People like to be liked. Life is simply easier when other people hold you in high regard, enjoy your company, or appreciate your contributions to the world. The same principle holds true for businesses, organizations, public figures, and even governments, entities that all benefit from positive public opinion. The role of the public relations specialist is to earn this favor, and to spread messaging on behalf of their clients.
If you’re drawn to the idea of shaping public consensus on behalf of your employer, a career in public relations may be a great choice. But what does a public relations specialist do? And what is the best path to a career in PR?
What is a public relations specialist?
The basic role of the public relations specialist is to communicate with the public on behalf of a client. As a PR professional your central task is to create and maintain a positive public image for your employer.
Job duties and responsibilities
The day-to-day duties and responsibilities of a public relations specialist may include the following:
● Develop and distribute press materials. The public relations role often requires creating materials that are distributed to the press, conveying a particular message or building brand awareness. These may include press releases, press photos, or case studies.
● Evaluate public opinion. A public relations specialist is charged with building a positive public image, which requires monitoring and evaluation. Specific tools used may include polls, surveys, or focus groups.
● Facilitating media coverage. A PR specialist may also make arrangements for their clients to meet with the press, whether in one-on-one interviews or press conferences.
● Respond to requests for information. If reporters or members of the public need information or have questions for the client, a public relations specialist may craft and deliver a response.
These are just a few examples of how public relations specialists work to cultivate good relationships with members of the media and, through them, create a favorable impression among the public for their clients.
The path to becoming a public relations specialist
It’s important to understand the basic PR career trajectory, including educational requirements and typical work experience, if you intend to pursue a career in the field.
Although public relations specialist positions do not have a standard educational requirement, most employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. A degree in public relations may be preferred, but degrees in comparable programs such as advertising, marketing, or business are also useful.
Many employers want to see a work portfolio, including speeches or press releases that applicants have drafted for previous clients. For those just starting out in the field, a good portfolio can be assembled from internship or volunteer opportunities, or even from work in a college communications department.
Entry-level jobs at public relations firms may be focused on developing and maintaining files of press mentions on behalf of a particular client, or helping to arrange press events. With time and experience, public relations specialists may gain additional responsibilities, which can include writing speeches and press releases.
If you aspire to become a public relations specialist, developing the right skills is crucial. Some of the most valuable skills include:
● Oral and written communication. The specialist’s role is essentially to communicate on behalf of their client. As such, they need to have the aptitude to communicate clearly with team members, reporters, and the public at large.
● Listening skills. Active listening skills are also essential, as public relations specialists need to carefully consider questions, comments, and complaints before issuing responses.
● Interpersonal skills. Finally, public relations specialists benefit from getting along well with others, but also from being skilled at negotiating, persuading, and gaining buy-in.
Public relations specialist salary
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for public relations specialists was $62,810 in 2020. The highest 10% of earners in the field made more than $118,210.
The BLS also predicts that positions for public relations specialists will grow at a pace of 7% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average for all professions.
Seek opportunities in public relations
If you’re tantalized by the idea of coordinating communications for a business or public figure, or drawn in by the notion of shaping public opinion in positive ways, a career in public relations could prove hugely rewarding. A career in PR starts with the right education. Our recommendation engine can help you find degrees, certificates, and courses that fit your personal needs and professional goals.