Public Relations is a powerful role that transforms the way your coworkers talk about your company and even more importantly, how the public views your company. From handling press releases to deciding which stats and facts about the company are OK to release to doing damage control for the company, PR assistants and managers have a big impact on messaging and perception.
When you are interviewing for a PR internship or an entry level job in PR, employers want to make sure that you’re a good writer and researcher, you’re a creative and quick-footed thinker and that you’re well spoken because most of the time, you’re the person speaking on behalf of a company. While in PR you should expect the unexpected; you can also expect these common PR interview questions.
1. Explain why you love PR. What does PR mean to you?
A PR person’s job is to help clients sell their story and help them to understand the question “Why this company? or “Why this product?” Before you can do that convincingly for a client, you have to sell yourself and your story. What makes you feel like you’re a great candidate for the PR world? What drew you to this type of role and what do you think you could contribute to it? How do you see PR changing the company you’re interviewing for?
While your response should absolutely be genuine, there is a little preparation that comes along with it. It’s important to closely review the job description and research the company by doing a quick Google search and selecting the “News” tab. For the job description, if it says that the PR candidate must be able to work with new media outlets and get them excited about featuring the company, then you should aim to start off by something like, “To me, PR means building relationships with new people and getting them to become strong and lasting advocates for our brand.”
2. What is your favorite brand and why?
If you’re in PR, you need to have a sense of which marketing techniques are working and which ones are not. Employers want to know that you’re paying attention to how well other brands are marketing themselves.
Take a look at a few of the brands you love. What makes them relatable? How do they represent themselves on social media, and what do you think they’re doing to get their products or services to resonate with their audience? How do other publications speak about them? (It’s likely they had a hand in that press as well.) That way, you’ll be well equipped to get specific about the great PR and marketing techniques they are using.
3. What sorts of work and clients at our firm do you find the most interesting?
“I was asked this question for every single one of my PR interviews,” says Elana Widmann, who was an Account Executive at PR firm GMI. “I can’t emphasize enough that if you don’t know the answer to this question, you’re done.” If you’re interviewing at a PR firm, research the company’s client portfolio and be prepared to talk about the ones that interest you the most and why.
You should also be prepared to answer general questions about audience, according to Nina Boyd, Head of PR & Comms at WayUp. “If it’s a marketplace like ours, or anywhere with more than one key demographic, I would ask how would you pitch us to a B2C audience, and how would that change from a B2B audience,” she says. (Pitching, for those who don’t know, is a way to market yourself to another publication or company in order to get some sort of partnership or bring them on as a client.)
4. How important is routine to you?
What interviewers want to know when they ask this question is, “Are you the type of person who is frazzled by a change in schedule? Can you handle a job that isn’t just 9-5?” Because a lot of PR issues that come up are unexpected, you have to be ready at any moment to put out a fire or act on new information.
A good answer to this question should be genuine: it will only hurt you and the company if you know you live a structured, ordered life. If you know you have what it takes to be on the pulse and ready at all times, then you can say something like, “I think routine is an important part of life, but I also appreciate it when unexpected things come up that I’m able to handle, despite how I expected the day to go.” You can then give a concrete example of a time you had to deal with an unexpected situation.
5. Give me an example of an obstacle you had to overcome or a large problem you have had to solve.
PR deals with a lot of communication, but a good chunk of the role also involves crisis management. Are you able to put out fires? Put a glossy spin on a story that could be harmful to the company? Are you able to calm the people around you and assure them that everything is handled?
If you have an example of a time you were quick, level-headed and took the appropriate action under pressure, use this as your answer to this interview question.
Elana recommends that a great way to prepare for any and all questions during your PR interview is to be updated on two major things:
- CURRENT EVENTS and the news THAT WEEK. So much of PR is being able to react to the news, and insert your story within the current news cycle. You have to be well read, and have a good idea of what is going on. Check out Google Trends to stay updated on new information.
- THE FIRM. Any PR firm wants to know that you are interested in the great work THEY are doing. Know their clients, and understand what they have done for the clients in recent months. Come to the table with a couple ideas for how to pitch their current clients.