One of the questions I am most frequently asked is a variation of “how do I break into PR in Pittsburgh?” Whether it’s from a new graduate or someone moving here. Today I am going to take you through my personal brain dump of best practices to make the most of your time, to land the Pittsburgh PR job of your dreams. And, this can be easily replicated in any area, really. Ready?
Do Your Research
Before you can begin, take a look around. While a Google search is a good first step, social media is probably even better. First, start with searching lists of companies in Pittsburgh — whether that’s agencies, corporations, non-profits, etc. Make a list of what interests you and then take a deeper dive into their social channels. What are they talking about? Who works there? When you see who works there, follow them! Some people obviously aren’t going to be active but others may. Follow them on LinkedIn, create a private Twitter list for yourself and add them to that so you can easily weed through your feed to see what these companies and the people there are doing. This is a great start to see the landscape.
From there, find the organizations in the area to do the same thing. Is there a local PRSA Chapter? AMA? Do your research to find these organizations and follow them, too. They often have a wealth of resources including events and networking, and you can see who is following them to get a better idea of the people in the area. Finally, branch out from PR-only organizations. While I can’t stress enough to get involved in PRSA, sometimes you can meet people by going to organizations that represent a wider pool of people (think advertising, digital, general business, women in business, etc.) I’ve listed my favorite Pittsburgh organizations below.
- Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Pittsburgh
- American Marketing Association (AMA) Pittsburgh
- American Advertising Federation (Ad Fed) Pittsburgh (and they also have Ad2 for younger professionals)
- International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Pittsburgh
- Ellevate Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh Technology Council
- Creative Mornings Pittsburgh
- Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship — Chatham University
- Pgh Women Connecting
- Pgh Women’s Wired Network
Make the Connections: On and Offline
Now that you’ve made your lists, it’s time to connect. I’ve made SO many connections since I started working in PR 12 years ago. And social media has made it so easy. Seriously, if you’re not taking advantage of social, you’re going to be at a disadvantage. Start following and engaging with the people who work at the companies you want to work for. It’s not creepy if you do so in a natural, non-disingenuous way. Show interest, ask follow up questions, like their posts, etc. (but don’t comment and like TOO much so it doesn’t cross that creep line). That person will now begin to recognize your name. But take it a step further and meet people in person, too. Networking at events is so important to continue your reach, and get out of your comfort zone. Yes, I know it’s annoying, but put a face to the name and show people your great personality. They will likely remember you more after they meet you in person.
And online networking doesn’t have to be just local, either. That’s the beauty of social media. I am in several Facebook Groups like Create & Cultivate and The Daily Carnage, where I connect with like-minded professionals all over the country. You never know who knows someone in Pittsburgh (or the town you’re interested in), or what remote opportunities could open up. Facebook Groups are huge and continue to grow (with 10 million and counting), so utilize these hyper-focused opportunities. (Hint: We’re creating a new Facebook Group for young professionals via PRSA Pittsburgh, so keep an eye on my LinkedIn to learn how to get in!)
One final tip here: A former boss and mentor taught me early on to create a networking matrix. This can be as easy as a Google sheet and just keep track of people. Say you met Jane Smith on November 1 at an AMA networking event. Then put some notes like “Jane works at Google and had purple glasses” and finally, links to Jane’s social channels. This way, you can keep a running list of people you meet and from where for easy reference. Because if you’re anything like me, you forget where you meet people and this is a really simple way to keep track. Plus it’s impressive if you can remember this.
Lean In To LinkedIn
LinkedIn has typically gotten a bad rap over the years and has been thought of only for job seeking. Well, that’s certainly changed over the past year or so. LinkedIn engagement has continued to rise steadily. As of just this past October, there are 645 million members globally (up from 575 million from a year prior). People are sharing more than just their resumes here; there are lots of articles and trends, and day-to-day interaction and tips on everything from job searching to productivity hacks, business news and much more. I personally never used to spend much time on LinkedIn, and now I visit it daily to see what my connections are up to and share relevant news and job posts I see in the area.
I remember when I joined Twitter (September 2008 because my profile says so) but I remember discussing it for a potential client at the time, so I joined and tweeted this (my early tweets were embarrassing and I talked about my Blackberry all the time (major LOL). Back then, I LOVED Twitter. I still do and it’s still my social network of choice. But I also did chats all the time and really connected with other PR pros and early adopters then via #journchat and #HAPPO. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you will remember these! There are still a number of chats still out there, and a number of people still using Twitter to share relevant information (and not just political bashing and memes, I swear). The other thing? Don’t be afraid to nerd out! Back then I remember my friends making fun of me for running and participating in Twitter chats, but embrace your inner nerd! Today, I still live-tweet conferences and webinars and share it out to my network. Share what you’re learning so people will see you’re smart and on it. Most likely if someone is searching you online, they’ll come across your social channels and if you’re nerding out, that’s appealing.
Not to mention, continuous learning is so essential when it comes to PR and communications in general. No matter your field, you should always be up on the latest trends and best practices to stay on your game (no matter how seasoned in your career you are). Always brag on yourself.
Stay Consistent (and Always Respond)
One final note: Consistency is everything when it comes to breaking into PR. Often times I am asked if I know anyone who would be a good fit for a job from another contact I have. And you know what? 9 times out of 10, I cannot for the life of me think of anyone. This is because hardly anyone I’ve networked with over the years stays in consistent touch with me. See an article I think I’d like? Send it to me. Read some news about my company? DM me and tell me congrats. This is where your matrix comes in handy. If someone does this for me, I am absolutely going to remember them and then when I get that email from a colleague asking, “Do you know anyone for this role?” I am going to say yes, it was that person who followed up with me! It’s so easy yet so little do it. Also, always always always respond and say thank you (even if it’s not what you want to hear). I wrote more on this topic here.