Anyone interested in a career in public relations should consider the public relations job description, as well as the qualifications necessary to land a job, the skills PRs will need, the working environment, and the outlook for job growth.
Public relations professionals are responsible for upholding the positive image and perception of a company and organization. They must reach across stakeholder groups to convey the organization’s message and influence people to buy products, or support a mission or initiative.
Job Overview: What Does a Public Relations Professional Do?
It’s not uncommon for people to confuse the public relations profession with advertising. But public relations specialists don’t develop the commercials you see on television or the billboard artwork that dots freeways.
Public relations professionals are strategic communicators that work to tell their organization’s story for free in newspapers, blogs, television and radio interviews, on social media channels, and on other platforms where customers may interact.
They protect and elevate the organization’s brand and, in times of crisis, they communicate the status of the organization, as well as the steps to recovery. The salary of a public relations professional can vary widely, depending on the organization they work for and their experience.
Public Relations Job Duties
- Build relationships across all stakeholder groups within and outside the organization.
- Develop effective communication plans to convey the organization’s message, which will vary depending on the organization. This could include developing a strategy to launch a new product or to encourage people to participate in an event.
- Write press releases, statements, stories, and speeches for organizational leaders.
- Effectively manage media inquiries and pitch story ideas to key members of the media.
- Develop and be prepared to implement a crisis communications plan.
- Organize promotional events, including tours, press conferences, key meetings, and exhibitions.
- Analyze media coverage and social media engagement scores to ensure messages are reaching intended audience and resonating with potential customers and/or clients.
Public Relations Job Essential Skills
Interpersonal Skills. Public relations professionals spend a great deal of time networking and building relationships. It’s critical that they present an image that’s trustworthy and informed, and know the importance of quick follow up.
Communication Skills. This includes both oratory and writing skills. Public relations professionals will frequently be asked to speak on behalf of their organization, whether it is a planned speech at an event or a question that comes up on the fly. They must be prepared to answer eloquently and with confidence. They will also write almost every day, from draft emails to key clients, to press releases about a new initiative.
Creativity. It is a new era for public relations professionals, who constantly deal with evolving consumer preferences and communication platforms. This requires “out of the box” thinking and a willingness to try new ways to reach intended audiences.
Adaptability. Things can change quickly for in the public relations job description. No two days are ever the same. A crisis can occur when it is least expected, a competitor can introduce a desirable new product, a client can make outrageous demands, and so on. It’s important to be flexible and willing to quickly change course.
Becoming a Public Relations Professional
Anyone who desires to become a public relations professional should get a degree in public relations or a related field, such as mass communications, journalism, or public policy. They should also join professional organizations to better network.
Qualifications and Training
To enter the field of public relations, obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in public relations or a closely related field. Many PR professionals choose to earn their Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certificate, which provides them access to other top professionals in the field.
The Public Relations Society of America recommends having five years of public relations experience before starting the APR process, and to expect to study for about a year to complete the process.
Those who decide to pursue their APR will likely find that joining a study group will help, although there are also resources online. Before actually beginning, candidates will need to submit an application to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), which will review the candidate’s qualifications.
Once the application is approved, the candidate has one year to complete the course study, a panel presentation in front of an accreditation chair, and a computer-based examination. The purpose of the panel presentation is to evaluate the candidate’s competencies in areas that cannot be determined through a test, such as initiative, multi-tasking, and flexibility.
It is a good idea for students who want to enter the field of public relations to complete internships or work studies while they are still in school. With little or no experience, many public relations professionals start off at an agency where they will do grunt work, but will also have an opportunity to learn and grow.
Beware of online job adds seeking marketing or public relations professionals with no experience; these are often shady direct marketing schemes that won’t advance a career.
Generally, public relations professionals work standard business hours, but this can change from week to week. Planning and executing events or exhibitions can mean very late hours. Crises know no schedule and can occur in the middle of the night. Flexibility is a requirement of anyone who works in the public relations field.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the public relations field through 2024 will be of about 6 percent. As demographics and consumer preferences change, companies will need to continue to maintain or improve their image, and they need talented public relations professionals to make that happen.
The average annual salary for a public relations specialist is about $45,674. People who are interested in pursuing a career in public relations should be aware that an education is a must, and that they will have greater success with a larger network, so it is imperative to join and be active in professional organizations.
Exceptional communications skills are important in the field of public relations, but being a PR can be a very rewarding career as well. Long hours come with the public relations job description, but people who enjoy being creative and working with a wide variety of stakeholder groups can be very successful.