Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent.
What they do
Public relations specialists craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organization and increase awareness of its work and goals.
They typically do the following:
- Write press releases and prepare information for the media
- Respond to information requests from the media
- Help clients communicate effectively with the public
- Help maintain their organization’s corporate image and identity
- Draft speeches and arrange interviews for an organization’s top executives
- Evaluate advertising and promotion programs to determine whether they are compatible with their organization’s public relations efforts
- Evaluate public opinion of clients through social media
Public relations specialists, also called communications specialists and media specialists, handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters, and other media specialists. In government, public relations specialists may be called press secretaries. In this setting, workers keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.
Public relations specialists draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of public relations specialists. For example, a press release might describe a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does concerning that issue.
Press releases are increasingly being sent through the Internet and social media, in addition to publication through traditional media outlets. Public relations specialists are often in charge of monitoring and responding to social media questions and concerns.
Public relations specialists are different from advertisers in that they get their stories covered by media instead of purchasing ad space in publications and on television.
Public relations specialists usually work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and occasionally travel. Most public relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Long workdays are common, as is overtime.
How to become a Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Employers prefer candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.
Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business. Through such programs, students produce a portfolio of work that demonstrates their ability to prospective employers.
Internships at public relations firms or in the public relations departments of other businesses can be helpful in getting a job as a public relations specialist.
Some employers prefer candidates who have experience communicating with others through a school newspaper or a leadership position in school or in their community.
The median annual wage for public relations specialists was $61,150 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $115,430.
Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Organizations will continue to emphasize community outreach and customer relations as a way to maintain and enhance their reputation and visibility. Public opinion can change quickly, particularly because both good and bad news spread rapidly through the Internet. Consequently, public relations specialists will be needed to respond to news developments and maintain their organization’s reputation.
The use of social media also is expected to create opportunities for public relations specialists as they try to appeal to consumers and the general public in new ways. Public relations specialists will be needed to help their clients use these new types of social media effectively.
Similar Job Titles
Account Executive, Communications Director, Communications Specialist, Corporate Communications Specialist, Media Relations Specialist, Public Affairs Specialist, Public Information Officer, Public Information Specialist, Public Relations Coordinator (PR Coordinator), Public Relations Specialist (PR Specialist)
Advertising and Promotions Manager, Public Relations and Fundraising Manager, Market Research Analyst and Marketing Specialist, Copy Writers, Insurance Sales Agent
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Advertising Federation
- American Marketing Association
- City-County Communications and Marketing Association
- Council for Advancement and Support of Education
- International Association of Business Communicators
- National Council for Marketing and Public Relations
- National School Public Relations Association
- Public Relations Society of America
- Society for Human Resource Management
Magazines and Publications
Whether they are meeting with reporters… helping to expand a client’s online presence… or crafting public statements… public relations—or PR—specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the client they represent. Also called media specialists or —when they work in government— press secretaries, PR specialists handle an organization’s communication with the public. In government, they inform the public of government officials’ and agencies’ activities. Public relations specialists draft press releases and contact media who might print or broadcast their material. Many news stories start at the desks of PR specialists. Press releases typically discuss an issue of public interest and how an organization’s work affects that issue. Most of the time PR specialists work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend community activities, and occasionally travel. They tend to work full time during regular business hours but long workdays and overtime are common. Most PR specialists need a bachelor’s degree. Employers prefer candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business. Internships in a PR role, experience writing for a college newspaper, or holding a leadership position in student activities can be helpful in getting a PR job.
- PR writers work for a wide range of clients including religious, government, labor, political, and educational organizations as well as private businesses and individuals. PR writers are also employed in advertising and PR-related industries.
- The role of PR writer can also include related job titles including communication specialist and speech writer.
- PR writers must possess strong research and writing skills and be able to work on multiple projects simultaneously, meeting short (and shifting) deadlines.
- PR writers should be familiar with various type of media and social media outlets and be able to adjust their content as needed, depending on audience.
- Communications produced by Public Relations writers must be clear and concise in order to engage the reader’s attention – or the listener’s attention in the case of speeches or press briefings.
- PR writers must demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills since they generally work with a team to plan communication strategies for an organization.
- PR writers must also possess problem-solving skills, i.e., since many of the communications they produce are in response to an issue within the organization they are representing.
- Due to the unpredictable nature of the work, PR writers may be expected to work outside of normal hours, and weekend work is not uncommon.
Education and Experience
- Most PR writing positions require a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, English or another communications-related subject. A business degree can also be useful in helping the writer understand the organization being represented.
- PR writers should have a portfolio that includes a wide range of content for a variety of organizations.
- For PR writers starting out, internships offer a good opportunity to gain experience in the field.
- Careers for PR professionals in general are expected to increase 6 percent between 2018 and 2028.
- Due to the competitive nature of the field, those without a robust portfolio could have difficulty finding fulltime work.
In addition to the organizations listed below, the websites of top PR firms and professionals are also great sources of information about this career. Just perform a Google search including words such as “PR firms” or “freelance PR writers.”
American Communication Association (ACA) is a not-for-profit virtual professional association with actual presence in the world of communication scholars and practitioners. ACA is committed to enabling the effective use of new and evolving communication technologies to facilitate instruction, research, and criticism; it offers a technologically supportive venue for all who study the ways in which humans communicate.
American Marketing Association (AMA) is a trade organization offering opportunities for copywriters. They aid in developing skill sets, provide webcasts, post job openings, and aid members in networking, education, and professional marketing. To learn more about what the organization can offer, visit the member's benefit page.
Association for Women in Communications (AWC) is a professional organization that champions the advancement of women across all communications disciplines by recognizing excellence, promoting leadership and positioning its members at the forefront of the evolving communications era.
Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management is the confederation of the world's major PR and communication management associations and institutions, representing 280,000 practitioners and academics around the world. The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management is a not-for-profit organization based in Switzerland.
Institute for Public Relations (IPR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to fostering greater use of research and research-based knowledge in public relations and corporate communication practice. IPR is dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations. They create, curate and promote research and initiatives that empower professionals with actionable insights and intelligence they can put to immediate use.
International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) serves professionals in the field of business communication, bringing together the profession’s collective disciplines. They deliver on the Global Standard in communication through our educational offerings, certification, awards program, resource library, online magazine and annual World Conference. They support our community of business communication professionals with innovative thinking, shared best practices, in-depth learning and career guidance.
International Communication Association (ICA) aims to advance the scholarly study of human communication by encouraging and facilitating excellence in academic research worldwide. ICA began more than 50 years ago as a small association of U.S. researchers and is now a truly international association with more than 4,500 members in 80 countries. Since 2003, ICA has been officially associated with the United Nations as a non-governmental association (NGO).
International Public Relations Association (IPRA) was established in 1955 and is the leading global network for PR professionals in their personal capacity. IPRA aims to advance trusted communication and the ethical practice of public relations. They do this through networking, their code of conduct and intellectual leadership of the profession.
National Communication Association (NCA) advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching.
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community. With more than 30,000 professional and student members, PRSA is collectively represented in all 50 states by 110 Chapters and 14 Professional Interest Sections, and on nearly 375 college and university campuses through its student organization, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
Social Media Association (SMA) brings together the media community both online and offline. Our members are forward-thinking people interested in business and media innovation. Comprised of are entrepreneurs, business owners, managers, influencers and strategic decision makers, SMA’s goal is a non-competitive environment where members can learn, share and have fun together: informing, inspiring, and empowering business through social, digital, and future media.
College Major - Public Relations/Image Management - A program that focuses on the theories and methods for managing the media image of a business, organization, or individual and the communication process with stakeholders, constituencies, audiences, and the general public; and that prepares individuals to function as public relations assistants, technicians, and managers. Includes instruction in public relations theory; related principles of advertising, marketing, and journalism; message/image design; image management; special event management; media relations; community relations; public affairs; and internal communications.