What is Public Relations?

If you’re a marketing or communications major, then you’re probably considering a career in public relations. Even if you’re not majoring in one of these subjects, you may be wondering about what working in the PR industry entails and whether it could be a good fit for you.

Here are some of the key things you need to know about working in public relations.

What is public relations?

Public relations is an area of communications that focuses on shaping and managing the public profile of a company or individual. As the public face of a particular brand, PR professionals are responsible for defining the story behind that brand and then making the story compelling to a broader audience. This is usually done by developing various campaigns (such as events, contests and social media strategies) designed to help promote the client’s story and engage a specific audience.

What do public relations professionals do?

Public relations professionals are essentially brand ambassadors, helping to promote the brands they represent and to establish strong relationships between clients and their audiences. The day-to-day role of PR specialists can look quite different depending on whether they’re representing multiple clients at an agency or whether they’re based in-house at a specific company, but most PR executives typically do a mix of the following things:

  1. Build relationships with journalists and pitch stories related to the clients they represent.
  2. Write press releases promoting a specific product or news item related to their clients.
  3. Manage relationships with clients to ensure that they understand their specific publicity needs and can strategize accordingly.
  4. Track and report the results of PR campaigns and optimize campaigns based on those metrics.

Pro Tip: PR roles can vary widely depending on whether you work for a small firm or a large one. At a small firm (or on an in-house team) you’re likely to be much more focused on a specific campaign or an aspect of a campaign, whereas at a large firm you’re more likely to be managing several accounts at once and to be executing strategies for all of those brands simultaneously.

What are the challenges of working in public relations?

Since public relations is a fast-moving industry, one of the main challenges PR professionals face is staying ahead of the news cycle. This involves keeping a close eye on breaking news stories (and media trends) and capitalizing on those stories when they come up. In order to do this effectively, you have to be able to think quickly since you’ll typically need to send pitches to journalists within the same day (and often the same hour) of a news story breaking. A related challenge is that you cannot control the news cycle. Although you might have a great story lined up, a breaking news story could take precedence at any time, bumping your story for several days (or sometimes indefinitely). You might also find yourself sending out pitches repeatedly without getting a response, something that happens frequently in public relations.

In addition to staying on top of news trends, one of the other challenges PR specialists face is dealing with crises. Since public relations is all about maintaining the public image of a brand, PR specialists are often the front line of defense against crises related to legal issues, technical problems and even natural disasters. To be able to handle these situations effectively, PR firms are tasked with coming up with strategies to tackle these types of crises. If and when these issues do come up, it’s a PR rep’s job to handle them gracefully, with the brand’s best interests in mind.

What are the benefits of working in public relations?

Although public relations can be quite challenging at times, there are also many benefits to working in this industry. For example, PR reps are often invited to attend charity and press events on behalf of the brands they represent and are able to network with journalists and executives across almost every industry. In addition to great networking opportunities, PR professionals also have the opportunity to learn a lot about various industries (including popular industries like entertainment, technology and fashion), which can open up all sorts of career paths, both within PR and beyond it. By getting an in-depth view of how specific industries work and what it takes to succeed in those industries, PR professionals are able to truly match their skills with their passions.

What is a typical public relations professional salary?

Public relations is both an exciting field and a lucrative one. Entry-level salaries for PR professionals typically start at around $42,000 and go up from there. Account executives with one to two years of experience generally earn between $50-60,000 and senior professionals such as executive vice presidents can earn upwards of $180,000.

An exciting and challenging field, public relations offers candidates wonderful exposure to great brands and new industries. The best way to find out if working in public relations is right for you is by taking on an internship and getting a hands-on feel for the industry.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Be a Team Player and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

What Are the Different Types of Public Relations Jobs?

The field of public relations offers a lot of exciting opportunities for recent grads who are interested in learning about media relations and enthusiastic about helping companies promote their brands. If you’re considering a career in public relations, you might be wondering about the different types of PR jobs and trying to get a sense of which one is right for you.

Here are some of the most common roles within public relations.


A publicist is typically the role people think of when they think of a PR professional. Based either an agency or on an in-house team, publicists work directly with clients to help develop and execute their brand strategy. They are also responsible for coming up with publicity campaigns and identifying the best ways for clients to promote their brands to the press and to their customers. Many publicists also work with celebrities to promote their personal brands and professional projects.


Another role that can be part of an agency or in-house team, a copywriter is responsible for writing publicity and marketing materials on behalf of clients. This can include everything from press releases to blog posts and is usually done in accordance with a public relations strategy created by the PR team. In addition to writing different types of copy, copywriters are also responsible for maintaining a consistent brand voice and identity across multiple channels at the same time.

PR specialist

Acting as the first point of contact for media outlets, a PR specialist is responsible for generating positive press coverage for clients by developing relationships with journalists and coming up with relevant story pitches. In order for these pitches to be successful, they have to serve two functions: 1) They need to resonate with journalists by being newsworthy items and 2) They need to represent the client in a positive light.

Social media manager

A social media manager is another potential role on a public relations team. This position can be based either at an agency (working on multiple client accounts) or an in-house team (managing the social channels of a particular company). Working to promote the brand on various social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the social media manager is responsible for creating engaging content, interacting with the brand’s community and measuring the success of various campaigns.


Acting as the face of the brand, the spokesperson is responsible for making statements on behalf of the company. This role is generally part of an in-house communications or PR team and is tasked with handling interview requests, making TV appearances and responding to any criticism the company might face.

The world of PR offers many great opportunities for those interested in developing exceptional communication skills and helping companies to build and maintain their public images. The best way to know which of these opportunities is right for you is by taking on an internship and getting some hands-on experience.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as the Top 10 Things You Should Look For in a Company and find answers to common interview questions such as What Are Your Strengths?

How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

Public relations is an exciting field with plenty of career opportunities for recent grads. If you’re interested in getting started in PR, you might be wondering about the best way to get your foot in the door. Should you attend networking events or try to land an internship at a PR agency? Ideally, you’ll want to do both.

Here are the steps you need to follow in order to become a public relations specialist.

1. Decide where your PR passion lies

Are you interested in working with several different companies or are you more passionate about getting really in-depth knowledge of one specific company? Your answer will help determine which direction you want your PR career to take. For example, if you’re interested in working with multiple brands and getting a high-level view of several different industries, then working at an agency might be the best bet for you. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in getting really hands-on knowledge of a specific industry, then working on an in-house PR team might be a better fit.

Pro Tip: If you’re not sure which direction you want to take, we recommend taking on an internship at a PR agency. This will give you a great overview of the different types of accounts PR specialists work on while also giving you the hands-on experience you need to succeed in the industry.

2. Build your skill set by taking relevant classes

At its core, public relations is about storytelling and one of the keys to working in PR is being able to define and promote the stories of the brands you work with. In order to do this effectively, you need to have strong communication skills and a solid understanding of media and marketing trends. To build your skill set, we recommend taking relevant classes such as communications, marketing and media studies. These will help you develop your knowledge of the media industry while also giving you great insights into how to really engage an audience.

Pro Tip: Another way of developing your skills is by taking on a freelance project or creating a brand of your own. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a big project, but it should demonstrate that you understand how to create a brand identity. For example, if you’re interested in fashion as well as public relations, you could start a fashion blog and create a brand strategy around it. Although taking on this type of project is not necessary for landing a PR job, showing that you can take initiative and develop and execute a PR strategy will go a long way toward impressing hiring managers.

3. Take on a PR internship

Another great way to build your skill set is by taking on a PR internship. This will give you hands-on experience of working with clients and help you get a sense of what types of brands and industries you’d most like to work with. Depending on the type of internship you decide to do, you could be working on developing brand strategy, supporting account executives with managing client accounts, writing press releases, managing social channels and more. Taking on an internship is a great way to not only add valuable experience to your resume but to also get a sense of what you really want to do with your PR career.

4. Know what to expect from the interview process

Interviewing for a job in public relations involves showing that you’re informed about the industry and passionate about working with clients to help define and promote their stories. Common questions you’re likely to encounter include “What does public relations mean to you?” and “What is your favorite brand and why?” These questions are designed to test your understanding of branding and marketing techniques and to get a sense of your true interest in public relations. In order to answer them effectively, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re truly enthusiastic about the field and eager to learn more about helping brands succeed.

5. Network, network, network

One of the keys to landing a job in any industry is networking and this is especially important when it comes to public relations. This is because PR relies on building relationships between brands, journalists and audiences in order to deliver results. To do this successfully, it’s important to work on developing strong relationships with colleagues and journalists by attending networking events and meetups, and connecting with others on professional platforms such as LinkedIn.

Working in public relations is an exciting opportunity to promote brands you’re truly passionate about. By following these tips and developing your experience and your network, you’ll be sure to find an opportunity that’s right for you.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Write a Cover Letter and find answers to common interview questions such as Why Do You Want to Work Here?

How to Write a Press Release

There are few items more closely associated with the communications industry than press releases – it’s important for people interested in the field or new to a communications job to understand the purpose of a press release and to know how to write one.

Here are some tips for writing a great press release:

The purpose of a press release

Organizations use press releases to relay important announcements to key audiences, including investors, consumers and the media.

How to send out a press release

Organizations or their representatives can send press releases directly to key stakeholders or through services such as PR Newswire or Business Wire, which specialize in press release distribution.

Key points to consider when writing a press release

The following points are important to remember when writing a press release:

  1. This is not a creative exercise. Writing a press release is not an opportunity to experiment with flowery prose or lay out personal opinions. As a piece of business writing, you should employ clear, concise language. People who read a press release should be able to quickly and fully understand the announcement.
  2. Cover the 5 W’s. A reader should walk away understanding the 5 W’s – Who, What, When, Where and Why – whenever relevant. Who is responsible for this new corporate segment? What will happen as a result of this announcement? When will this event take place or this change be implemented? Where will certain meetings take place? Why is this change or event occurring?
  3. Skip the jargon. While it’s sometimes impossible to completely avoid financial or legal language in a corporate press release, investors, consumers and the media all need to be able to understand what the release actually states.
  4. Keep it concise. A press release tends to be between 3-5 paragraphs, though the length can vary depending on the information you need to include.

Why press releases are still relevant

Despite the rise in corporate social media accounts and digital media, a standard press release is still a key tool in business. Press releases remain a valuable and reliable source of information for investors, consumers and the media. Additionally, press releases are often the core building block for other forms of communication – a company might link to a press release in a tweet, or use language from a press release in a video of a CEO, a letter to employees, or on a call with investors and analysts.

What to do after sending a press release

The next steps following a press release vary based on the goal. Is an organization launching a new initiative that it wants the public to be aware of? In that case, it makes sense to follow up with media interviews to broadcast the company’s message.

Press releases tend to follow this dependable template:

Headline Describing the Main Point
Subhead Providing Additional Detail or Describing Secondary Announcement

CITY, State, Date – Opening paragraph providing clear announcement.

Quote from CEO or other organizational leader offering support or rationale for the announcement.

Paragraph providing additional details.

About [Organization Name]

Boilerplate description of the organization.


Contact Name
Title / Organization Name

Once you have the template filled in, the finished product will highlight all of the key parts of your announcement in an engaging and compelling way.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Be a Team Player and find answers to common interview questions such as What Motivates You?