A Newcomer’s Guide: 5 Tips for Starting a Career in Public Relations

By Riley Davis

Whether you’re a recent grad entering the field or a communications professional looking for a career change, Castle intern Riley Davis shares five tips for breaking into PR.

In today’s increasingly complex communications landscape, a comprehensive public relations strategy is as vital as ever. PR takes various forms, from proactive media relations campaigns to key messaging strategies for a company rebrand to press releases or pitches for tentpole events and initiatives. For PR practitioners, this means staying on top of an ever-changing media landscape, creating content, and providing advice and strategic counsel to clients with unique needs and objectives.

The path to success in PR is a vibrant and diverse one, offering opportunities to work in a multitude of industries, whether it’s in-house or at an agency, and from boutique firms to big-name national companies. As a PR intern for Castle, I’ve had the privilege to learn hands-on from agency professionals about everything from project and client management to strategy and team building.

Throughout my internship, I’ve had enlightening conversations with several mentors about the skills they find most critical to achieving success in the field, whether you’re a recent grad like me or a professional considering a career change into PR.

Here are five tips to keep in mind.

5 Tips from PR professionals for starting a career in PR

1. Keep up with the news

To be a PR pro is to be a responsible and committed individual. It’s crucial to keep up with current events and news trends, especially in your local area and client industries. Understanding what’s going on in your clients’ communities is not just important, it’s a responsibility—and it helps you craft stories that will truly resonate with their audiences.

Staying up to date with the news enhances your expertise. It fosters an intellectual curiosity that will show your clients that you understand what issues are trending and may be relevant to them. “Continue to be curious,” says Castle Chief of Staff Alex Fries. “We live in contentious times, and understanding different viewpoints makes us better communicators. Knowledge of a wide range of current events is a great asset.”

2. Keep it brief

Become an effective briefer, both in person and in print. Humans have limited attention, and as the world becomes more digitized, we have less time and attention span for long, cognitively consuming agendas. Research your client’s perspective before proposing a media pitch, recap a meeting in key points during a hallway conversation with your co-worker, and read through an email thoroughly before responding. Taking the extra time to prepare yourself and being concise in meetings, emails, and client interactions can help you better execute tasks, saving you and your team time and energy in the long run. 

3. Be open to learning new things

Change is inevitable in PR. Client needs can shift daily, team roles vary by task, and industry trends ebb and flow. Have patience; know you won’t learn everything about being a great PR practitioner immediately. 

“Be vulnerable when you don’t know how to do something,” says Castle VP of Public Relations Dylan Hackley. “To learn, you must make some mistakes.” Remain open to learning new skills; once you have done so, take charge of trying to complete that new task independently. 

“Buy into being a lifelong learner,” says Public Relations Account Executive Neeve Prendergast, who advises people new to the field to find a mentor. Say yes to new opportunities, even if they feel outside of your comfort zone, and dig into the details of your clients and company. Working for a PR agency means you’ll know a little bit about a lot of things. “So, no matter what, you’ll be good at trivia!” 

4. Be an effective advocate for yourself

As good PR professionals constantly work to advocate for clients, early-career PR professionals should advocate for their personal and professional development. You are your biggest proponent to prove your worth and value. Be active and honest with your team and supervisors. “Be okay with saying ‘I don’t know how to do this,’ or, ‘Can you show me the right way?” Fries says. “This shows you value their time and understand that the task is something to get right.” 

5. Never underestimate your experiences

“It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others’ accomplishments,” says Prendergast. In PR, like many competitive industries, there will always be people with more contacts or years of experience. But it’s also an industry that allows you to lean into whatever unique experiences you bring to the field.

“Never underestimate the value of real-world experience and customer-facing roles,” Prendergast says. Remember that you get out what you put into any experience, whether it’s an internship with a household name or working at your local coffee shop. Dealing with people rushing to get their morning coffee isn’t so different from working with a busy client. Both are service industry jobs.

“You can teach someone to write a press release,” Prendergast continued. “But you can’t always teach the day-to-day abilities of working with people, having empathy, and delivering superb client service.” At the end of the day, PR is a form of client service and requires people who can follow through, remain driven, and have discipline to commit to their work.

Are you looking to start a career in PR?

We’re always searching for bold talent—and we know it when we see it. Are you passionate about communications and looking for an exciting place to work with impressive clients and a great culture? Check out our Careers page.

Are you still in school? Our intern program runs during the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Learn more here.

Profile Picture for Author Riley Davis at The Castle Group
Written By: Riley Davis


Outdoors of the Castle Group office