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How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

Newsroom | Articles June 9, 2020
Public relations specialist advises clients.

Public relations (PR) is one of the most widespread career fields. From the government and nonprofits to music and television, every marketing office of every business needs PR specialists. And just like the variety in industry, the role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. As The Balance Careers highlights, a PR specialist may have any of the following job titles:

  • Brand ambassador
  • Director of public affairs
  • Lobbyist
  • Media director
  • Publicist
  • Social media manager
  • Copywriter

With such versatility and growth in the field, how does someone become a public relations specialist? Answering that question starts with addressing the various roles that this kind of professional may fill.

What a Public Relations Specialist Does

The job titles listed above only scratch the surface of what a public relations specialist can do. In any given industry, their tasks may differ slightly, but the main goals remain the same.

In the simplest terms, PR specialists communicate to a public audience for companies, the government, or individuals. While the role is versatile and employers’ needs can differ, the job’s structure is consistent. The PR specialist’s mission is to spread the business’ message through media outreach—such as a press release sent to news outlets or a post on Instagram.

After communicating the message, the PR specialist evaluates the public’s opinion through such means as surveys, polls, and social media listening, according to The Balance Careers. Once they get a general idea of the entity’s perceived reputation, they help to maintain or improve it.

On a day-to-day level, the specialist arranges for press conferences, maintains and builds relationships with media outlets, writes speeches for leaders, and responds to media requests. This can involve working with a team—common in larger organizations—or working alone. Often at smaller organizations, public relations may not be the only part of a job.

Job Outlook

The versatility in a PR specialist’s role presents many career opportunities. Additionally, with the increasing prevalence of social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, PR specialists are likely to find plentiful job opportunities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for PR specialists will grow by 6% from 2018 to 2028, higher than the average job increase of 5%. The BLS predicts this growth will continue due to organizations’ need to upkeep their reputation in the public eye.

Additionally, the median salary of a PR specialist ranges from $34,590 to over $115,430—highest in the government sector, followed by Silicon Valley—according to the BLS. Those who work in healthcare and social assistance industries make up the lower end of the range.

How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

Knowing the roles, job growth, and salary of a PR specialist leads back to the question of how to become a public relations specialist. According to Agility PR Solutions, to become a successful PR specialist, professionals need the following skills:

  • Flexibility: adapting to the last-minute changes of a business
  • Collecting information: staying on top of current events to keep organizations relevant
  • Big-picture thinking: stepping back and seeing the possible end results of a project or campaign
  • Relationship Building: connecting to the community through networking and other engagement
  • Strong writing: creating articulate information to increase a business’ reputation
  • Attention to detail: reviewing every media message meticulously to ensure accuracy
  • Resilience: accepting criticism and growing from it in meaningful ways

In addition to honing these natural skills, PR specialists must develop competencies in other key areas, especially communication. From written to verbal communication, such as journalism, editing, media relations, and public thinking, skills in these areas are vital for PR specialists.

PR specialists must also be familiar with social media: use of the platforms, the best practices with each, content planning, and producing digital and content marketing.

Having an international perspective can also be a valuable tool for PR specialists, according to The Balance Careers. This entails conducting market research, being multilingual and understanding different global expectations. This qualification is especially important for government and global business work.

To have a successful career as a PR specialist, Forbes provides the following guidance:

  • Find interests and follow that path
  • Don’t forget the personal aspect of public relations
  • Give more than take
  • Create a network as an entrepreneur
  • Learn the industry through absorbing media

Prepare for a Career as a PR Specialist

Earning a bachelor’s in mass communication provides aspiring PR specialists with the opportunity to develop the necessary skills, and the degree is often a basic qualification for any job in public relations. LSU Online’s Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, which offers a concentration in public relations, helps prepare students to plan and implement strategic communication plans. It also gives students access to an extensive network of alumni who are currently working in public relations. Visit LSU Online’s Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication to learn more.

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