Building the Brand of You: What’s in a Portfolio

The holidays are here and we’ve all got a little extra downtime between all that time with family and loved ones. And with the new year just ahead, there’s no better time to give your professional materials a once-over, especially your portfolio.

I don’t know about you, but I dread putting together my portfolio. Part of my problem may be that I wait until I need it to put one together. Most of it is that I don’t always know what to put in my portfolio.

A portfolio is meant to be a sampling of your best work examples. It should show exactly what you can do and what you’ve worked on. Treat it as a collection of your favorite projects, samples and pieces. It’s something you should be cultivating over time, not throwing together the night before.

So what should go in a PR girl’s portfolio? Keep reading for a list of the essentials to help you land your dream job!

Your portfolio should include…

Writing Samples

PR is a writing-intensive career so proving to potential employers that you can write is a must. You should include press releases, newsletter content, media alerts, newspaper clippings, blog posts, marketing collateral, etc. You don’t need to include every example, but you should have couple of each type that you do have and they should all be well-written, clean copy.

PR or Marketing Plans

Make sure to have copies of plans you created for clients or coursework in your portfolio to show your experience with strategic, tactical and creative practices. These should be complete and should include a little background to better explain the purpose and circumstances, including information on the client and names of any team members you worked with. If there’s any sensitive information, such as client details or financial information, black it out before including the plan.

Research Samples

Research is an integral part of PR and no plan is complete without it. Be sure to polish up a few research examples you have, whether that’s competitive analyses, SWOT analyses, brand and media audits or any other samples you have of strategic analyses.

Social Media Examples

Most of us have experience using social media for personal purposes, but potential employers want to see that you can do it professionally. Take some screenshots of the social media profiles you’ve managed, some posts that performed really well and include planning and strategy documents and editorial calendars you created.

Graphic Design Samples

You don’t have to be a master at InDesign or a Photoshop pro, but there should be at least a couple graphic design, production or other sort of visual examples. There’s always room to grow and learn, but it’s good to show that you have a basic understanding of visual design and how to create things.

Results

Results are just as important as the planning and strategy. They might be more important. You need examples of results from campaigns and plans you’ve created and executed to show that you can come up with and implement effective strategies that achieve your goals. If your portfolio contains mainly coursework or you have client work that you didn’t necessarily carry out, reach out to the person who did execute your plan(s) and see what kind of outcomes and results were evaluated at the end of the plan or campaign.

Generated Coverage

Press releases, media alerts and pitches are great writing examples but they’re part of a bigger picture for PR pros. Along with your examples, you should include a report and a few samples of the coverage you earned. It will work even better if you can package these pieces up as a whole campaign with releases, pitches and coverage together.

How to package your portfolio

Once you have all of your items together, it’s important to present them in a visually pleasing way. Your portfolio doesn’t have to have a fancy binding and expensive paper, but you do need to show that you’re proud of your work.

First you need a way to keep it all together. A clean three-ring binder is always a good way to go. I opted for a black, post-bound scrapbook-type book for my portfolio to give it a more polished look. Use sheet protectors to keep your samples in great shape and to avoid punching holes in each piece.

Divide your portfolio into sections so that each piece is with other like samples to give a better, broader picture. If you have campaigns & results or similar examples. Use dividers to label each section. For compilation samples, write up a short summary of the overall project and efforts.

Make sure that you keep your resume right up front and a short executive summary behind it. Talk about any special projects you may have worked on that didn’t quite fit on your resume, a short summary of what you’ve worked on or have a specialty in, any volunteer work you’ve done, professional organizations you’re a part of or executive boards or committees you’ve served on. You may want to create a smaller leave-behind version of your portfolio to leave with interviewers, but that totally depends on your own preferences.

And one final note on creating your portfolio – make sure to create some sort of online portfolio for yourself. It goes without saying that you should have a LinkedIn, but you should definitely supplement it by displaying your work with a bit of a more personal touch. For just a basic outline of your work and links, check out About.me or Flavors.me. If you’re portfolio is more visual- or design-centric, Behance or PortfolioBox. If you have experience designing a website or want some more control over the look, layout and content of your site, or you want to host a blog as well, SquareSpace or WordPress or Genesis Framework with separate hosting are your best options.

What are your best practices for putting together your portfolio, whether print or online?

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