Work Samples and How to Present Them

Tips for keeping track of your published clippings or putting together your public relations portfolio.

Newspaper clips open doors

Fancy doesn't matter. Neatness and ease of reading is what counts.

The best way to present clips is to do what you need to do to get the clips onto 8 1/2 x 11 paper and still be legible. If this requires multiple pages for a single story, staple the pages together. Otherwise, use a paper clip to hold the stack of clips. When a busy editor is faced with dozens of applications, the first cut tends to be harsh.

  • When it comes to clips, ease of reading is the important thing. The more a busy editor has to manipulate your clips, the more likely she is to become unfairly prejudiced against their content. (i.e. unfolding easily tearable legs of newsprint, unfolding and refolding 11x17 paper that otherwise won't fit in a standard file folder, having to pull clips out of those plastic sleeves because glare makes them so hard to read - and then stuff them back.)
  • Of secondary importance with clips is neatness of presentation. This usually only comes into play if an applicant has passed through all the initial ditching. At that point, the employer begins to notice things like how neatly the clips are presented. Are they dog-eared and held to a sheet of typing paper by two stingy bits of tape that let them curl up and tear? Are the pages covered with smudgy black fingerprints, a clear sign that little attention was paid to the mounting process? If a clip had to be cut apart and pieced to fit on a single sheet, was it done neatly? Granted, this may not be critical, but it does give a potential employer a good indication of how professional you are, how much you value your own work, and how serious you are about wanting the job.

Photocopies of your clips will work fine. It's a good idea to make sure that the publication name and date are included with the clip.

Are too many clips enough?

Most editors agree that the number of clips is less important than the quality. Send only your best work.

In general, that means five to 10 stories. If possible, you should include a variety of story types, but limit opinion pieces or reviews or anything written in the first person. For entry-level jobs, editors rarely care much about what you think about an issue. They want to see how well you can report about what other people think and do.

Ideally, you might include a sampling of hard news stories (a meeting, a speech, an accident, a trial, an obit, other types of breaking news) and news feature stories (a profile, a descriptive piece, an event such as a county fair). Major investigative stories can be good as long as they are not dull.

How to pick your best clips

  • Delayed leads should sing. Hard leads should be concise and complete.
  • No typos, grammatical mistakes, AP style errors, or misspellings in the stories.
  • Good quotes high in the story.
  • An ending that gives the reader a sense that the story has ended.
  • Ask one of your professors to help you choose your best.

Tips for PR portfolios

Creating a top-notch portfolio to complement your interviewing skills is crucial in today's competitive job market. A resume and cover letter may get you the initial interview, but you have to prove that you are the right person for the job. A portfolio is a sampling of your best writing, artwork, or projects to display your previous work experience and to demonstrate your abilities with a variety of communication tools.

Here are 10 ideas for creating a professional portfolio (many of the following come from various Web sites such as Jobs.com):

  • Create separate sections for your work samples such as writing, design, event planning, or project management.
  • Create title pages for each section to make them stand out and keep them organized.
  • Create a portfolio that is unique to YOU. Use materials, colors, symbols, or expressions that demonstrate your individuality.
  • Label each work sample with your job title, date and employer.
  • Think of your portfolio as an art gallery. Include the "painting" or work sample, the description, and the rationale.
  • Use each piece as a "jumping off point" to tell a story about yourself. If each work sample is labeled, it will be easier to remember key tasks and responsibilities that were related to it.
  • Think "big-picture" when creating a portfolio. Ask, "Why would a potential employer care about this piece?" and "What does it say about my abilities?"
  • Make it easy for the interviewer to flip through.
  • Use the portfolio as a discussion piece rather than the focus of the interview. Be interactive and demonstrate your best qualities.
  • Have work samples on hand to give to the interviewer. Bring photocopies to leave behind.