Public relations specialists, also sometimes referred to as media specialists and communications specialists, act as advocates for clients who wish to build and maintain a positive relationship with the public. Common clients often include nonprofit associations, businesses, hospitals, universities and other organizations.
Public Relations Specialist Job Responsibilities
Public relations specialists are responsible for handling organizations functions, including consume, community, media, governmental and industry relations. They may also handle interest group representation, political campaigns, investor and employee relations and conflict mediation. To be successful in this career field it is important to understand the concerns and attitudes of the consumer, community, public interest groups and the employee.
Job duties may include drafting press releases and making contact with persons in the media who can broadcast or print their material. Other job duties can include arranging and conducting programs for maintaining contact between the public and organization representatives. Media specialists may also represent their employers at presentations and community projects.
When working in the government public relations specialists are often called press secretaries. Their job is to keep the public informed regarding the activities of officials and agencies.
Public relations specialists typically work in busy offices and often must adhere to deadlines and tight work schedules, which can be stressful. Most work a standard 40 hour work week; however overtime is fairly common. Work schedules can often be irregular. A schedule may be frequently interrupted. Some public relations specialists may need to be on call for a crisis or emergency. Schedules may need to be re-arranged in order to meet deadlines, attend meetings, deliver speeches, travel and attend community activities.
Professionals who are able to demonstrate that they are able to handle more demanding and complex assignments have an increased change of being promoted to supervisory positions. An entry-level worker may be hired as a junior account executive in a public relations firm and then be promoted over a period of time to account executive and then senior account executive, account manager and possibly vice president. With experience, a public relations specialist might also consider opening their own consulting firm.
The employment outlook for public relations specialists is expected to be good. Most employment opportunities are concentrated in service industries such as advertising, healthcare, social assistance, government and educational services. Others may work in financial institutions, communications firms and government agencies.
Public Relations Specialist Training and Education
A bachelor’s degree in a communications field along with public relations experience will help to prepare individuals who are interested in entering this career field. Most entry-level public relations specialists will have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, marketing, public relations or communications. Such degree programs are offered at universities and colleges around the country. Courses in business administration, advertising, political science, finance, sociology, psychology and creative writing can be helpful. There are also specialties that may be offered for government, nonprofit organizations and business.
Students can gain valuable experience through internships in public relations. This is also an excellent way to find entry-level employment. Some large organizations will offer formal training programs. New employees in small organizations will usually work under the supervision of an experienced staff member. Entry-level duties may maintain files of material regarding company activities and assemble information needed for speeches. They may also take calls from the public and the press, escort visitors and prepare invitation lists.
Along with the ability to communicate simply and clearly, public relations specialists must demonstrate initiative, creativity and good judgment. Other important skills include problem-solving, research and decision-making. Most people who choose careers in this field have self-confidence, an outgoing personality and an understanding of psychology.
Public Relations Specialist Salary and Wages
In 2008 the median annual wage for salaried public relations specialists was $51,280.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Public Relations Specialist Certifications
Public relations specialists who are members of the Public Relations Society of America and who also participate in the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations can receive accreditation through the Universal Accreditation Board. The process involves an exam as well as a readiness review. Candidates must have a minimum of five years of full-time teaching or work experience in public relations. They must also have a bachelor’s degree in a field that is communications related. Each candidate must complete a written submission for the readiness review as well as a portfolio review. Dialogue between a three member panel and the candidate also takes place. Candidates must successful make it through the readiness review as well as pass the computer based exam in order to earn the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation.
There is also an accreditation program that is offered for public relations specialists and other professionals in the field of communication by the International Association of Business Communicators. Candidates must have a minimum of five years of experience as well as a bachelor’s degree in a communications related field. They must also pass oral and written exams. In addition, they must submit a portfolio that contains work examples demonstrating a range of different communications projects.
Public Relations Specialist Professional Associations
- Professional associations for public relations specialists include the following:
- International Association of Business Communicators
- Public Relations Society of America