A public relations consultant, also commonly known as a PR consultant, is a specialist in representing businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, and other groups or individuals to the public. It is the responsibility of a PR consultant to present the positive aspects of the organizations they represent, to protect and enhance those reputations, and to ensure the continued success of their clients in the public arena.
Good writing and communications skills are essential for success in a career as a PR consultant. After all, the PR consultant must be able to interact with the public in order to present his or her clients in the most favorable manner. Furthermore, the PR consultant must be able to effectively communicate with his or her clients and help them find ways to successfully project a certain image.
Before writing any news releases or doing any new public relations work themselves, new PR consultants often work under more experienced PR professionals. Once they have gained sufficient expertise in the practicalities of public relations, they then do much of the work themselves.
PR consultants in smaller firms usually get an all-around kind of experience, whereas those in larger firms tend to be more specialized. PR consultant specialists handle organizational functions such as media, community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; and employee and investor relations. They help hone a particular company's message and find suitable venues to broadcast that message.
Becoming a PR Consultant
Most entry-level PR consultants have a college degree in public relations, journalism, advertising, or communication. As the need for people with PR consultant careers increases, so does the number of universities who offer bachelor's and master's degrees in public relations. Even colleges that don't offer a degree in the field usually offer courses in public relations, usually in relation to an advertising, journalism, or business degree.
The classes involved in earning a public relations degree typically involve learning about how to communicate ideas through a variety of widely used media and how to improve the image of an entity in the public's eye. This can also involve learning about publishing, copywriting, and graphic design. Many employers also look favorably on a potential PR consultant who has taken coursework in fields such as sociology, psychology, or writing. When pursuing a degree in public relations, one may have the option of focusing on a particular field, such as government public relations, nonprofit public relations, or business public relations.
Many universities have established internship programs that can help students gain real world experience in this growing field. In addition, many campuses have public student organizations that can provide valuable knowledge and contacts to help begin a public relations career. The largest of these organizations is the Public Relations Student Society of America, which was founded by the Public Relations Society of America.