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Why Public Relations Cover Letters Have to Be Perfect
Besides being the best way to get an interview for a public relations job, the public relations cover letter practically IS an interview for a public relations job. After all, public relations is, at its heart, a career of communication. And nothing is more basic to the art and science of communication than writing a simple and persuasive document presenting a case, supporting it with facts and motivating the reader to take a desired action. If your public relations cover letter effectively accomplishes these tasks, then you are well on your way to the interview that gets you the job you want.
Before you even sit down at your keyboard to write a public relations cover letter, you should have several issues thoroughly thought through in your own head. Then and only then will you have the correct strategy and information you need to create the public relations cover letter that will adequately showcase your suitability for the position you want.
First, what do you know about the target company? The field of public relations is a diverse and exciting one, and there are many different specialties that different firms practice. Some of these specialties are in subject matter. Some firms focus on particular industries, like manufacturing, fashion or high technology. Other public relations firms specialize in media --- being more savvy with print or television or new media communications. Others specialize in job function. Public relations firms that specialize in damage control, in launching new enterprises, in reinvigorating new brands all jostle one another to carve out a niche in which they can thrive and flourish. Knowing as much as possible about your particular target is vital to crafting the public relations cover letter that is the most convincing to that target firm.
The Answers Are Out There
Luckily for you, no industry is more aware of the importance of self promotion than the public relations industry. So chances are good that finding these tidbits of information will be a snap. Try online for starters, just about every PR firm worth a hill of beans has a website that should answer just about all the big questions youíve got. If you still need more information, do a Google search and see what comes up. Usually old press releases are archived online and contain valuable information just waiting for you to stumble across it. Once youíve got a good basic background, you might want to give the target company a call and get a couple of quick questions answered. PR people generally love to talk about themselves, and the information they give you might be just the thing to put you over the top against the competition. Additionally, being the one applicant that goes that extra mile to research the company thoroughly beforehand gives you an edge as well.
Second, what do you know about the target position? What are the positions duties and responsibilities? Who does the position work with or for? Is there direct supervision or is the position self-guided? What constitutes success or failure in the target position and how are these evaluated?
Thirdly, what do you know about the person that will receive your public relations cover letter? At the very minimum, you should know their name, how itís spelled, and their accurate contact details before you send the letter. Under no circumstances, should you ever, ever, ever send out a cover letter to "Sir/Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern." Ever. Part of your job as a public relations employee is likely to be finding out who is in charge of press coverage or other areas. Showing with a generically addressed cover letter that you arenít capable of calling a directory and getting a name right is grounds for taking your cover letter and throwing it directly into the trash can unopened.
Whatís the Problem Here?
Fourthly, keeping all the above elements in mind, what would you say is the most important business problem that your target position is expected to solve? What is the second most important? What is the third? What challenges will that position face in solving it? What resources will be at their command? How have your predecessors attempted to solve that problem? What were the results?
Fifthly, how would you solve their most pressing business problem? What strategies and tactics would you employ? How would you measure success or failure during the execution? How would you alter your methods if they were not succeeding? What results would you expect to produce and in what time period? What resources would you require to produce these results? Answer these questions for all the targetís business problems.
Sixthly, what makes you capable of executing the strategy and tactics you would use to solve each of the targets most pressing business concern? What kind of training have you received? What experience do you have solving that problem? Can you give examples of successful attempts? Have you been recognized or received awards for solving that problem? Answer these questions for each of the remaining business problems.
Seventhly, why do you enjoy solving the most pressing business problem that the target faces? What part of the challenge offers you the most satisfaction? What evidence do you have to prove that you truly enjoy the challenge that the target job faces and are not simply hoping to go through the motions for a paycheck?
Eighthly. What do you hope to receive as a result of sending out the public relations cover letter to the target company?
Whew. That was a lot of work. But by this point you have all the elements in place to write a great public relations cover letter and just need to put them together. Bearing in mind that the reader of the letter is picking it up or calling it up onto his or her computer screen wondering "whatís in this for me?" you will want to start with something that answers that question immediately, like EXPERIENCED PR PROFESIONAL SEEKS NEW CHALLENGES.
Show Your Expertise
From there you want to begin by stating their biggest business problem in your own words. For instance, if your research shows that they have landed some high technology clients but lack the technical knowledge and industry contacts to really produce the right results from those clients, you will want to start strong with how you can solve this problem for them, with something like "In the fast-passed world of high technology, keeping up with the technical developments and major players can be a job all by itself. As the PR contact for one of the largest graphic interface companies in Silicon Valley, that was my job for the last two years and I have developed a firm understanding of the technologies, companies and people that make that industry so exciting."
Next, you will want to show how you would go about solving that problem. "As a member of your team, I would reach out to the producers and editors of technology publications, websites and television shows and present the ground breaking work you are doing in a way that fits their individual editorial style."
Next, you will explain why you are particularly well suited to perform this role. "To accomplish this, I will use the contacts I developed over the last five years of working with the top names in the high technology business. If you have read articles about Cisco Systems, Intel or Microsoft in the past half-decade, you have seen examples of the kind of coverage that I am able to procure for my employers."
Whatís In It For You?
Next, you launch into why you are so enthusiastic. "I love the world of PR and take great satisfaction in breaking a story that makes people reevaluate how they perceive a company."
Lastly, you ask for whatever it is you wanted when you started the public relations cover letter in the first place, usually a call for an interview. "I look forward to sharing my enthusiasm for this opportunity with you in person. Please call me at 555-999-9999 to set up a time for us to speak."
With all the elements in place, the last step before mailing or sending the public relations cover letter by email is to edit and proofread it thoroughly. Once again, I canít stress enough how important communications skills are to the public relations industry. So if there is ever a time that you want to run your computerís grammar and spell-check, this is it.
Additionally, you want to go one step further and read it over for yourself a couple of times, and once aloud. Are the sentences natural and flowing or awkward and formal? Change them. Do you use plain English and direct phrases or do you try to get fancy with your vocabulary? This is your last chance to get it right before your target reads it. The overall tone you should be aiming for is that of an intelligent, brief, friendly conversation in which you make the case for why you are such a great problem solver.
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