From the Recruiter’s Desk: What Goes Into a Good PR Portfolio?

Lindsay Olson pic.jpg

Lindsay Olson is a partner and recruiter with Paradigm Staffing (and PRNewser guest columnist). She specializes in helping companies and agencies find public relations and communications professionals throughout the United States. Olson has over ten years experience recruiting in the PR industry and also writes a career-related blog at You can find her on Twitter via @prjobs.

Olson’s latest column seeks to answer a question on the mind of many PR pros currently looking for jobs: What goes into a good PR portfolio? Olson spoke with HR managers at several agencies to get their take. Read on to see what she found out.

A career portfolio is considered a very important tool for any job seeker, especially for public relations and marketing professionals. It’s also a tool many job seekers tend to overlook or put together at the last minute when they are unable to gather their best and most relevant materials to showcase.

I’m frequently asked by candidates what they should include in a portfolio. Rather than tell you what I think, I spoke to three human resources managers with PR agencies for their input about what types of materials you should consider including and how to stand out from your competition.

Lori Hedrick, VP of Human Resources at Marcus Thomas, an integrated communications firm in Ohio, suggests including “a good variety of writing pieces (we always ask for three), and those that the candidate feels demonstrate their best work.” She notes it is important to select at least two pieces relevant to the industry or clients you will be supporting in the position.

Andra Brigmohan, Human Resources Manager for Veritas Communications in Toronto, Canada, agrees “customization is key.” While it is okay to show some work in other industry sectors, it should be obvious your portfolio pieces were also selected specifically for the opportunity.

A good portfolio should contain a variety of work to demonstrate writing, strategic thinking, and client service skills. For recent college graduates, upper-level college project coursework relevant to the PR industry and internship experiences should be nicely documented.

Sara Walker, Vice President of Operations and Human Resources for Saxum PR in Oklahoma, says she expects to see writing samples as well as samples of media placements the candidate secured. “The perfect portfolio would include a variety of writing samples written in AP style, including press releases, Web site copy, brochure copy, media pitches, etc. as well as clippings of the news coverage their news release garnered. I like to see that a candidate can not only write well, but that he or she also understands the media and can produce results.”

A social media presence is also something to consider in your portfolio. Hedrick mentions her agency favors candidates who “demonstrate social media savvy, so if the candidate authors a blog, we’d like to see a link to the blog and links to all social media activity including Twitter handle and LinkedIn profile.”

In addition to writing samples, media placements and social media, the human resources professionals suggested considering the following for inclusion in a strong portfolio:

Tagging portfolio materials with more information such as client, objective, audience and results (Hedrick).

Inclusion of a trade article to demonstrate the breakdown of complex information and getting the message across (Hedrick).

A PR plan with any sensitive information omitted (Hedrick).

Active participation in PRSA or in any professional organizations (Hedrick).

Creative portfolio design. The creative element is extremely important and a big plus to promote yourself (Brigmohan).

Consider leaving a “mini-portfolio” for the interviewers and the end of the interview with a few writing samples (Brigmohan).

It is widely expected that you will have a portfolio to show if you are seriously considering new employment opportunities in the public relations industry and want to put your best work forward. You should always bring the portfolio into the first interview as well as every subsequent interviews since there is always the chance one of the interviewers has not had the opportunity to review your work. Brigmohan notes “you may only have one meeting with us and the portfolio is an important part of conveying your brand and your work.”

A portfolio is a self-marketing piece you will continuously build upon throughout your career. Much like a resume, you should be constantly updating it, even though you may not be actively looking for new employment. You never know when opportunity will knock and it’s easy to forget some of the impressive details of your work over time or under time constraints when gathering materials.