While sifting through the Internets and Twitterverses today, PDXSX came across a pretty typical entry-level agency (PR/ADV/Design) position. Although they probably wouldn’t mind, we decided to make this agency of record anonymous and call it WayneTech PR. If you are a member of PRSA (or savvy with Google), you can certainly find a similar opportunity listed in PRSA-Portland job bank.
This is actually a very good job ad from two perspectives. From the organization’s perspective it’s a good ad because it really captures exactly what they are looking for and emphasizes that a candidate’s success will be very important to the organization.
It is also a pretty good ad from the applicant’s perspective because it gives you ample areas to cover in your letter or resume and lets you know exactly what experiences or skills you should emphasize and focus your response on.
The following post is a suggested method for you to analyze and attack such an opportunity, by breaking it down into smaller parts which gives you the maximum chance of success. What you are trying to do, strategically, is address as much as you can from the job description into your cover letter (no more than two pages) and support your claims with your resume, which will then result in a face-to-face interview.
Your GOAL: to be invited for a personal interview with the hiring manager. Nothing else.
Actual Job Description
WayneTech PR is looking for a junior team member who is ready to hit the ground running, bringing media relations experience and an understanding of social and digital communications, as well as organization, research ability and writing skills (both creative and AP style). The ideal candidate is a self starter with good judgment who is curious about brands, marketing and popular culture and willing to jump in and help at all levels of tasks. Strong attention to detail and ability to multitask is a must. Responsibilities include all elements of media and blogger relations, social media marketing and consumer promotions, including research, generating editorial coverage reports, tracking results and evaluating programs. As a boutique firm, a WayneTech PR culture match is important, so we’ll be looking for someone who fits well with our team and our mix of sustainable, tourism and consumer food and beverage clients. The ideal candidate brings 1-3 years PR experience (agency experience a plus). To apply, please send your resume, three writing samples and examples of media pitches and results to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bachelor’s degree in communications or a related field and 1-3 years of PR experience, agency preferred. Experience with social media and digital communications a plus.
Section 1: WayneTech PR is looking for a junior team member who is ready to hit the ground running, bringing media relations experience and an understanding of social and digital communications, as well as organization, research ability and writing skills (both creative and AP style).
Breakdown: The first area is the basic needs announcement or requirements section. The opening paragraph of your cover letter (CL) should address most of the points in this section. Here you should eloquently acknowledge that you are looking for an entry-level or junior position (less than three years) in this field (PR).
You should also highlight/mention/call out that you have significant experience in social media and give at least two solid examples of your expertise. Solid examples would be something like: “Recently I created, designed and managed a 10-day Twitter promotional campaign for a major shoe retailer, which resulted in more than 165 retweets and increased the organization’s Twitter account by an additional 380 followers, according to HootSuite’s measurement analytics.”
In addition, you would want to address any media coverage you have earned (send links) and, if you have solid examples, showcase your research or writing skills. Note: Your CL, if well crafted, should already display your superlative writing abilities. If you do not have the requisite social media experience they want, stop now. It’s clear what the agency is seeking and if you don’t have the skills, move on. DO NOT lie about your abilities, skills or talents.
Section 2: The ideal candidate is a self starter with good judgment who is curious about brands, marketing and popular culture and willing to jump in and help at all levels of tasks. Strong attention to detail and ability to multitask is a must.
Breakdown: This area is included so you know you may (will) be asked to take on a number of seemingly unrelated, but very important tasks that will help the organization maintain profitability and run smoothly on a daily basis. This is also sort of a caveat to an applicant, which means: There might be a difference between the work you will actually be doing here and what you are picturing in your head at this very moment.
Be open and cheerful. Accept constructive criticism. Be open to trying new things or doing old things differently. Some work will be a lot of fun, while other work will probably be a challenge. Bottom line, this agency WANTS SOMEONE WHO WANTS to be there and is willing to do whatever needs to be done. Its also a sign of an organization who wants YOU to grow and learn. This is a good sign.
Section 3: Responsibilities include all elements of media and blogger relations, social media marketing and consumer promotions, including research, generating editorial coverage reports, tracking results and evaluating programs.
Breakdown: This is probably the most important section of the job description. It tells you exactly what the agency is looking for in an ideal candidate. You should be able to quantitatively show evidence of your past experiences or successes for each of those areas. Have you tracked editorial coverage before? How? Show them exactly. Have you developed or managed a social marketing campaign? How? Show them exactly!
Saying, “OMG! I love Twitter, I’m on there every day! I love following Khloe Kardashian, she’s supah’ funny and she is sooooo comfy with her body and self-image!” is not showing an organization anything and probably indicates you’ll be doing plenty of nothing while pretending to be client billable. Or worse yet, NOT working billable hours.
However, if you framed your response and included actual quantifiable results such as: “In my first internship after college I had the opportunity to create, manage and drive a national promotional campaign using Facebook, Twitter and specialized blog content for Taco Bell’s new Volcano Crunchwrap Supreme which resulted in more than 17,000 unique website hits and 3,365 new Twitter followers in 6 weeks. I also learned that when blogging for Taco Bell people want to be involved with the conversation rather than just be told about new menu deals, so I always try to engage people when using social media or blogging on a client’s behalf.”
See the difference? If not, you should stop now.
Section 4: As a boutique firm, WayneTech PR culture match is important, so we’ll be looking for someone who fits well with our team and our mix of sustainable, tourism and consumer food and beverage clients.
Breakdown: This tells you a little about the organization and what is important to them. In our opinion, this is probably the next most important section of the job announcement. For those of you just starting out, “boutique” means small. Usually, it’s an organization with less than 25 people. While a large PR or AD firm includes a variety of unrelated practice areas within a single organization, a boutique firm usually specializes in one or a select few practice areas (sustainable, tourism, consumer or beverage).
You can tell from the content exactly what is important to them (their culture). And that means those same practice areas and the same agency culture is now important to you. Very important. This section tells you this agency would rather find the right candidate for the organization rather than find the “candidate right now.”
It also means they respect and want to maintain the employees they have and they aren’t willing to compromise that value. In a smaller organization, the entire crop (internal culture) can be ruined by just one bad apple. And when the crop is ruined you can expect significant layoffs or mass terminations.
Do you have industry experience in sustainable beverages? This would be something to call out. What about that summer job during college when you were a copy editor for Lonely Planet Travel Guides? Again, you might have hated all the crappy hours, demanding boss and never got to travel anywhere, but this would be something to call out. Remember, if it is important to them and their culture, you better spend some time addressing it.
Section 5: The ideal candidate brings 1-3 years PR experience (agency experience a plus). To apply, please send your resume, three writing samples and examples of media pitches and results to email@example.com. Use “WayneTech PR Account Team Member” in the subject line of your email message.
Breakdown: Note even though the ad says “ideal candidate,” this doesn’t mean YOU have to be the ideal candidate to apply, it just means they are giving some thought on who might be a good fit for this roll. What? You only have six-months of experience under your belt? No problem, call out your other strengths. Showcase yourself. Practice your cover letter writing. Can you massage your resume, experience and portfolio to give yourself a more ideal appearance? I hope so.
They also tell you exactly what they want in terms of application materials. Make sure you match it. Don’t send the 42-page final paper from Advanced PR Writing with a gold star and a smiley face from your professor for your writing sample; instead send a PDF or screen-captures of three or four blog posts you drafted, send a couple of media pitches that earned some results.
Maybe you have a couple of really good press releases you wrote for a non-profit organization? Send those. Still don’t have any of those things? Get creative with your samples, but make sure you send SOMETHING that hits these requirements. Also, proofread everything. And then ask your Mom to proofread it again.
You should also pay attention to this part: Send materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow those instructions exactly. Just be aware it is very likely your email will go to an inbox somewhere in the nether-regions of cyberspace and sit, like a well-weathered lawn gnome, with so many unread other emails.
Personally, we would encourage you to show some initiative and moxie and just call up the agency of record and see if we might be able to find a live person to actually send our materials to under the excuse that “our email keeps getting bounced back.” If you are really polite, the administrative staff will usually help you out with a name. We like to start with Google.
Another way might be to call and ask to whom would be best person to address our CL. Once you have a name, the company website or a quick Google search can usually turn up an email address for you. Like Batman, you can always bend the rules to give yourself an advantage. Best of all, if you know someone who already works at that agency, have them personally deliver your materials to the decision maker.
Section 6 (Qualifications): Bachelor’s degree in communications or a related field and 1-3 years of PR experience, agency preferred. Experience with social media and digital communications a plus.
Breakdown: Okay, this is nitpicky and not that important, but no one gets a degree in “communications.” It doesn’t happen. There is no ‘s’ in the word communication. You earn a degree in communication not communications. Now if, during your job interview the hiring manager keeps referring to your fantastic GPA while you were working toward a degree in communications, just smile and nod. You won’t help your chances by correcting them.