Public Relations Professional
Public relations managers and specialists typically do the following:
- Write press releases and prepare information for the media
- Identify main client groups and audiences and determine the best way to reach them
- Respond to requests for information from the media or designate an appropriate spokesperson or information source
- Help clients communicate effectively with the public
- Develop and maintain their organization's corporate image and identity, using logos and signs
- 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
- Develop and carry out fundraising strategies for an organization by identifying and contacting potential donors and applying for grants
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. They keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.
Public relations specialists must understand the attitudes and concerns of the groups they interact with to maintain cooperative relationships with them.
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 to advance that issue. In addition to publication through traditional media outlets, releases are increasingly being sent through the Web and social media.
Public relations managers review and sometimes write press releases. They also sponsor corporate events to help maintain and improve the image and identity of their organization or client.
In addition, they help to clarify their organization’s point of view to its main audience through media releases and interviews. Public relations managers observe social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the organization, and they recommend ways to enhance the firm's image based on those trends. For example, in response to a growing concern about the environment, an oil company may create a public relations campaign to publicize its efforts to develop cleaner fuels.
In large organizations, public relations managers may supervise a staff of public relations specialists. They also work with advertising and marketing staffs to make sure that advertising campaigns are compatible with the image the company or client is trying to portray. For example, if the firm has decided to emphasize its appeal to a certain group, such as younger people, the public relations manager ensures that current advertisements will be well received by that group.
In addition, public relations managers may handle internal communications, such as company newsletters, and may help financial managers produce an organization’s reports. They may help the organization’s top executives by drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public contact. Public relations managers must be able to work well with many types of specialists to accurately report the facts. In some cases, the information they write has legal consequences. They must work with the company's or client's lawyers to be sure that the information they release is both legally accurate and clear to the public.
Public relations specialists held about 258,100 jobs in 2010. Public relations managers held about 61,900 jobs in 2010.
Public relations managers and specialists usually work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel. They work in fairly high-stress environments, often managing and organizing several events at the same time.
Most public relations managers and specialists work full time, which often includes long hours. In 2010, almost one-third of public relations managers and specialists worked more than 40 hours per week.
Education and Training:
Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Employers usually want candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.
For public relations management positions, a bachelor's degree in public relations, communication, or journalism is generally required. Courses in advertising, business administration, public affairs, public speaking, political science, and creative and technical writing are helpful. In addition, some employers prefer a master’s degree in public relations or journalism. In 2010, one-fourth of public relations managers held a master’s degree.
Public relations specialists typically are trained on the job, either in a formal program or by working closely under more experienced staff members. Entry-level workers often maintain files of material about an organization’s activities, skim newspapers and magazines for appropriate articles to clip, and assemble information for speeches and pamphlets. Training typically lasts between 1 month and 1 year. After gaining experience, public relations specialists write news releases, speeches, and articles for publication or plan and carry out public relations programs.
Skills to Develop:
Interpersonal skills: Public relations managers and specialists deal with the public regularly; therefore, they must be open and friendly to build rapport and get good cooperation from their media contacts.
Organizational skills: Public relations managers and specialists are often in charge of managing several events at the same time, requiring superior organizational skills.
Problem-solving skills: Public relations managers and specialists sometimes must explain how the company or client is handling sensitive issues. They must use good judgment in what they report and how they report it.
Research skills: Public relations managers and specialists must often do research, including interviewing executives or other experts, to get the information they need.
Speaking skills: Public relations managers and specialists regularly speak on behalf of their organization. When doing so, they must be able to explain the organization’s position clearly.
Writing skills: Public relations managers and 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.
Employment of public relations managers and specialists is expected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow 23 percent during the same period, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of public relations managers is expected to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The trends affecting public relations specialists will also affect managers, as the increasing importance of public relations will require more managers to plan and direct public relations departments.
Organizations are increasingly emphasizing community outreach and customer relations as a way to enhance their reputation and visibility. Public opinion can change quickly, particularly because both good and bad news spreads rapidly through the Internet. Consequently, public relations specialists are expected to be needed to respond to news developments and maintain their organization’s reputation.
Increased use of social media also is expected to increase employment growth for public relations specialists. These new media outlets will create more work for public relations workers, increasing the number and kinds of avenues of communication between organizations and the public. Public relations specialists will be needed to help their clients use these new types of media effectively.
Employment is likely to grow in public relations firms as organizations contract out public relations services rather than support more full-time staff when additional work is needed.
In addition to job growth for other reasons, opportunities should come from the need to replace public relations managers and specialists who retire or leave the occupation.
Competition for entry-level jobs will likely be strong.
The median annual wage of public relations managers was $91,810 in May 2010. The median wage is the point at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,720, and the top 10 percent earned more than $166,400.
The median annual wage of public relations specialists was $52,090 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,560, and the top 10 percent earned more than$ 95,200.
What is this job like?
Public relations managers and specialists work on behalf of clients seeking to build and maintain positive relationships with the public.
Public relations managers and specialists draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material.
Their clients include businesses, nonprofit associations, universities, hospitals, and other organizations.
How do you get ready?
Many entry-level public relations managers and specialists have a college degree in public relations, journalism, marketing, or communications.
Internships in public relations provide students with valuable experience and training and are the best route to finding entry-level employment.
In addition to the ability to communicate thoughts clearly and simply, public relations mangers and specialists must show creativity, initiative, and good judgment.
How much does this job pay?
The median annual wage of public relations specialists was $52,090 in May 2010. The median annual wage of public relations managers was $91,810 in May 2010.
How many jobs are there?
There were 320,000 public relations managers and specialists in 2010. They are concentrated in large cities, where press services and other communications facilities are readily available and where many businesses and trade associations have their headquarters.
What about the future?
Overall employment of market researchers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.
The recent emergence of social media in the public relations is expected to increase job growth as well. Many public relations firms are expanding their use of these tools, and specialists with skills in them will be needed.
Some information on this page has been provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.