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How to Develop a Communications Portfolio

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For communications professionals developing a portfolio, less may be more. A targeted analog portfolio that includes eight varied samples in combination with a more expansive digital portfolio will help you stand out from the crowd in this highly competitive field.

Portfolio Contents

In general, a good communications portfolio should demonstrate skills in leadership, writing, strategic thinking and client services. With each sample, include a paragraph or two that explains the organization, its challenge and how you solved that problem. Be specific about your role in the project. For example, were you a specialist on the team or the leader, or did you do all of it yourself?

Analog Portfolio

A good portfolio is curated, like a museum that pulls from its archives for themed exhibits, according to the Creative Group. Only the most relevant and best examples are chosen for each opportunity. In your analog portfolio, experts suggest including three writing pieces that demonstrate the breadth and depth of your experience, with at least two being specifically relevant to the position you are applying for. Five more samples might include examples of media placements achieved, at least one item that demonstrates social media savvy, a PR plan and research samples. Include evidence of active membership in a professional society and any awards or certifications.

Digital Profile

A digital profile represents a broader selection of your work, well-organized and updated regularly. A digital profile will be viewed by a variety of industries and clients, but that doesn't mean you should include everything you've ever done. Always post a full biography, resume, list of clients (with their permission) and list of professional certifications, awards and organizations. Also include outstanding samples or links that demonstrate the range of your skills such as varied writing samples and case studies of problems solved or media coverage achieved.

Showcasing Your Talents

Appearance and organization count in both analog and digital portfolios. Each sample must be carefully labeled with the name of the client -- or a description of the client if anonymous -- the problem or challenge to be solved, the result achieved and your role in the project.

For digital portfolios, experts suggest the following:

  • It's acceptable to use free websites, such as Weebly or Wordpress.  
  • Test the navigation for usability. This isn't the time to use too many bells and whistles. Headings such as Resume, Professional Association, Case Studies and Samples are clear and easy to understand.
  • Optimize your portfolio so that potential clients and employers can find you easily.
  • Personalize your site to make it memorable, but avoid "fun" fonts or color themes that are more appropriate for a personal site.
  • Offer long or animated projects that take too time to download on a DVD.

Analog portfolios are best kept in a high-quality three-ring binder to allow you to easily customize for each opportunity. Specific suggestions for showcasing various types of communication samples include:

  • Newspaper and magazine articles: Original samples are best. Mount samples on a plain black background and use clear plastic protective page coverings.  
  • Brochures/ads/press releases, newsletters: Include originals.
  • Social media: Include screen grabs and analytics.
  • Digital, graphic design, production or editing samples, including broadcast or online video: Include a CD and screen grabs.
  • Long or animated projects: Put on DVDs that have been virus checked.
  • Communication plans or projects: Include the original with sensitive information taken out. Clearly document results if the plan was implemented.
  • Media relations: Include case study, list of press coverage and samples, and demographics of readers/viewers.

Randi Hicks Rowe is a former journalist, public relations professional and executive in a Fortune 500 company, and currently a formation minister in the Episcopal Church. She has been published in Security Management, American Indian Report and Tech Republic.She has a bachelor's in communications, a master of arts in Christian education and a master of business administration.

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