The prime responsibility of a PR specialist includes building and maintaining a positive relationship with the public. A public relations specialist handles on behalf of the organization with media, government officials, political campaigns, consumers, and community. A PR specialist does not simply tell the story of organization but goes far beyond that in accomplishing his tasks. He drafts press releases and contacts media people to make this material printed and broadcast, generally on the subjects related to public issues like health, energy, or the environment and organization's relation therewith. For instance, in US Department of State, a public affairs specialist keeps the public informed of travel advisories and the position of the US on foreign matters.
Large organizations usually employ a key public relations specialist who is generally a vice president with the responsibility of developing overall plans and policies along with other executives. The PR department of these large organizations consists of different specialists to prepare materials, research, write, respond to inquiries, and maintain contacts. In small organizations all of these activities are accomplished by an individual public relations specialist.
In fact, there are no defined academic standards for entry into the career of PR. But a college degree in public relations, advertising, communications, or journalism is preferred by many organizations. A college graduate having worked in electronic or print journalism is also taken for employment by some firms while some other employers prefer applicants who have excellent skills and training in communications or have work experience in a field related to an employer's business.
A PR specialist who is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and participates in the examination for accreditation in public relations process is accredited as a Public Relations Specialist by the Universal Accreditation Board. Many employers consider such professional reorganization as a sign of competency in this field and give preference in employment.
Other skills required from a PR specialist include creativity, initiative, and the ability of good judgment and communication of thoughts clearly and simply. He should be deft in decision making, problem solving, and research skills. A public relations specialist should also have a self-confident and outgoing personality. He should be capable of understanding human psychology and be enthusiastic in motivating people. Besides being competitive, a PR specialist should be able to function as a team facilitator and be open to new ideas. Knowledge of additional languages is an added advantage.
In the year 2006, there were about 243,000 jobs held by PR specialists mainly employed in advertising and related services, educational services, health care, social assistance, and government. Communications firms, government agencies, and financial institutions also provide employment to a number of PR specialists.
In public relations firms, a beginner can start a career as a PR assistant and gradually rise to PR executive, senior PR executive, PR manager, and eventually Vice President of PR, depending on performance. Some experienced and skillful public relations specialists start their own consulting firms.
In May 2006, the median annual earning of PR specialists who were employed on salary was $47,350. The middle 50 percent of these public relations specialists earned between $35,600 and $65,310 and the lowest 10 percent had an earning of less than $38,080 while the top 10 percent earned over $89,220.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a growth of faster than average in the employment of PR specialists. There is expected to be keen competition at entry level jobs. It is expected that there will be a growth of 18 percent during the years 2006 to 2016. Job opportunities will be driven by an increasingly competitive business environment in all types and sizes of organizations.
It is expected that the largest job growth will continue to be in advertising and related services. Besides creation of jobs due to growth, additional job opportunities will also be created due to replacement needs as a result of retirement or leaving the occupation for other reasons.
In view of an excessive number of qualified applicants rather than number of job openings, there is likely to be keen competition in entry level PR jobs. Many people are expected to be attracted to this profession as a public relations specialist.