What Public Relations Professionals Do
The field of public relations is dedicated to helping companies, brands, or people manage their image. People who work in the profession may be referred to as public relations coordinators, specialists, or officers. The terms media relations or public affairs specialists are sometimes used as well, and when political or government officials are being represented, PR professionals may be called press secretaries too.
While their jobs are much like a marketer’s job would be, in terms of creating and managing campaigns, as well as the modes used—ranging from press releases, to public speeches, print, radio, and TV spots, public relations professionals are adept at creating the ideal image for their clients rather than selling products or services.
For example, a PR specialist managing a band or an author would work to help their client become better known within their niche or helping them become more appealing to a specific audience. They may also book appearances for their clients and handle scheduling. PR specialists may work for agencies, in-house for a company, or be independent.
Who would enjoy a career in Public Relations?
First and foremost, it takes excellent communication skills and creativity to succeed in a PR career. Professionals must also be open to lifelong learning, as market research often provides new insights to follow and trends to research further. Organization skills and collaboration are key components as well, as individuals often work in teams or lead groups to spearhead efforts. Being able to handle stress well is also beneficial, as the work a PR professional does is often on a tight deadline, particularly when the task at hand involves damage control to preserve or mend a tarnished image.
Who mightn't like the career?
People who can’t handle at least some fluctuation in hours don’t do well in the field, as emergencies and urgent work often come up that cannot be delayed. Because PR professionals essentially embody the image they’re trying to create for their clients, they must also be polished in appearance and interpersonal skills.
Those who don’t like being in the public eye or struggle with “playing the part” for any given situation will not enjoy the profession. Lastly, it can be difficult to find a PR position and remaining in the field is challenging too, so those who prefer to have long-term stable employment may do better to find an alternate career in marketing or communications.
Getting into PR usually requires a degree related to marketing or communications, though there are individual courses and certificates specific to public relations that may help as well.
It’s easier to break into the field with career-specific training or after an internship. Job candidates should brush up on the company, it’s ideal image, and current efforts before the interview. Those just entering the field should tailor their expectations to fit entry-level and low-profile clients, as the more demanding high-profile clients typically expect a wealth of experience. Working for an agency is often essential in order to get a start.
- Public Relations Interview Questions
- 5 Tips for Breaking Into the Public Relations Industry
- How to Get Your First Public Relations Job
Moving into Public Relations from another career
Those hoping to get into public relations will have a much easier time if they already have a career related to marketing and/ or communications. However, sometime industry-specific knowledge can make the transition easier, even for those without the background.
For example, a musician may have keen insight on managing a band and handing PR-related duties, while a nurse with a business background could move into PR for a medical product or service. For further reading, see “Ask An Expert: How To Transition Into PR,” “10 Signs Public Relations Is The Right Career For You,” “Five Tips for Transitioning into a PR Career,” “How 5 Communications & PR Pros Found Their Path,” and “What Journalists Should Know Before Switching to PR.”
Role: Newcomers to the field often begin as an assistant or an intern. This position offers an opportunity to experience many facets of the career while working under the direction of experienced PR professionals. The role generally entails more clerical and administrative work, such as writing and editing press releases and other content, maintaining calendars, and helping publicize events.
Role: Those who have at least some experience in public relations are typically called representatives or specialists, but firms may use different titles for base career. Professionals in this position will do all the same duties as interns and assistants, but are also entrusted with planning and execution of some PR campaigns. They may also coordinate efforts with a marketing team as well as other members of the PR team.
Role: It generally takes five or more years in public relations to obtain a manager position. Managers are responsible for planning out campaigns in their entirety, creating strategies, developing media relationships, delegating, and overseeing the work of employees. They also work closely with senior management and executives, as well as clients, to ensure campaigns are on point, and may be responsible for handling reporting on a regular basis.
Director and Above
Role: Larger firms often have executive staff, though offerings vary by company. Most often, a public relations professional who wants to move into an executive role will become a public relations, communications, or marketing director, followed by vice president in either role. These positions are more strategic in nature, and may involve winning business and managing clients, creating long-term plans, setting budgets, conducting market research, and overseeing entire regions or departments, depending on the size of the firm.
It’s somewhat common for PR professionals to travel, particularly as they climb up the career ladder. Locations depend entirely on where their clients are based and what regions the clients need to develop their image in. This could mean local, domestic, or international travel.
PR Assistant: According to data from PayScale, assistants beginning their careers have average salaries of USD $36,539 in the United States, £17,775 in the United Kingdom, CAD$37,500 in Canada, and AU$40,809 in Australia.
PR Specialist: USD$45,368, £25,283, CAD$49,725, AU$62,400.
PR Manager: USD$63,000, £33,608, and CAD$64,845, AU$65,756.
Director: USD$81,627, £69,967, CAD$96,984, AU$120,000.
Bonuses are negligible at the lower levels, and may amount to a few hundred or few thousand dollars annually. At more senior levels, such as director, individuals may take home in excess of $100,000 in profit sharing and bonuses, in addition to their base salary.
Why Public Relations Professionals move on
People often stay in public relations for life, but some are put off by the pressure of the position or demanding schedule, while others struggle to find work. It’s also somewhat common for those with more altruistic views to move into nonprofit work later in their careers out of a desire to do more good with their skills.