Public relations (PR) specialists work in nearly all industries and sectors, from business to government to nonprofit organizations. They are tasked with creating, conveying and protecting a positive public image of the organizations or individuals they represent. These specialists are sometimes called upon to clarify a company's position on sensitive or controversial issues. The media, community groups and public interest groups look to public relations specialists to explain an organization's activities, products and services.
Other job titles that describe this occupation include public affairs specialist, public information officer, communications specialist, public relations coordinator, press secretary, public information specialist and corporate communications specialist.
Day in the Life of a Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialist jobs in business are slightly different than those in government and nonprofit organizations. But regardless of the setting, a typical day for any PR specialist may include:
- Arranging and participating in press conferences, speaking engagements and fundraising events.
- Drafting speeches and arranging interviews for an organization's top executives.
- Managing the organization's communication with the public, consumers, investors, and the media.
- Preparing information for the media.
- Determining the most effective way to communicate with certain groups.
- Responding to requests for information about the status or activities of an employer.
- Working with others on promotional events, charity functions and trade shows.
- Communicating the company's image and activities to its employees through interoffice newsletters and Intranet posts.
- Comparing advertising and promotional programs with the company's public relations efforts.
- Developing social media programs to promote the company's image, goals and activities.
- Gauging the opinions of customers and the public through social media.
Most PR specialists work in offices but may travel to meet with the media, special interest groups, clients, and the public. Some attend community activities or events, either locally or at a distance. They often work long hours and weekends.
Important Characteristics for Public Relations Specialists
The role of a public relations specialist is to present, promote and protect the image of the organization they work for. To succeed, they need specific skills and characteristics. Critical public relations specialist skills are public speaking, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, the ability to work well under pressure, and the ability to write press releases and speeches for company executives. Those public relations specialist skills can equip these professionals to present their organizations favorably, even on sensitive or controversial subjects.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Public Relations Specialist
The path to public relations specialist jobs usually involves several steps. With planning and participation on your part, you can gain a wealth of experience starting with your college education.
- Earn a bachelor's degree in in public relations, journalism, communications, advertising, business or English. These programs often require that you build a portfolio of your work. Showing a portfolio to prospective employers can provide proof and examples of your ability.
- Pursue a public relations internship, preferably with a PR firm or in an industry or sector you're interested in, such as healthcare or nonprofit organizations. As an intern, you'll gain hands-on experience and build a network of contacts and mentors who may help in your job search.
- Work on your college newspaper or in student government. You'll gain practical experience that may also impress prospective employers.
- Join the student chapter of a professional association, such as a local chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America) or student chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators. Being active in such associations can give you an opportunity to meet public relations specialists and other professional contacts.
After you start your career as a PR specialist, consider taking these steps to stay at the top of your game:
- Earn a professional accreditation or certificate. The Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators both provide accreditation. They may require you to have several years of experience as a PR specialist, and you must pass an exam.
- Join a professional association of your peers, especially if you found this rewarding while in college.
- Take continuing education courses throughout your career. These programs and seminars can help you stay up-to-date in your field.
- Summary Report for Public Relations Specialists, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-3031.00
- Accreditation in Public Relations, Public Relations Society of America, https://www.prsa.org/about/about-pr/accreditation-in-public-relations-apr/
- Communication Professional Certifications, International Association of Business Communicators, https://www.iabc.com/professional-development/certification/