Starting a Public Relations Career
Public relations is one of the fastest-growing fields and offers many opportunities for good remuneration, skills development, and interesting work. Public relations professionals, often dubbed communications or media specialists, are organizational mouthpieces who project, build, and sustain constructive relationships with the public and those who influence the public.
The PR professional has to understand the attitudes and concerns of the public. Agencies and organizations whose reports and arguments sway public opinion have to be dealt with carefully to ensure the safety of the company’s future in the public eye. A successful PR professional will never lose sight of this vital consideration at any time in his or her career in public relations.
PR Job Opportunities
With expanding markets in many locations, job opportunities for the PR professional are on the rise, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The competitive business environment in the United States and worldwide demands that organizations invest in good PR skills. Many companies have come to realize that success is largely measured in terms of relationships with people and public image.
PR professionals who have expertise in other fields, such as science, technology, finance, medicine, and international affairs, can look forward to even greater career opportunities. The U.S. has around 130,000 working PR professionals, a large number of whom work in public relations firms, advertising agencies, and other social service organizations. Others work for government and financial agencies. About 10% are self-employed and serve as PR consultants. Salaries of PR professionals range from $35,000 to as high as $71,000 or more.
Most PR jobs are city based, though there is a trend toward relying more on local PR service providers. A PR professional may work for a business, communications firm, financial institution, government agency, hospital, educational institution, or other organization which houses its own public relations department.
The Typical PR Job Profile
PR professionals, besides being advocates for their organizations, handle a variety of organizational functions, including maintaining good relations with print and broadcast media representatives, government representatives, community leaders, consumers, industries, and employees and maintaining cooperative relationships with investors. The PR professional may also organize and conduct programs to forge connections between his or her organization and the public, as well as prepare annual reports, draft project proposals, and remain up to date on the latest trends and knowledge.
The roles of PR professionals differ from industry to industry. In the government sector, press secretaries keep the public informed regarding the activities of agencies and their officials. In large organizations, PR professionals may be given considerable responsibility and expected to augment developmental plans and policies, while those working for smaller organizations often have to deal with many different tasks at the same time, including handling advertising or promotional activities to boost marketing efforts.
Career Advancement in the PR Industry
With employment opportunities for public relations specialists expected to soar faster than those for other occupations through 2014, the market is ripe for professionals seriously considering pursuing PR careers. Entering into a public relations career doesn’t require many specialized qualifications. Strong writing and verbal skills, an outgoing and pleasant personality, and a college degree are the basic requirements. Additional specializations in public relations, journalism, advertising, or communications are added advantages.
Public relations jobs also demand creativity, good judgment, business acumen, problem-solving skills, self-confidence, and a knack for motivating and swaying people’s opinions. The PR professional needs to be a team player yet competitive enough to persuasively present new ideas.