Your Portfolio: Your Story

With graduation a mere 28 days away, the reality that I am indeed graduating and will begin conducting face-to-face interviews has started to set in. Making this reality seem all the more real, my professor for Strategic Social Media and Strategic Public Relations Communications, Kelli Matthews, came into my Public Relations Campaigns course last Tuesday to discuss portfolio reviews.

The thought of portfolio reviews sends shivers down my spine. Professionals looking over and judging my portfolio? Yikes. Making this process even more intimidating is the manner in which I have to present each piece in my portfolio: by telling that piece’s story and how it was/is related to a greater campaign. It is suggested to all Campaigns students to tell the piece’s story by answering the questions: What was the problem/challenge? How did you/your team address it? What was the outcome?

After Kelli mentioned this process, I freaked out. I don’t know the story behind all of the work I highlight in my portfolio, especially the work completed during my internship with Edelman. No one ever sat me down at Edelman and said, “This is why we need xyz media list created and this is how it will help xyz campaign.” I felt like I needed to take everything from Edelman out immediately even though this work is some of my best. “What is the story behind xyz media list?” I kept repeating in my brain. How was is relevant to the client? What did it help Edelman and the client achieve?

After ruminating over all of these thoughts for a solid ten minutes, I stuck my hand in the air. “What if we don’t know the story behind one of our pieces?” I asked Kelli.

She then began to walk me through steps to figure out a piece’s story when it is not entirely obvious. One of the first questions she asked was: “Well, what was it that you created?” I replied, “A media list.”

Clue 1: If you are asked to create a media list, chances are it is a part of a greater media relations campaign.

Next, she asked: “Well, was there anything special about this media list? Was it geared towards any particular audience?” I replied, “Yes.”

Clue 2: If the piece is geared toward a particular audience, that gives you an even greater understanding of what this piece is going to be used for and the possible outcomes that may result from the agency using said piece

“What would having a targeted media list enable Edelman to do?” Kelli asked next. “Well, it would give them the ability to better target the media it seeks to gain coverage in,” I replied.

Clue 3: The possible outcome lies in what this media list would enable Edelman to do. So, in this case, by targeting only specific media and only specific writers and editors, Edelman could gain more and better media coverage. Having this specified media list allowed Edelman to personalize messages to particular writers and editors and, most importantly, send news that was very relevant to their publications.

By the end of this conversation, I knew the role my media list played in the grand scheme of its campaign.

What was the problem/challenge?

The client was not receiving the amount of media coverage it desired in trade magazines.

How did you/your team address the problem?

By creating a media list that only targeted writers and editors whose magazines related to construction, tools and home improvement.

What was the outcome?

While I cannot decisively say this resulted in greater media coverage, I can say that it enabled Edelman to better target the media it was attempting to gain coverage in. By better targeting said media, it is reasonable to conclude that this media list resulted in greater coverage.

I hope these clues, steps and questions help you better understand how to present pieces in your portfolio. Do you know the story behind each piece in your portfolio? If not, think critically about the piece, and you will most likely discover its story.


10 thoughts on “Your Portfolio: Your Story

  1. GREAT post, Lauren! As PR people, we’re asked to do all sorts of things that may or may not look pretty or fit neatly into our portfolios. Your post was very helpful for my thinking about how all our work fits together and tells a story about accomplishing an overreaching goal.

    Thanks for spelling this out so neatly for those of us struggling to put our portfolios together!


    1. Sarah,

      I am so glad this post was helpful for you! I was very lost prior to asking Kelli for help, so I am glad I can convey some of her wisdom through this blog post. It really can be hard to figure out how to discuss a single media list (or other document) in your portfolio, so I’m glad these clues, tips and suggestions are coming in handy for you!


  2. Great point. When presenting, whether in an interview, portfolio reviews, or any setting, being focused on details so important. Yet, it is also so difficult at times! Great example!

    1. Jeremy,

      Thank you for the comment! It can be quite difficult to fully understand a portfolio piece’s significance and to be able to communicate that significance to your reviewers, especially given the time crunch we have in our presentations. That is why you want to highlight your best work first, so that you can tell the story of a piece without running out of time for the others. Thank you again for the comment!


  3. Lauren,

    This is terrific! Well described. It’s true that in internships, you’re not always privy to the strategy behind a particular assignment. And media lists can be tricky – they aren’t the most mentally challenging of assignments (to say the least), but a good list is pivotal to a good media relations campaign. Understanding how they fit into the big picture if important and understanding how they affect the business of PR will set you apart. Thanks for sharing these tips with everyone!


    1. Kelli,

      Thank you so much for your comment and your encouragements. It really means a lot to me coming from you, and I can’t wait to put these tips into action at my portfolio review.


  4. Lauren, thank you! I too am struggling to put together my portfolio and appreciate you sharing your concerns about not knowing the connection behind the media list, etc. I will be referring to this post at least one more time before my portfolio review in a few short weeks. It was very helpful. Well done!

    1. Jenna,

      Thank you so much for the comment. I am so glad this post is helpful for you! Please feel free to ask me any further questions that you may have in J452. I can’t guarantee I can answer them, but I will try 🙂


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