Professional Development Public Relations

How to Show Off Your Work With a Modern Portfolio

Day in and day out, we work to tell the stories of our organizations and clients as PR professionals. But how are you working to tell your own story? Whether you’re looking for a new position, transitioning to freelance work, pushing for a promotion or searching for a general sense of self-achievement, a portfolio will speak volumes about your skills as a professional. In public relations, you can interview for countless jobs, but without showing how you achieve results, your application is meaningless.

If you search for “portfolio” in the discussions on the MyPRSA Community, it yields more than 100 results. There are many tips and tricks to sift through when compiling your portfolio, but here are six that have helped me the most:

1. Use a design assistant.

As PR pros, some of us certainly have complementary skills in branding or content creation that will inspire us to put together a professional-looking portfolio. But if that is not you, then don’t fret. And definitely don’t stick to a plain Word document.

My favorite portfolio tool is Canva. (And it’s what I used to build my own portfolio.) You may have heard of this free graphic design tool as a way to quickly create social media content or collateral. Repurpose one of the countless presentation decks into an outline for showcasing your work. You can choose one theme, customize with your choice of colors, and use the templates for section headers, image galleries and text blocks for explanation.

2. Create case studies.

No one likes reading a run-on summary in which they can’t tell what a campaign’s goals were or what the role of public relations is for a brand. Similar to how an agency utilizes case studies when pitching for new business, you should be creating case studies for projects you’ve worked on. Case studies help organize your portfolio and show results, just like how your résumé should be showcasing statistics.

Summarize impactful or favorite projects that you’ve worked on into sections detailing what the business need was, how your campaign solved it and what the results were.

If you’re highlighting social media work, then you should highlight engagement rates and user-generated content. If you’re highlighting media relations, then you should showcase key points of the pitch, targeted media contacts and article results. If you’re highlighting an event, then the case study should include photos, vendors you worked with, and so on.

3. Know that quality captures matter.

Do you take screenshots on your laptop or phone and then not remember where you saved them? Do you take screenshots of varying sizes and resolutions? Do you do an internet search for a better, free tool, only to find numerous professional solutions that are beyond what you need? After lots of clicking around and a low tolerance for inconsistency in reports, I like to consider myself a master of captures.

When taking a screen grab of a social media post, always log out (unless the post is private). It’s best to avoid screen-shots with or without the “following” button checked, or worse, the “followed by” auto-populating with a strange handle of someone you don’t know. Pull up the post on your desktop browser and right-click to “inspect” it. A navigation bar will appear at the top where you can choose a responsive size or a specific size such as iPhone X. Click the three dots at the top-middle-right, and then choose capture screenshot (or full size). Voila! You’ve got a clean capture of any social media post or even full webpage.

4. Allow your personal profiles to show your passion.

I’m always baffled by PR pros who aren’t active on their personal social media profiles or don’t participate in events to grow their personal brand and executive presence. Some people aren’t interested in engaging online after work hours, and rightly so. But if you’re working in a specialty area like social media, then your own social media presence is a testament to your skills, beyond your daily job. Potential clients and employers will take note if you’re using best practices with hashtags and whether or not you’re sharing articles with your own opinion versus simply sharing headlines.

I’d encourage PR pros to consider selecting at least 1-2 platforms to post on regularly. LinkedIn and Twitter are easy to use and commonly used for professional posts. If you focus more on media relations, then share the articles you placed or those by journalists you work with regularly. No matter what, it’s easy to share industry trend articles and comment with your perspective. As I wrote in a previous PRSA column, if you aren’t active on a social platform, then your connections might forget about you or unintentionally leave you out of professional networking opportunities.

5. Make it digital.

One question that people often ask is whether or not they should make their portfolio on a website. My recommendation is to only do so if you plan on fully updating other pages (like your homepage, about, contact info, etc.) or if you are considering a more robust blog. If you aren’t going to post anything besides your portfolio, then a full website could be overkill and look unprofessional when incomplete.

If you only want to share a PDF portfolio or slideshow, then I recommend just sharing it via email, through a download link to your Google Drive or Dropbox, or on a simple About.Me page. When you’re looking to put in more effort and are thinking about expanding your digital presence in the long term, you can consider a more comprehensive personal website or blog on hosts like WordPress and Wix.

6. Bring it to life.

Even if your portfolio is digital, you can’t expect recruiters and hiring teams to read absolutely everything. When you’re doing an in-person interview, be sure to print a few hard copies — one to leave behind and one to keep. Yes, it can be expensive to print and bind a portfolio, but isn’t the $20 investment worth it to land a new gig? Alternatively, you can bring a tablet with your work samples already pulled up and ready to swipe through, sans internet.

How have you created or organized your portfolio?

I’d love to hear your ideas.

This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of PRSA Strategies & Tactics.

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