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How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

Are you persuasive and a good negotiator? A public relations specialist is the voice of the company, communicating with the public through various media outlets such as TV, magazines, online, and social media. They might be supporting a product, an idea, or creating and upholding an image. A public relations specialist might work for a company, an individual, a politician, or a government. 

Many organizations use public relations specialists to grow and manage the perception of their products, services, brands,  and entities. A good public relations professional can help boost company and product awareness by turning newsworthy events into compelling stories. They also help repair damaged images, whether of a company, person, politician, or other public figure. 

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] has an immediate need for a public relations specialist to join a rapidly growing team. Our company applies a customer-friendly, direct, results-driven approach to marketing research and sales. As a result of proven success and expertise, new clientele is continuously added as we dramatically increase clients’ product exposure, sales, and brand recognition. There is a high demand for customer service-oriented and cost-effective services. We provide advertising, marketing, and PR campaigns for burgeoning companies and products/services. You will work closely on performance-driven campaigns with high-profile clients who consistently look for innovative strategies to drive their company and respective brands forward and increase their bottom line.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Enhance the company’s image via online and offline channels
  • Serve as initial contact for all media queries
  • Create press releases, media announcements, speeches, and other media communications to promote clients
  • Prepare presentations for media briefings and other meetings
  • Plan, organize, and oversee company events such as fairs, seminars, conferences, etc.
  • Provide effective crisis management solutions 
  • Suggest effective resolutions to internal or external conflicts
  • Conduct research and analyze public opinion
  • Establish and maintain targeted media lists, and nurture relationships with key reporters, consumers, community, employees, etc.
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of PR campaigns and communicate insights to management
  • Collaborate with external stakeholders 
  • Train client representatives in effective communication with the public and employees
  • Study organizational objectives, promotional policies, and needs to build public relations strategies that influence public opinion and promote products, ideas, and services
  • Update and maintain web content

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations, marketing, journalism, communications, business, advertising, or related field
  • Prior experience with media or public relations

Required skills and qualifications

  • Experience with public relations campaigns and media management
  • Excellent written, verbal, presentation, and communication skills
  • Basic knowledge of computers and writing software such as MS Office
  • Analytical skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Able to effectively pitch to media
  • Knowledge of consumer marketing
  • Creative and strategic thinker
  • Understanding of how to run a PR campaign to meet objectives
  • Able to meet hard deadlines
  • Excellent project management skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Ability to be calm in a stressful environment
  • Experience in PR communications, marketing, or media 
  • Experience researching, writing, and editing publications
  • Self-confidence, drive, and a willingness to learn
  • Flexible, determined, and enthusiastic 

Typical work environment

Public relations specialists typically work in offices during regular business hours. They generally work in the marketing or public relations department of an organization or work for a PR firm. Many have to travel to meet with clients, give speeches, or deliver presentations on behalf of the organization or client. Public relations professionals can sometimes work in a high-stress environment handling multiple projects at the same time.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a public relations specialist are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, but depending on the specific role, late nights, early mornings, and weekends may be frequently necessary.

Available certifications

Public relations professionals work in a variety of industries, and many institutions offer certifications, including:

  • Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). The Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) administers the APR credential. To earn certification, you must be a member of an approved public relations organization, such as the Public Relations Society of America, and you have to pass the examination. The exam tests your knowledge of ethics, law, business literacy, media crisis management, and media relations. The certification is available for professionals with a bachelor’s degree and 5+ years of work experience. 
  • Certified Public Relations Manager (CPRM). The CPRM credential is offered by the American Institute for Business Management and Communication and demonstrates that you have the required public relations tools and techniques and are committed to the code of ethics. To be eligible for certification, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field and 1+ years of experience in public relations, business communications, or a related field. You must recertify every 4 years.
  • Certificate in Public Relations. Many schools and colleges in the US offer a certificate program in public relations where students learn actionable creative and strategic skills, tools, and methodologies needed to lead all aspects of strategic communications in today’s global marketplace. Most programs require a bachelor’s degree to enroll in the program.

Career path

The path to a successful career in PR begins with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, marketing, or a related field. A good way to gain experience is by volunteering at local charities. Another way to get experience is to write for student papers or magazines, or work at student radio or university societies. Universities can help place graduates, but most graduates find work by contacting PR agencies directly. 

As a public relations professional, you can work in a variety of industries, including the arts, fashion, politics, business, sports, or charities. You can also establish your own public relations consulting firm. The keys to advancing your career in public relations are being a good listener, adaptable, and relating to the community in which you operate. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-3031

2020 Employment272,300
Projected Employment in 2030303,500
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% Increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift31,200 Increase

Public relations has become more and more dependent on data. Data defines public relations strategy. And in this age of the internet, large volumes of data are available at the click of a button. Public relations teams will need to be able to quickly filter through all the data they collect and find what they can use to create compelling stories that interest their readership, journalists, and the market. 

Public relations in the future will be about reaching the right people. Companies can’t just create quality content and expect everyone to come running anymore. Those days are gone. Public relations teams will have to conduct research and find their relevant audiences and tailor their messages to those specific audiences to stay competitive.