Public Relations

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?