At its core, public relations is about publicly presenting an organization in a positive light. Accomplishing this entails a wide range of activities, from writing press releases to speeches, and the field is projected to grow over the next decade. Employment options are flexible; public relations writers can work for everything from private corporations to government agencies.
Working as public relations writer, often referred to as a technician, is the usual way a person lands their first position in public relations. As a technician, the individual often writes articles for employee handbooks or publications and press releases. While in this role, the technician should improve and develop data gathering skills. Depending on the size of the firm, the public relations writer may also be required to take photographs and lay out simple brochures for their employer or client.
Some career guides divide this entry-level position into two roles with differing degrees of responsibility: Technician I and II. Technician II individuals handle all the responsibilities of a Level I Technician but often are required to direct the activities of a Level I Technician as well. Skills learned as a public relations writer normally carry over throughout the rest of an individual's career.
Besides data gathering and quality writing skills, a public relations writer must be adept at building connections with individuals important to their company. This usually means cultivating relationships with journalists, bloggers, or industry opinion-makers. With the advent of social media, public relations writers are expected to maintain a positive voice for their client, firm, or company on the various social media platforms. If their client faces negative publicity, public relations writers must find was to deflect the negativity and "change the narrative."
Since public relations writers specialize in an industry, such as finance, it's in the writer's best interest to be highly knowledgeable about the industry. The more an individual knows about their field, the better prepared they will be to take advantage of a positive news story or deflect negative ones. Because of this specialization, individuals should carefully consider what degree they earn.
Public relations writers with a business degree, for example, may be a better fit in the finance field while those with a communication or public relations degree may do well in a government agency or non-profit organization.
Typically, public relations writers hold a bachelor's degree in public relations, communications, English, business, or journalism. For those writers moving up into a supervisory role, a master's degree may be required.
Because public relations specialists are knowledgeable about their company's industry, they can position their company as a leader in its respective field. Most public relation specialists work in one of five industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of public relation specialists work in religious, grant writing, civic, professional, or similar organizations. Fourteen percent are employed with advertising firms while 12 percent work in educational services. The other two industries that public relations specialists typically work in are government (9 percent) and social agencies or health care (8 percent).
Launching Your Career
Candidates working in this field should be outgoing, comfortable with technology, and able to think creatively. If you have those attributes, there are several organizations that exist to help you get your career going.
The Public Relations Students Society of America can be an excellent way to network, stay up on trends, and acquire periodic training. If you're considering employment outside the United States, the International Association of Business Communicators is an organization you may want to consider joining.
A Good Career Option
Regardless of how you get going, public relations is an excellent career with an even better career outlook. In recent years, social media and the increasingly rapid flow of online information has created favorable conditions for public relations specialists. With good pay and lots of job opportunities, this is one career that is likely to be around for a while.