Public relations interview questions and answers

Contributed by Shikha Pandey

What do you understand by public relations?

Public relations is a profession that looks after the reputation of a personality or a company. public relations specialists work with the aim of helping the company and its customers earn mutual understanding. PR is a planned and continuous effort of establishing and maintaining goodwill of any organization or person.

This job is created to provide positive publicity to a company's clients and enhance its reputation. A perfect PR must have the knowledge of some important factors such as persuasion, information, communication, public opinion and public policies.

What does it take to be a public relations specialist?

Public relations specialists must have good communication skills, a methodical approach to find information, and an ability to work in a stressful environment. Being a PR professional, I must know how to create and maintain clients' reputation in public. I should even have good writing skills as there is a need of written material for press releases, plan and direct public relations programs, and raise funds for the organization I am working with.

These are the basic qualities that every PR person should possess. Here are some additional qualities that can help me grow faster.

-Excellent interpersonal skills
-Good IT skills
-Presentation skills
-Initiative
-Ability to prioritize and plan effectively
-Awareness of different media agendas
-Creativity

I believe that I possess most of these qualities and being a quick learner enables me to pick up the new ones fast.

What do you know about the job profile of a public relations professional?

If you are a public relations specialist, your job profile depends on the type of organization or company you are working for which can either be a public body, business or a voluntary organization.

Their work is to communicate important messages, often using a third party endorsement, to the target audiences in order to establish and maintain goodwill and understanding between the organization and their customers.

Below are the the things that are commonly included in the job profile of a public relations specialist:

- Writing press releases for the media.
- Knowing your main clients and finding out the best ways to get in touch with them.
- Pitching out media people and taking out information from them.
- Looking after your clients while they communicate in public and helping them at times.
- Writing speeches and scheduling interviews with your clients.
- Working with advertisers for various ad campaigns.
- Design and launch email marketing campaigns.
- Promoting products and services through public relations initiatives.
- Researching about the media coverages and industry trends.
- Dealing with enquirers from the public, the press, and related organizations

What are some of the growing trends in the public relations industry?

As the field of communication is growing, public relations is more than press releases and press conferences. Social media and Internet are the recent trends for PR strategies, and here are some trends to watch.

Change in the traditional forms of press releases - the old forms are mostly filled with texts and it gets boring for the reader to read so much without illustrations. Through the Internet and social media these documents will be more appealing to the readers with images and videos.

Public relations specialists will be required by every corporate office - With The growing trend of Internet and social media the pressure on businesses to be transparent and practice open communication, has increased.

PR will be more about building relationships - Social media will be used by public relations specialists to deliver relevant information to the public and get connected to them. Followers are not just a number of people, in fact they are opportunities to build stronger relationships.

How would you balance advocacy and objectivity?

Public relations is more about building your client's reputation but at the same time you need to be honest at some places as you cannot cheat your audience. A customer does not require each and every information of your organization but he should be given what is in his interest.

Advocacy is more about presenting information in a transparent manner. So, being a public relations specialist, you need to be transparent wherever it is important to be, but you need to remain objective at times too, as it is stated earlier that your audience does not require every detail of the company. It is all about balancing the reputation without compromising on the facts.

How would you put together a pitch?

Being a public relations personnel you must know the techniques of making an effective pitch. Here are some common ideas to put a pitch together.

Choose your target- Your target must be according to your requirement, so that it actually fits.

Go through the writer's previous articles- Before you make any pitch you must go through the writer's articles and know about their interests, styles, and know the ways you can promote them further along their lines.

Plan your pitch in advance- Plan out your pitch on the basis of what the story would be. You can make your first pitch through an email and then, you can call.

Speaking to the point- While making a pitch you must speak to the point and let the reporter know what the subject is and what your reasons are for taking the interview. And at that point there is no sense in buttering them as they must know your interests are sincere.

Be specific about the purpose of the interview- If you are not specific about the purpose of the interview, reporters may entertain you once but not from the next time.

What kind of media outlets do you follow on a day to day basis? Why particularly those?

The kind of media outlets you follow reflect your interests and your character. If you are appearing for a job interview in a company that deals with technology, you must follow outlets like Wired, Gizmodo, or TechCrunch.

It is not just about following media outlets, make sure that you did a serious research since interviewers are usually smart enough to know who is genuine and who is not. If you are following any social media website, you must have reasons to follow it like you get updated on technology through Wired or TechCrunch.

What skills do you have that would help you in responding to a client’s message?

Here are some skills that you must have as a public relations specialist when you are responding to client's message.

-Be a great listener
-Must have a good communication skills
-Be calm and have patience
-Be confident of what you are speaking about
-You may face some pressure but make it a habit to deal with them
-Use positive language
-Be a leader
-Behave in a friendly manner -Manage time
-Analyze problems as soon as you start speaking with a customer
-Negotiate and persuade

How would you go about finding relevant contacts and sources?

Finding relevant contacts and sources is quiet easy now-a-days with the help of social media and Internet.

-Get email notifications directly to your inbox whenever journalists tweet or link to articles matching your search term.

Contact directly through their email.

You can keep an eye on which journalists are following or sharing your content on social media.

Maintain a list of media people and include private notes from past campaigns to make your upcoming outreach more efficient.

There may be a situation when you may not have any contact or source of information of a particular media house; so you can search for their website and the contact us section has contact number of the important people of the organization.

What is a PR Crisis? How would you deal with one?

PR crisis is the situation that arises when an organization or individual is facing a challenge to its reputation. It can happen because of an unpredictable event threatens can seriously impact an organization's performance and generate negative outcomes.

If I would be in any of such crisis I would follow the steps that are mentioned below.

I will be finding out what exactly the crisis is and will note down every detail of it.
Base on the happenings there has to be plan of action. So, I'll evaluate my requirements and options.

Based on these, I will address the relevant audience.

The organization should accept their mistake if they went wrong somewhere as public is more willing to forgive an honest mistake than a calculated lie.

It is important to be demonstrative because the media as well as the public will have their own assumptions if no information is given to them by the organization in crisis.

I should show my concern to the public as they must know that we care because people will be more forgiving if it is clear that the organization cares about the victims of the crisis.

Maintain two-way relationships as it is important to know the status of public opinion by listening.

Which are your favorite social media platforms? What do you like about them?

Social media is something where everyone has their account and get connected to each other. So while answering such questions give out the list of those websites name that interests the employer. They should find some connection on how you can make use of these websites and do a great job for their organization.

Mention various PR tools and techniques that you would use as a PR professional.

If I am working as a PR specialists I would use some tools that would boost the clients’ public image and help them form a better relationship with the target audience.

The types of key tools available to carryout the public relations function include:

-Media Relations
-Media Tours
-Newsletters
-Special Events
-Speaking Engagements
-Sponsorships
-Employee Relations
-Community Relations and Philanthropy
-Blogging

For an example if I have to write a newsletter I would write it according to the guidelines provided by the client. A news release can be distributed on paper, on disk, by email, by a PR newswire, or posted on a website.

I would even utilize the Internet tools and techniques such as social media networks and blogs.

Why do you think corporates require public relations specialists?

With all of us using smart phones and the presence of so many social media websites everyone knows about every brand, so there is transparency in the market. Corporates will need public relations specialists because:

- Effective PR creates an image of a company.
- Connects with consumers to create a relationship between company and customer.
- Your brand creates a conversation with customers.

What's the difference between public relations and advertising?

Public relations

1. Your job profile is to get free publicity for the company and also promote their products and services.
2. You don't have any control on media over how the media will present your information as they are not obligated to do so.
3. The PR exposure you receive is only circulated once. An editor won't publish your same press release three or four times in their magazine.
4. A third-party article written about your product or service is read by the customer assuming that you are not paid to write positive things about the product.

Advertising

1. Here you are paid for the ad space and you know exactly when that ad will be aired or published.
2. You have paid for the space so you have a creative control on what goes into that ad.
3. Since you pay for the space, you can run your ads over and over for as long as your budget allows.
4. Consumers know when they're reading an advertisement they're trying to sell a product or service.

What is a press release?

A press release is a short news story written by a public relations professional and is sent to different media houses.. The press release must have all the essential information including answers of the 5W and 1H (who? what? where? when? how? and why?) for the journalist to easily produce his own story.

Have you ever had to handle a social media crisis? What did you do?

At times we have to come under situations where we need to handle social media crisis in such a way that we are able convince the audience in a satisfactory manner. Being a public relations specialist I would follow some of the common steps mentioned below to get over with the social media crisis.

Open yourself to the conversation - Rather than ignoring the situation I would come forward and respond or comment and will open myself to the opinion and feedback.

Listen genuinely - I would listen to the people's opinion like what they have to say and will note down all the major points and even recognize inaccuracies or inconsistencies in what happened.

Become the evaluator - I would raise some serious questions about the organization or brand. For an example, Did you do something wrong? Could you have stopped it? Perhaps more importantly, what can you do to prevent it from happening in the future? Pro actively share some of those ideas and show you are actively working through the issue.

Take action - At last think of some solutions to the problems and plan out how you can take actions on to get over with the crisis.

What is the role of content in public relations?

Content plays an important role in public relations as it helps in promoting brand perception and creates awareness through meaningful content.
When a PR is able to create a sound content strategy, it becomes clear what media outlets, events, and social media channels work best for the promotion.

Content tells about the insights and observations about the customer life cycle, content gaps, competitive weaknesses, content types, and content maintenance. Through this the organization can improve its overall activities and achieve its business goals.

Why do you want to work in PR?

When faced with a question like this, you can say something like - “I find public relations an extremely attractive profession as it is so diverse, everything changes so fast and every day you work differently.

Working in a dynamic environment is what I like. There would be a little pressure and stressful environment but can multi task and deal with pressure, so I believe, I can do well in this career.

Some of the qualities you can mention are -

- Ability to write effectively. - Interest in researching, reading and staying up to date. - Curiosity and ability to learn quickly. - Like meeting new people from different backgrounds. - Good listening abilities with a desire to help people - Ability to use social media effectively with a passion for new gadgets and technology - Flexibility and adaptability with a passion to take up new challenges

How would you prioritize and start your work day?

When an interviewer ask this question that means he wants to know what are your priorities at your work. Moreover they want to know your ability to decide the most important work first and end up your day with the least important one.

You can tell about your research methods and your way of looking at any work or event. You need to give your answer precisely about your technique of working for any event or news.

What do you know about the PR activities of our organization that has been carrying out in last 6 months?

For this question you need to do your homework well about the company you are appearing for. You must know what kind of PR activities that particular company is into and even what kind of services they provide. Check out the their record on activities they have been carrying out in last 6 months. Answer to this question differs according to the company.

Important terms used in PR Industry:

Affiliate Network- It is a technique where other publishers and websites will promote the brands by allowing it in their network. It acts as an mediator between publishers and brands so that you reach out more number of audience.

B-Roll- It is the extra footage captured to provide the background of the story to have greater flexibility when editing.

B2B- It stands for business to business that means a business that markets to another business for an example a manufacturer marketing to a retailer.

B2C- It stands for business to consumer that means a business that markets the products to its customers.

Boilerplate- There is a section at the end of a press release, before the media contact info, that tells about the company, business, product, brand or event discussed in the main body of the press release.

Gatekeeper- He is the one who looks after the flow of information from the media to the public.

Pitch- It is a way of reaching out someone in a formal way either through mail or a phone call.

Placements- Stories that are popular in media are called placements.

Press Kit- It is a packet of materials given to the media that contains contains backgrounds, bios, photos, and news releases.

Reach- It is the number of audience connected to the media through print, broadcast or online medium.

Journo- It is the abbreviated form of journalists. 


What do you mean by Public Relations?

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What is the purpose of a Public Relations person?

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What are the qualities expected in a PR person?

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How is PR different from advertising?

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What are the role, nature and responsibilities of a PR person?

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What is interactive PR? What are the various elements comprising interactive PR?

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