Writing cover letters for jobs in media or communications

Remember, it's not about you, it's about what you can do for them Click To Tweet

The media industry is a very cutthroat place driven by extreme timelines and deadlines. That being said, most media professionals will not have time to read through pages of a cover letter explaining every single job you have ever had or what clubs you chaired in high school. They simply want to know these five things:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why should we hire you?
  3. What do you know about us as an organization/company/institution/publication?
  4. What sets you apart from the rest?
  5. How do we find you?

Put all this in a cover letter and you’re on your way to getting that interview call back you are hoping for. How to go about this though, is where most of us get it wrong. The world changes every day with each passing day, hour, minute and second, therefore it is imperative to keep up with the constant changes going on.

What worked as a cover letter say 5/6 years ago, is definitely not the case today in 2017. Check out the dos and don’ts below which I hope will be a quick guide to writing a great cover letter.

DO: Start off with a very intriguing first sentence

The media/comms industry is all about being creative and thinking of different angles to put points across. Do not just say, “I’m applying for this position because I really need a job and I feel this would be it”… Let’s avoid the tired cliches, shall we?

Start with what you know, which is your field, where you saw this vacancy and that you are interested in the position. This, first of all, gives them an assurance that their ads are being seen. Secondly, it tells them you know you fit the description by saying what you do already and lets them avoid wasting time reading the entire letter only to find out you don’t even know what you are applying for.

DON’T: Start writing out a detailed description of your resume or LinkedIn profile

By the time an editor, HR officer or head of department is receiving your cover letter, he/she has already looked at your resume. Do not waste time filling cover letters with repetitive content.

DO: Tailor your cover letter to the job description

Generic cover letters are a lazy way of applying for a job and they can be sniffed out from a mile away. A good example during my time working at an NGO, I was tasked with the job of going through various applications that had come in and had to cut them down to at least seven from 30 files.

Out of the 30, half the group had exactly the same cover letter, copied and pasted from a popular career website, just different names and sent on different dates. That saved me a lot of time in terms of evaluation but it cost those candidates a job because they did not bother to actually write a detailed cover letter.

Answer the questions they are asking by saying exactly how you fit the job requirements and you can provide one or two examples of what you have done in relation to the position.

Applying for a job in media/communications? Here are tips to write a stellar cover letter Click To Tweet

DON’T: Go overboard with selling yourself

Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for them. Focus on that. Don’t talk so much about where you went to school, or the accolades you achieved. In this industry particularly, your honours, summa cum laude nod, distinction… aren’t prioritized as much.

Someone with a Ph.D. can just as easily be outshone by a freshly graduated senior from college, it all boils down to efficiency, skill and how badly you want this job. Show them you are worth the investment, don’t tell them what they could have easily looked up on Google.

DO: Your research

Find out all you can about the place you are applying to. Talk to them about their visions, their values, their goals. Show them how adding you to their team will contribute to bringing about even better communication campaigns or how efficient of a designer/copy writer/editor you are thus providing a fresh approach to their brand/publication/business.

Show them you know them and that you are ready to not change things around, but contribute to an already well-established organization.

DON’T: Have grammatical errors

None whatsoever. Cross all your Ts, dot all your I’s, have every comma, period and apostrophe properly placed. Proof-read your letter once you are done writing to make sure there are no typos, spelling errors etc. Have someone else check it as well to have a fresh set of eyes on it.

There have been cases where an entire application has been cast aside due to one single typo in the cover letter. This industry is very detailed in the work they do and a simple mistake such as wrong spelling or a missing piece of information can cost them millions in the long run. A cover letter with grammar mistakes shows you are not meticulous and are sloppy with your work thus a liability to the company.

DO: Be brief

I’ll reiterate the concept of time. Most people in these industries will most likely skim through these applications than actually read through them. They will look for the five things mentioned above and tick off or cross out where appropriate and move on.

Anything more than a page will not be considered at most organizations because again, no one has time to read through all that. Do be brief and concise yet include every detail you deem important to you and them on there. The art of paraphrasing comes in handy when applying to fields such as these.

A cover letter to the UN will be very different from a cover letter to a travel magazine Click To Tweet

DON’T: Forget to provide contact information

If it is not located on your CV, the cover letter is the place one shall look for a way to find you. Also, provide a period of availability (if asked) and when you can be reached. These industries do not work with your typical 9-5 schedule and may sometimes want to call you after business hours. Make sure you can be reached.

DO: Be gracious

Treat this is as a once in a lifetime opportunity and say how fortunate you would be to join such a great work place. Make them feel good as a business and show that you will do this job to your absolute best if considered. Sign off politely, prompting that you hope to hear from them soon.

DON’T: Forget to follow up

This is especially if you are applying to someone directly and not going through the HR office/automated job portal. Send a follow-up email to he/she asking if they received your application.

Give it 3-5 business days before sending the first follow up email and when you do send it, kindly ask when you are likely to hear back from them if it is not indicated on the vacancy announcement.

Now I’m no expert at all things resume/cover letter writing but these are tips I learnt in school and picked up in my time as a job seeker. My cover letter went from a generic 2-3 paragraph email to a concise, one page word document, tailored to the different positions I have applied to over the years.

A cover letter to the United Nations will be very different from a cover letter to a travel magazine or an advertising agency. Keep these tips handy and keep practicing on your writing, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I wish you all the best!

Laura Eboa Songue: Social media made us

Laura Eboa Songue she leads africa

Sometimes, the most compelling reason for starting a media company is also the most simple: it’s a vision you just can’t give up. Since its launch in 2007, FASHIZBLACK has gone from just being a blog to an online community for Francophone Afropolitans. That’s rarely ever easy to pull off, but Laura Eboa Songue, the company’s co-founder did it by utilizing social media to its fullest potential.

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own media company, there’s lessons from looking at what’s driving FASHIZBLACK, the journey so far, and the plans for the future.

How did FASHIZBLACK come about?

Originally, we created our media company out of a need for more representation. The idea started off in late 2007 with a blog. Street-style was starting to get momentum in Paris and out of all the cool blogs, there was nothing representing black people.

That’s how the blog was launched. We went on to launch an official website in September 2008, a print magazine in 2012 and build a solid community online.


How have you used social media to grow your audience?

Social media made us, to be honest. It helped us understand our readership on a daily basis, connect with them, and have consistent feedback. We truly can say that we know our audience.

Also, it helped us financially, since we raised $45,000 via Kickstarter during the summer 2011. Twitter and Facebook were the main reason for the campaign’s success.

It’s really our foundation and we are thankful for our followers, they are our accountability partners.

What is your vision for African fashion?

The industry is still in its infancy, so the posibilities are endless. The structural challenges are amazing opportunities to grow and build an industry that fits our values and identities.


Do you mind sharing with us the multiple projects you work on?

Sure. Right now we are re-launching our premium print magazine so we are finalizing our contents production. My daily tasks can go from brainstorming about creative input like editorials and interviews, to corrections. I also work on partnerships, from influencers to affiliates and advertisers.

On a personal level, I work with states, institutions & key-players in the fashion industry in France and Africa, via the AFRICAFRANCE foundation, to continue our actions structuring the industry. From market studies to training solutions, lobbying and trade shows, we try to push projects that will serve as strong basis for a more consistent industry.

I also do speaking engagements here and there, when time allows it. I think it’s important to share my experience, not only to further our brand but to help out where I can.

What trends can we expect to see in African fashion in the next three years?

It’s definitely about growth and saturation. As governments and institutions (very) slowly realize how vital our cultures and know-how are core to our development as economies, the fashion industry will be provided will more efficient tools.

I’m looking forward to the birth of more African brands, both commercial and creatively successful locally and/or abroad.


How have you managed your relationship with your co-founder(s)?

That’s an awesome question. First of all, I think I am blessed with incredibly talented, but most importantly, amazing human beings as my partners.

Before being highly skilled, they have great (work) ethics, and strong values. So, it’s not hard to solve any conflict that could arise. We are pretty much always willing to learn and try not to get stuck in our own ways.

Now, I’m not saying that everything is always perfect, but I can say that we are always trying our best. And we have the company’s best interest at heart, always.

What advice would you give young African women looking to starting a career in the media?

Just do it. We need so much more voices to speak volume for us, and to us.
Starting a media is a very difficult task because it’s an extremely complex product to build and to sell, but if it’s your vision, you just can’t give up.

One thing I wish I took more seriously, is getting a mentor. It would have saved me so much hassle and opened so many doors. We had nobody to show us the way, and made all the possible mistakes in the book. But hey, at least I can truly say now that I am a master at what I do and I know many different areas of business, media, fashion and self-development.

Also, interning and training is key. Once again, I worked in luxury and fashion but we are 100% self-taught when it comes to media. So, if you can learn on someone else’s dime, please, do!

Last but not least, be extra persistent, resilient, and stick to your vision no matter what. I believe in the law of attraction, so your vision is your reality. It’s going to happen for you!

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