Although I’d like for this to be an actionable and relevant article for years to come, I’m publishing it at a time when a lot of people are finding themselves out of a job. I’d had it in my ‘blog ideas’ board for a while before the Covid-19 pandemic hit and was making notes during my search for the first member of our Digital PR team, but given how things are right now, I wanted to make sure I got this done in case it can help even one person through this and back into a job.
The tips I’m sharing below are what helped me get a job as a digital PR/SEO years ago. They are also largely what I need to do today when discussing potentially working with a new client. The principles of selling your value as a Digital PR are exactly the same. Therefore, I’ve put together the top 5 tips I focus on that can hopefully help you stand out and get your foot in the door.
I’m sure I’ll edit this over time, but as of April 2020, good luck to everyone. At Root, I’ve decided for us to continue to invest as much as possible in doing what we can for clients and the people we work with, and if that’s possible for other agencies/businesses, hopefully we’ll be through this thing faster and with even better work practises than we started with across the board.
1. Examples of your links/placements
The absolute number one tip I think anyone looking for a job in digital PR needs is to make sure you are putting your successes at the front and centre of your application.
Over the years, I’ve reviewed hundreds of CVs and cover letters. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them leave me not knowing what someone is actually capable of, which as the person making hiring decisions, is a really bad place to be.
If a Digital PR Manager or hiring lead is looking for someone to come in and join their DPR team, they already have a good idea in their mind of where they want their brand to appear. Hopefully the position is closely tied to SEO as well, so there’s highly likely going to be a strong focus on relevance and authority.
As a candidate, you need to demonstrate your track record of being able to generate publicity, and possibly links. If you’ve got those in the industry the hiring company works in, even better.
Include a list of your best and most relevant links. Briefly discuss the project and give someone a real quick glimpse into what you could bring to their organisation.
2. Focus on figures and details
Here’s a summary I’m used to seeing:
An experienced Digital PR and Content Marketer in both B2B and B2C roles. I’m an expert in data analysis and storytelling to help produce successful content that has boosted brand awareness and increased sales. I’ve also worked directly in a number of CMS platforms and am able to take content from ideation through to publication.
Now here’s how this summary (for the same person) should have read:
I’ve been working as a Digital PR and Content Marketer for 3 years in both B2B and B2C roles. In that time, my work has appeared on a wide-range of publications, from the DailyMail to Forbes.com, with my most successful campaign generating 322 pieces of coverage. I have experience working directly in WordPress and Shopify, managing content from ideation through to publication.
In just 7 more words we know a lot more about this person and why they are a candidate that should be taken seriously.
The original example is actually still a strong candidate. There’s a lot of nuggets there that, as someone who hires for these roles, I’d be really interested in.
However, the amended example gives me all of that, and more. I already know how this person can fit in, the technologies they use, the publications they’ve successfully targeted and that they’ve run some great (and varied) campaigns.
3. Build your network
A lot of hires I’ve made have been through my network. I’m also alerted by people I know (shout out to Hannah Butler!) when people who are known for their involvement in Digital PR/SEO are out and about looking for a job. I even got my job initially at Builtvisible (SEOgadget before the rebrand) because of my network.
Having a network can be the make or break difference in your ability to find out about roles as and when they become available. A strong network can also act on your behalf. People are likely to mention your availability to others, especially if they’ve seen some of the work you’ve done or know first hand what you can bring to the table.
Obviously working somewhere is one of the best ways to build your network, but that would be ironic for this post, so here’s some tips on how else you can go about doing so:
- Attend industry conferences and introduce yourself to people. Staying for the socials is always a key part of the day, so linger and mingle the best you can.
- Send a real quick message to people you connect with on social – don’t just collect names you might one day reach out to. LinkedIn is notorious for this and about 90% of the messages I’ve seen are complete spam, but if you’ve got something genuine to say or something to ask about, you’ve got a great in.
- Join events and go to meetups. These are often more intimate than conferences, but Meetup.com has a page dedicated to SEO and all things in our industry. Check out ones local to you and take an evening to get yourself out there.
- Start a blog. I don’t know Mark Porter directly, but I’ve seen people mention him and his Content Curated blog posts a lot recently. There’s no doubt his network has grown exponentially as a result. Doing something valuable like that can really get your name out there and conversations started for you.
- Speak at a conference. Attending is one thing, but if you do have a process that’s worked for you, see if there is a conference you’d like to try out. This not only gets people to know your name, but also to demonstrate the way you think and work. Kirsty @ Manyminds ran a ‘Give it a go’ conference for people who are completely new to the speaking scene. Worth keeping tabs on that and any others tailored to first time speakers if it’s something you’re just starting off with.
4. Apply even if they don’t have a job opening
At Root Digital, we don’t (yet) have a page for recruitment. We’re still really small compared to some of the bigger dogs out there and so the vast majority of our time has been spent on client work (thankfully).
Therefore, being able to brief, design, produce copy for and then update a recruitment page isn’t a task I need right now. And that’s the same for other busy agencies and in-house teams.
If you have a really strong CV and you’re following some of the tips I’ve laid out here (especially tips 1 & 2) then your application is going to get attention.
Even if a company/agency doesn’t have an opening on their site or social media right now, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for people to join them. In fact, it might be a sign that they really need to get their stuff together and could really do with the help.
5. No experience? Run a cheap campaign
Job’s are oxymoronic. How can you get experience if you can’t get your foot in the door?
Digital PR (and SEO in fact) are more unique in this respect and actually give you the opportunity to gain experience without having to have a ‘job’ somewhere first.
Remember, your successes are the most important attribute you’ve got here so you just need to generate some of those.
There are two ways you could do this. One is to run a campaign and quote yourself. The other is to get in touch with a brand and pitch an idea to see if they would be willing to let you quote them – kind of like a ‘no win no fee’ situation or even for free altogether (your call).
The benefit of getting a brand involved is the authority news from them carries. If you’re able to say Joe Blogs from Tesla said “….” then tech journalists/bloggers are way more likely to use your information.
Campaigns can vary wildly in how big you can go on production value. Unless you’re a dev or designer yourself, it’s likely you won’t be able to dig into those resources. But you can run a survey and pop a press release together.
Google Surveys can be an extremely cheap source of targeted responses. With a key question and some great answers, you can be armed with 2,000 responses for $100. The rest is your time and skill.
A press release or a solid outreach email communicating the insight you have is all you’ll need here before you start looking for journalists and emailing out to see if they would be interested in your story.
Hopefully, with a couple of responses and some placements, your CV and job application are starting to look really interesting.
Can you imagine how impressive it would be to openly say in your application “I have no job experience in Digital PR, but I still put together a campaign for me/[insert brand] and gained placements on X and Y”. That initiative is everything in Digital PR and says way more about you as a person and a potential hire.
More quick fire tips
- Get in touch with recruitment agencies. In the past I’ve used Clockwork Talent to source really strong candidates looking for a job and they can have a mountain of advice to help you in your search and about the companies that are recruiting to find the best fit both-sides.
- You really don’t need to add where you live to your CV and in some cases, you shouldn’t. It might come up during an interview, and that’s fine, but at least you’ve got your foot in the door and can talk it through at that point.
- Your secondary or high school qualifications don’t matter anywhere near as experience or your ability to generate any sort of coverage.