Starting a new work experience placement at a well-established PR agency can be daunting for anyone, let alone for someone who has as little industry experience as I did at the time of starting mine, earlier this month.

As a second year print journalism student looking to pursue a career in public relations,  getting some on the job experience was vital for me to be able to understand exactly what PR is really all about and to find out whether it is definitely the route I want to take. Luckily for me, The Tonic Communications, a Nottingham based award-winning agency that works with a variety of clients and sectors, agreed to take me on for a four-week placement over the summer. So far, I’ve gained experience in putting together a media alert for a client which was then sent to a range of short lead fashion contacts that I researched in terms of suitability for the product. I have also carried out interviews, written up case studies and helped with distributing them to regional press and trade media.

Most recently I had the opportunity to travel to Chester with a senior PR account executive from The Tonic, to learn the ins and outs of events management by helping to run an activity on behalf of a client at a large-scale, high profile event. Having the chance to travel to a new place and work alongside an experienced member of staff was fantastic, but the weekend was not quite as luxurious as it sounds – much of my time there was spent working long days in a cold, muddy field. Despite the typically wet British weather, I really enjoyed getting to grips with the events management side of PR and felt really proud to have helped out.

The wealth of knowledge and expertise I’ve been exposed to in just one month has been invaluable and the support I have received has been second to none. All of the new experiences I have had will be a great help towards my degree and I am sure I will continue to benefit from them after I graduate. Being here at The Tonic has solidified my belief that I really do want to work in PR, and with a bit of luck I will be at an agency just like this.

If you are thinking of approaching a PR agency to ask for a work placement, here are a few top tips that I have learnt will increase your chances of being successful:

  • Research the company you are contacting and tailor your approach to suit them specifically. Figure out what drew you to want to apply for a role at the agency in the first place. Perhaps you find the clients they work with particularly interesting or maybe they focus heavily on one specific area of PR that you want to specialise in. Highlight these reasons in your cover letter and if you can find it out, address the email with the name of the person you are contacting instead of a generalised ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
  • Make sure you’re suited to the type of agency you’re applying for. Browsing through the company’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts is a great way to see a snapshot of the kind of working environment you’re going into, the size of the agency and the type of people working there. You might thrive in a large, fast-paced agency or perhaps a smaller, boutique style agency would be better for you. Keep in mind you’re going into the placement to get a feel for what type of agency you’d like to work for in the future. This is really important, and it can save you from applying to work at agencies that aren’t right for you, when you’re ready to go into full-time employment.
  • Don’t send the same generic email to several different agencies. When seeking out an agency placement it can be tempting to try and save time by casting your net wide, sending one email to lots of different agencies in the hopes of it reaching as many people as possible with minimum effort. This application method shows that you are not interested in finding out the specific details of each company, and that you have not even spent the time to tailor an email for each recipient. . Remember that if you do not BCC the other recipients, all of the agencies you are contacting will be able to see the email addresses of the others. Not only is this a breach of GDPR, but it also shows a lack of attention to detail. On the other hand, even if you do BCC the agencies, they will still know that the same email has been sent to a number of companies. There is nothing wrong with contacting more than one agency but always make sure you’re sending out separate, personalised emails.