We receive up to 30 emails every day asking for work experience. Yet we only offer placements to a handful of candidates each year. Here are our tips for a winning approach – but please note we aren’t seeking any applicants at the moment!
1. Say it in an email – avoid attaching large files. When emailing a PR agency to ask for work experience your email is your covering letter. You should attach only a CV. Avoid attaching large files such as scans of published work etc. These will clog up your recipient’s in box and won’t be popular.
2. Do your research. Don’t just blind copy hundreds of agencies. Research half a dozen or so you’d really like to work with and target them. If they all come back with a no then find another half dozen. Yes, pasting hundreds into the BCC is easier – but a lot less impressive. Your email should be to one named recipient.
3. Address the email to a real person. It’s always better to address your email to a real person. You should read the PR agency’s website and find out who the directors are. Send your email to the main man or woman and address it to them personally. And for God’s sake spell their name right.
4. Tell them why you want to work in PR, why their agency has attracted you, and what you can offer. It seems obvious but many forget to address these basic points. Give real reasons and avoid wishy-washy comments like, “I have always wanted to work in the world of PR.”
5. List all relevant experience. The more the better. This is evidence that your interest in PR is genuine and not a flash in the pan. If you don’t have any professional experience yet tell them what experience you do have – even designing a flyer for your school’s chess club is better than nothing.
6. Don’t be a sycophant. So many applicants fall into the trap of thinking they have to crawl to get noticed. That’s why many of the approaches we receive say things like, “I am aware of your undisputed reputation as one of the world’s leading agencies…” Remember the person reading your email is highly media savvy. They’ll know if you’re being sycophantic. If you want to praise the agency comment on some real work they’ve done. But avoid unreferenced praise for praise’s sake. As my old Gran used to say, “You can’t kid a kidder!”
7. Use the spell check. And make sure it’s in English. That means try to avoid American spellings like realize. While such slips aren’t likely to kill your chances any real spelling mistake will. That includes saying “your” when you mean “you’re”. It might seem petty but remember, you are applying for a writing job here.
8. Avoid coming across as arrogant. You wouldn’t believe how many people write in with the attitude that they are doing the agency a favour. Example: “My highly developed communication and language skills will clearly enhance your agency.” Will they really? A little humility is always a winner. But be confident. The key is to balance humility with confidence. Don’t just claim to have skills the agency needs. Say something which supports your claim and offer that to the agency. If it is something the agency needs they’ll let you know. For example, instead of writing “My highly developed communication and language skills will clearly enhance your agency,” try, “I am fluent in English and Italian and have experience of translating documents.”
9. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. It’s amazing how few applicants bother to telephone these days. If you’re not afraid to pick up the phone you’re much more likely to succeed. Remember this is the communication business.
10. Paper can still be a winner. In these digital times it’s easy to forget to even consider sending in an old fashioned paper letter and CV. But because so few do, it might just be what you need to get noticed (in the past year we have received only two paper CVs compared to 20-30 PER DAY by email). Also a hard copy CV is likely to stay on the desk of the recipient for much longer and is harder to ignore or delete than an email. But just remember to do your research and address it to a named person. All the advice above still applies – above all, spell their name right and include your contact details! Good luck!
Steve McComish is managing director of The London PR Agency