears to be more entry level roles than ever before?
Compared to 2007/8 when the Taylor Bennett Foundation first started and I really struggled to find graduate roles for our alumni to apply to, there are absolutely tonnes of opportunities out there. In the fifteen years I've been recruiting I've never seen so much availability at the junior end. This is the right time to enter the industry if you're a graduate.
#7 Do speculative approaches work?
Not a single agency said they won't accept speculative applications. The lesson here is to always apply to a company you're interested in and make it a very specific application tailored to them. You should also preferably send your CV and covering letter to a real person rather than a generic email address.
#8 Do you have be a graduate to apply for an entry role?
Agencies are trying to improve diversity with apprenticeships and policies like name blind recruitment. That said, some agencies which previously offered no-graduate roles have reverted to a graduate scheme this year or no formal entry-level scheme at all.