Creating a Winning Marketing/PR Portfolio

  • Article by: BY BARBARA K. MEDNICK , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: May 25, 2003 - 11:00 PM

In the challenging and competitive world of marketing and public relations, developing a professional, visually-appealing and customized portfolio is critical to landing that dream job. Maintaining a winning portfolio is important.

Not only do recent graduates need to have a portfolio, but marketing/PR professionals at all levels need one.

Customize Portfolio to Job

"My best advice for marketing and PR students and professionals at any level, is to maintain a solid résumé and portfolio," said Teresa Novacek, director of student relations for the International Association of Business Communicators-Minnesota Chapter and a senior communications consultant with BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota. "I recommend a customized portfolio for each interview. Just as you would tailor a cover letter to meet the needs of a job notice, you should do the same with a portfolio," said Novacek.

Jennifer McNamara, public relations manager, VEE Entertainment in Minneapolis, and the student relations chair at the Public Relations Society of America-Minnesota, concurs. "Portfolios can vary a lot by position and industry – you need to customize your portfolio to the position you are interviewing for," said McNamara.

Portfolio items can include letters of recommendation, awards, several writing samples, examples of projects with results, presentations, marketing/PR plans, academic curriculum and/or certificate programs.

Sell Your Talents

"Think of a portfolio as your point-of-purchase product display. You need to make it enticing enough for the purchaser (i.e. prospective employer) to buy the product (i.e. you and your talents)," Novacek said.

The Public Relations Student Society of America recommends putting the most outstanding pieces that "scream with talent" in a portfolio. McNamara echoes that sentiment. "Simplify and be strategic – don't include everything." There are many portfolio cases on the market that students and professionals can buy to showcase their work. "I am a fan of the zippered, leather artist's case that can hold 8.5 x 11-inch items within plastic-covered page sleeves. There is also an 11 x 17-inch case for large examples. Both of these sizes can be found for a reasonable price in most office supply stores," Novacek said.

Top Ten Portfolio Tips

Ed Prentiss, president and founder of Brainco: the Minneapolis School of Advertising, Design and Interactive Studies, offers his top ten tips for creating and maintaining a winning portfolio:

  1. Always show your best work. Quantity is not a substitute for quality.

  2. Show your ability to think strategically and in broad terms.

  3. Communicate that you can execute on that strategy or vision.

  4. Make sure your portfolio matches the position you're looking for.

  5. Create a portfolio that can speak for itself (in case you don't get an opportunity to show it).

  6. Get qualified feedback from a reliable source in the industry before the interview.

  7. Be open to negative feedback and use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

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