Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organization and increase awareness of its work and goals.

Duties

Public relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Write press releases and prepare information for the media
  • Respond to information requests from the media
  • Help clients communicate effectively with the public
  • Help maintain their organization’s corporate image and identity
  • Draft speeches and arrange interviews for an organization’s top executives
  • Evaluate advertising and promotion programs to determine whether they are compatible with their organization’s public relations efforts
  • Evaluate public opinion of clients through social media

Public relations specialists, also called communications specialists and media specialists, handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters, and other media specialists. In government, public relations specialists may be called press secretaries. In this setting, workers keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.

Public relations specialists draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of public relations specialists. For example, a press release might describe a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does concerning that issue.

Press releases are increasingly being sent through the Internet and social media, in addition to publication through traditional media outlets. Public relations specialists are often in charge of monitoring and responding to social media questions and concerns.

Public relations specialists are different from advertisers in that they get their stories covered by media instead of purchasing ad space in publications and on television.

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Work Environment

Public relations specialists held about 270,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of public relations specialists were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services 13%
Educational services; state, local, and private 12
Government 9
Business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations                              8

Public relations specialists usually work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and occasionally travel.

Work Schedules

Most public relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Long workdays are common, as is overtime.

Education and Training

Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Employers prefer candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.

Education

Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business. Through such programs, students produce a portfolio of work that demonstrates their ability to prospective employers.

Other Experience

Internships at public relations firms or in the public relations departments of other businesses can be helpful in getting a job as a public relations specialist.

Some employers prefer candidates who have experience communicating with others through a school newspaper or a leadership position in school or in their community.

Personality and Interests

Public relations specialists typically have an interest in the Creating, Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a public relations specialist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Public relations specialists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Interpersonal skills. Public relations specialists deal with the public and the media regularly; therefore, they must be open and friendly to maintain a favorable image for their organization.

Organizational skills. Public relations specialists are often in charge of managing several events at the same time, requiring superior organizational skills.

Problem-solving skills. Public relations specialists sometimes must explain how a company or client is handling sensitive issues. They must use good judgment in what they report and how they report it.

Speaking skills. Public relations specialists regularly speak on behalf of their organization. When doing so, they must be able to clearly explain the organization’s position.

Writing skills. Public relations specialists must be able to write well-organized and clear press releases and speeches. They must be able to grasp the key messages they want to get across and write them in a short, succinct way to get the attention of busy readers or listeners.

Pay

The median annual wage for public relations specialists was $61,150 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $115,430.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for public relations specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations                         $66,340
Government 65,310
Advertising, public relations, and related services 64,230
Educational services; state, local, and private 57,940

Most public relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Long workdays are common, as is overtime.

Job Outlook

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Organizations will continue to emphasize community outreach and customer relations as a way to maintain and enhance their reputation and visibility. Public opinion can change quickly, particularly because both good and bad news spread rapidly through the Internet. Consequently, public relations specialists will be needed to respond to news developments and maintain their organization’s reputation.

The use of social media also is expected to create opportunities for public relations specialists as they try to appeal to consumers and the general public in new ways. Public relations specialists will be needed to help their clients use these new types of social media effectively.

Job Prospects

Because many college graduates apply for a limited amount of public relations positions each year, candidates can expect strong competition for jobs.

Candidates can expect particularly strong competition at advertising firms, organizations with large media exposure, and prestigious public relations firms.

For More Information

For more information about public relations managers, including professional certification in public relations, visit

Public Relations Society of America

Public Relations Student Society of America

International Association of Business Communicators

 

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