PR Jobs and Careers

A public relations (PR) officer or executive is primarily concerned with the media and ensuring a brand has a positive media presence. Working for and solely on behalf of a company, or within an agency with multiple clients, the PR executive works on managing the organisation's reputation, building support and client loyalty by creating a positive image. This role is important in all sectors, as the majority of organisations wish to project a consistently positive public image.

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This profession is generally perceived as being glamorous and job opportunities are fiercely contested. What is less understood is the level of skill and hard work required to do the PR job well. What does it take to carve out a successful career in public relations?

Nature of PR Work

There has never been more diversity in the media production of the western world, with digitisation leading to an explosion in terrestrial, satellite and online television and radio broadcasting, not to mention the social media explosion. An organisation's reputation in the media can soar or collapse within an astonishingly short period of time. This can affect not only reputation, but profitability and its future.

Organisations, including businesses, academic institutions, public bodies of all descriptions, governments and others, therefore employ PR specialists, either in-house or via an advertising agency, to advise on strategies for projecting a positive image, as well as doing the work itself. The PR representatives work on promoting events and products, policies and executive decisions, campaigns, etc.

Handling the media is only part of the work. PR specialists are involved in developing positive relationships with members of local residents, consumers, interest groups and any community that may have an interest in or be affected by the operations of the organisation. These professionals, working individually as members of the marketing team or in PR teams, undertake various duties in the course of achieving this.

Would a Career in PR Suit You?

PR is a varied profession in which subsequent days can be vastly different. Nearly every task is self-started, so it's important to recognise the qualities you need for PR work in order to be effective in this role.

Getting Started

There isn't a clear route into this profession and therefore no standard educational requirements. Generally speaking, those with university degrees and some basic experience will find it easier to find PR jobs. While there may be no formal requirements, but degrees with marketing, PR, communications or journalism options are obviously advantageous.

A work placement or voluntary experience counts for an enormous amount. Much can be gained by helping out in a PR or marketing office, simply by picking up how everything works. Demonstrating that you are able to communicate clearly with media personnel is important - nobody can learn that, as it's a personal quality that's either you do or don't have. A work placement will also show an awareness of the realities of working in a marketing team.

Different PR positions have different focuses, reflecting the diversification of the media. Therefore, it is now possible to take responsibility for social media as part of a major company's PR effort. Technical and IT skills are also part of the mix. Those who start out in an assistant's role may find themselves with such responsibilities.

Additionally, experience or knowledge of the employer's industry and/or areas of activity are distinctly advantageous. Therefore experience relating to business and commerce, finance or engineering will help when it comes to securing a PR position in those industries. Given the level of competition for good PR jobs, a dedicated media or communications degree may not be taken seriously in specialist sectors.

Another option is to take a postgraduate course in marketing or communications, while some employers offer graduate training schemes in the marketing department. It's certainly worth considering a course with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in the UK. This training is widely recognised as being the industry standard, so studying in your own time can help you attain a marketing position. CIPR also provide continuing professional development training for those who already work in PR and who wish to develop new specialisms.

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