Become a public relations specialist

Are you looking for a profession that involves writing, social outreach and project management? The job of a public relations specialist offers a variety of creative opportunities. If you want to use communication skills to develop and maintain an organization’s brand, this job is for you. Commercial and nonprofit entities rely on their PR teams for many responsibilities. These include crafting compelling messaging and interacting with consumers and media outlets. A public relations specialist also ensures the company’s public image reflects their values and goals. This role acts as an intermediary between companies and consumers. They manage external relationships through press releases, social media programs and marketing materials. It’s a possible career path for those interested in shaping public perceptions. These employees use a strategic approach to increase awareness about an organization.

We’re in the era of social media and digital communications. So, employers in most industries use significant resources to build and promote their brands. Public relations specialists work alongside executives and consumer-facing departments. They help design, execute and sustain beneficial publicity campaigns. They also mitigate events that may hurt their organization’s bottom line. This job requires interpersonal skills, writing expertise and management experience. These skills help PR professionals organize press conferences and build relationships with the media. The role also involves collaborating and training colleagues. This helps the entire organization learn effective public speaking and internet etiquette.

A public relations specialist career requires a varied skill set. Job candidates need technical knowledge and professional experience to appeal to hiring managers. An online Bachelor of Arts in English can help.  English majors gain advanced expertise in business writing, rhetoric, sociolinguistics and technical editing. They graduate with the skills necessary for PR careers in a range of industries. Courses in persuasive writing, visual narratives and popular culture issues also come in handy. They prepare English graduates for roles with high-stakes public communication and brand management.

Top executive prepares to give a speech written by a PR specialist

A typical day in the life of a public relations specialist

 

Public relations specialists’ job descriptions usually cover a range of tasks and responsibilities. The role requires candidates to adapt to the shifting social landscape. Public relations specialists often work to maintain their employer's favorable public image. They can do this by developing press kit materials for media outlets. These press kits include pitch letters, case studies, trend stories and feature articles. Press resources help solidify an organization's reputation. They also provide the public with curated information about its operations and work culture. Following a damaging event, public relations specialists must coordinate all external communications. This lessens the impact and ensures a positive outcome. The role of a public relations specialist necessitates a high degree of versatility. This is why a career in PR is unique among writing professions. If you’re interested in pursuing this occupation, other tasks might include:

  • Arranging promotional events, interviews and press releases.
  • Crafting persuasive marketing collateral for various audiences.
  • Drafting speeches and social media posts for top executives.
  • Evaluating advertising campaigns to ensure they are compatible with ongoing PR efforts.
  • Gauging public opinion through online platforms, surveys and polls.
  • Responding to information requests from the media and public interest groups.

A public relations specialist career is fast paced and full of collaborative duties. Professionals often partner with managers and department heads to ensure consistency across communications. This is true across most industries and employment environments. Public relations specialists leverage their writing abilities and knowledge of social trends to tailor messaging and brand-related materials to the preferences of targeted consumer groups. They also help nonprofit organizations spread awareness on key issues. This is key to persuading an audience that their advocacy work is constructive and relevant. In both cases, this profession cultivates and maintains productive relationships. These relationships contribute to an institution's long-term success.

The public relations job market

 

Most professionals pursuing a public relations specialist career get full-time positions within organizations or PR agencies. Though, there are some opportunities for independent consulting roles. The prevalence of social media has helped drive demand for this profession. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 9% job growth between 2016 and 2026. This is on par with the national average for all occupations. The number of possible job openings in this time frame could reach more than 28,000, according to O*Net OnLine.

Hiring managers often seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree in English, communication or journalism. They also want to see professional experience in PR roles. The increased need for tech-savvy candidates who can communicate via social media and digital platforms has had a notable impact on hiring trends. This has somewhat reduced the need for robust work history.

The median salary for public relations specialists stood at around $60,000 in 2018, according to the BLS. Entry-level positions offered an average of $42,000 to candidates with less than five years of experience.

Public relations specialists plan an event schedule.

How to become a public relations specialist

 

Public relations specialists need more than an aptitude for written and verbal communication. These extra traits will help them navigate challenging PR situations. For example, they’re often aware of subtle language cues that an audience may misinterpret. This allows them to iron out any ambiguities in press releases or online posts. A public relations specialist has responsibilities beyond the creation of branded messaging. So, it’s important to consider the qualities that contribute to success, such as:

  • Affability: Communicating with the public and media outlets requires a lighthearted disposition. You also need a knack for relationship building. Public relations specialists are an extension of their organizations. So, poor interactions could reflect unfavorably on their employers. Professionalism is a must, but a friendly attitude can also help you excel. 
  • Thoroughness: Handling many projects at the same time can be difficult to manage. So, it's important to structure your schedule and focus on your work-related tasks. Professionals in this field must be able to adapt to new challenges. They must also coordinate interdepartmental workflows to meet or exceed all PR objectives.
  • Attention to detail: Public relations specialists are responsible for their employer’s public image.  This is why a career in PR is suited to detail-oriented candidates. All communication and promotional materials must be free of errors to safeguard the brand. 
  • Ingenuity: Navigating sensitive situations requires creative thinking, critical analysis and sound judgment. Public relations specialists generate actionable solutions. These solutions must meet the specific needs of their target audiences. The role also mitigates the reputational impact of PR disasters. Time is often a factor following a damaging event. This makes decisive action an operational necessity. 

Learn more about your potential career as a public relations specialist

The ASU Online Bachelor of Arts in English can help you improve your writing proficiencies. You’ll also develop your knowledge of public outreach, persuasion and cross-culture communication. From crafting content to implementing marketing strategies, you can meet the brand management needs of many organizations.

For those interested in pursuing a public relations specialist career, the BA in English offers more areas of study. These study areas include sociolinguistic studies, rhetoric and audience analysis, which can prepare you for the challenges of a fast-paced PR occupation. 

In the fluctuating field of public relations, it’s important to stay competitive. You can do this by assembling the right set of skills, knowledge and experience. That’s why an undergraduate education is a valuable resource for achieving long-term success.

Sources:
ASU Online – Online Bachelor of Arts in English
Public Relations Specialists by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Public Relations Specialist by Truity
How to make it as a PR specialist by Robert Walters
Public Relations (PR) Specialist Salary by PayScale
What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do? by The Balance
Public Relations Specialists by O*Net Online

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