A wide range of educational backgrounds are suitable for entry into marketing, advertising, and public relations jobs, but many employers prefer those with experience in related occupations plus a broad liberal arts education. Experience is frequently cited as the key to getting a job in these industries. The best way to gain this crucial experience is either through (usually unpaid) internships or extra-curricular activities that develop the skills necessary for success in these fields. Depending on the type of work, both quantitative and qualitative backgrounds can provide a solid foundation into an entry-level position. Students who enter the fields of marketing, advertising, or public relations tend to be personable and persuasive, mature, creative, highly motivated, resistant to stress, flexible, and decisive. Many have strong leadership skills and the ability to work effectively as part of a team as well as communicate persuasively, both orally and in writing is vital.
Marketing: Brand (business-to-consumer or b2c) or product (business-to-business or b2b) managers are the “intra-preneurs” of an organization. They develop and launch newly-developed or enhanced existing products or services to the marketplace to meet the revenue and profit needs of their firm. Marketers use research data or feedback from their sales team to determine customer demand or identify potential markets for their products and services. Marketing involves quantitative skills needed to develop pricing strategies to maximize a firm's profits, increase market share and satisfy their customers. Brand or product managers are the “hub of the wheel” and need strong “relation-building” and team skills to partner with almost every facet of an organization including accounting, finance, manufacturing, sales or distribution channels, and R&D. They monitor trends that indicate the need for new products and services and oversee product development. Marketing works with an advertising agency vendor or in-house marketing communications department to promote the firm's products and services and to attract potential users.
Public Relations: An organization’s reputation, profitability, and even its continued existence can depend on the degree to which its targeted “publics” support its goals and policies. Public relations specialists or PR Agents serve as advocates for businesses, nonprofit associations, universities, hospitals, and other organizations, and build and maintain positive relationships with the public. Public relations specialists handle organizational functions such as media, community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; and employee and investor relations. They do more than “tell the organization’s story.” They must understand the attitudes and concerns of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups and establish and maintain cooperative relationships with them and with representatives from print and broadcast journalism. PR Agents also coordinate activities such as events, meetings, educational programs, speaking engagements. Being a publicist involves generating and managing publicity for a public figure, especially a celebrity, a business, or for a work such as a book or film.
Advertising: In many ways, advertising works very much like consulting except that the focus is on helping a client sell its products or services. The advertising field is divided into different categories -- account services, creative, media, traffic and production. Account managers are the liaison between the client and the agency. Their job is to “pitch” the agency’s services as well as “project manage” the development of prospective ad campaigns. Entry-level hires are placed into account coordinator positions. Account planners apply both qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand consumers’ buying habits and what will make them purchase or not purchase a product. The creative department brings an advertising idea to life. Copywriters create the written part of print ads as well as the scripts of radio and television spots. Art directors develop the visual concepts and designs of advertisements and manage everything from preparing paste-ups and layouts for print ads to the filming of television commercials and photo sessions. The media department places ads in the right place at the right time, so that the ads will reach the desired audience for the least amount of money. Media planners apply knowledge of readership and television viewing habits as well as evaluate editorial content and programming to determine what media to use: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, or the Internet. Media buyers track the space and times available for purchase as well as negotiate pricing, placement and scheduling of ads to make sure they appear exactly as planned. The Traffic department monitors ad development and submission deadlines, the Production department controls how print or media ads are produced.
Fashion: The “business” side of fashion includes careers in merchandising, sales or marketing, production or operations, distribution, sourcing, product development or trend analysis as well as more traditional tracks in finance, computer support, and human resources. While the term “fashion” is usually associated with apparel and clothing manufacturers, designers also influence products such as accessories, cosmetics, footwear, fragrances, jewelry, leather and home goods.
Retailing: Retailing involves the sale of goods or commodities in small quantities directly to consumers. “The second largest industry in the US,” retailers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and platforms. The most commonly known retailers, often referred to as “brick and mortar” operations, consist of conventional and specialty department stores (Macy’s, Bloomingdales), discount stores (WalMart, Target, Sears), off-price stores (TJMaxx, Marshalls), chain or apparel stores (The Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch), consumer electronics stores (Best Buy), home improvement stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s), office supplies stores (Staples, OfficeMax), pharmacies/HBA’s (CVS, Walgreen’s), home products stores (Bed Bath & Beyond), sporting goods stores (Dick’s Sporting Goods), footwear stores (Foot Locker) and jewelry stores (Zales, Tiffany). Then, of course, there are direct mail, catalog, and web-based retailers as well as food stores, groceries, and so on. Typical career paths and training also varies depending on both the company and industry segment it’s in. The National Retail Federation’s career resource center provides an excellent overview of what kinds of positions are available in this industry.