Public Relations Specialist

Job Description

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A public relations specialist communicates with the public on behalf of an entity such as a company, organization, individual, politician, or government. He or she is also called a communication, media, or PR specialist. A public relations specialist spreads his or her employer's or client's message to the public, often using the media as a means to do so.

Quick Facts

  • 259,600 people are employed in this occupation (2016). 
  • The following industries employ the majority of public relations specialists: religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations; professional, scientific, and technical services; educational services.
  • Job opportunities have traditionally been concentrated in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC, but in recent years, jobs have been scattered throughout the country.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in this field will grow as fast as the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.
  • Many positions require travel.
  • PR specialists often work overtime to meet deadlines.

A Day in a Public Relation's Specialist's Life

To learn about some public relations specialists' duties, we looked at job announcements on Indeed.com. We discovered that on a typical day one might perform some of the following tasks:

  • "Develop press kit materials, including press releases, pitch letters, case studies, feature articles, and trend stories"
  • "Research, execute, and coordinate projects to advance the company’s brand and public relations objectives"
  • "Curate/produce news web page, which includes building features, finding artwork, posting other stories as necessary, resolving technical problems, and maintaining the design of the pages/articles"
  • "Assist in sharing PR results with internal communications"
  • "Develop and attend trade show press briefings, manage pressroom accommodations, and conduct post-show follow up"
  • "Cultivate and maintain relationships with regional and national media. Fulfill media requests for photographs, factual information, etc."
  • "Coordinate scheduling and logistics"

Education and Certification

Although there are no standard educational requirements to get into the public relations field, employers prefer to hire job candidates who have graduated from college with a bachelor's degree. Many people who enter this field have majored in public relations, marketing, journalism, communication, and advertising. Employers also want potential employees to have work experience which can come from doing an internship.

What Soft Skills Do PR Specialists Need?

Those who want to work as public relations specialists should have these soft skills, which are attributes an individual is either born with or gains through life experience:

  • Verbal Communication: Your job requires you to be able to convey information effectively to the public, media, and other members of your organization.
  • Listening: You will also have to listen carefully so that you can understand what others are telling you and respond appropriately.
  • Writing: Since writing press releases is a regular part of most PR specialists' job, excellent writing skills are essential.
  • Interpersonal: Your dealings with the media and the public requires the ability to get along well with others. You must be persuasive and able to negotiate. In addition, as a PR specialist, you will have to coordinate your actions with the actions of others, including your colleagues.

Climbing the Ladder

You will begin your career maintaining files about your employers' activities, fielding inquiries from the press and public, and helping to organize press conferences and other events. As you gain experience, your employer will have you ​writing press releases and speeches, and coordinating programs. Working in a small firm will provide a greater variety of experience than a job in a large firm will and your responsibilities will grow more quickly.

As you become a more experienced public relations specialist, your employer may promote you to a supervisory position or you may qualify for one at another firm. Job titles at that level include account executive, senior account executive, account manager, and vice president.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

What qualities, in addition to experience, education, and the aforementioned soft skills do employers want when they hire employees? Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Expected to be innovative and current with emerging trends in the communication field especially social media and to participate/contribute on integrated teams"
  • "To perform this job successfully, an individual must have advanced working knowledge of the Internet, including utilizing the web to perform research and collect data"
  • "Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language, including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition and grammar, and AP Style"
  • "Exceptional public speaking skills are required, as well as the ability to conduct effective public presentations"
  • "Must be flexible in work schedule to accommodate occasional evening or weekend media requests, meetings, and periodic travel"
  • "Must be current and knowledgeable about best practices in traditional, digital and other media with a willingness to continue learning as the industry evolves"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Consider your interestspersonality type, and work-related values when choosing a career. If you have the following traits, consider becoming a public relations specialist:

Take a Quiz! Should You Become a Public Relations Specialist?

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Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited September 13, 2018).