If you’re reading this, you’re probably already thinking of a career in Public Relations, if not considering it as a possible option. Deciding on a career path is no doubt one of the most difficult decisions to make, especially when the decision is required to be made at such a young age. Hopefully this blog post will help you realise that Public Relations is the right choice for you and if not, it will push you in the right direction to finding the right career for you.
What is Public Relations?
The CIPR defines Public Relations as ‘the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you’ https://www.cipr.co.uk/CIPR/About_Us/About_PR.aspx?WebsiteKey=0379ffac-bc76-433c-9a94-56a04331bf64. It is the discipline of looking after reputation with the aim of earning support from the public. PR therefore involves maintaining a positive public image for a particular company or brand (client) whilst also developing promotions for them. This splits the main responsibilities into two aspects: promoting and protecting.
The promotion aspect of PR consists of helping a brand, company or individual develop a positive reputation with their audience through engagement. This can be through lots of different platforms but of course, in the current age of social media, a lot of promotion is through methods such as social media, blogs and influencers. Traditional media is also used to target a further audience.
On the other side of Public Relations, PR professionals help protect a brand, company or individual to help them maintain a good public perception and also protect them or defend them during a crisis.
Both of these aspects added together create a completely unique profession, helping brands create a relationship with their audience.
This isn’t always easy. PR professionals also need to be familiar with journalist standards, as they need stories that resonate with their own audience. It is PR professionals’ job to account for different news outlets’ interests when they are in the process of developing their own PR strategy. The age of digital outlets is also a whole new ball game for Public Relations. Negative news tends to grab peoples’ attention a lot quicker than positive news as humans are naturally more negativity bias, so PR professionals need to be diverse and quick to react upon negativity and turn it into positivity my mitigating any damage.
Skills in Public Relations
- Strong communication skills, both through writing and speaking to a range of different people, and a lot of them at the same time.
- Motivation and drive to work through difficult hours and times for your client, with huge willingness to learn on the job all the time. It is diverse and there can be a spanner in the works at any time – you need to be driven enough to work through this.
- The ability to cope and work well under pressure and under time restrictions.
- Creativity and imagination to come up with brand new and unique promotion ideas.
- Awareness of business and a good knowledge of current affairs with good research skills.
- Excellent organisational skills with the ability to multitask – having a number of clients will need this.
A degree in Public Relations / Qualifications
To become a PR officer, there are no set of qualifications required, as stated by UCAS https://www.ucas.com/ucas/after-gcses/find-career-ideas/explore-jobs/job-profile/public-relations-officer. A complete range of qualifications could definitely piece together the perfect PR professional or team. However, most entrants do tend to have a degree of some sort.
There are a number of PR courses available, the best of course being in Leeds. Leeds Beckett University is home to the longest running Public Relations course in the country, meaning that it has grown and adapted with the industry. However, the following degrees may be partially helpful in securing a PR career:
- Business or management
- Communications and/or media studies
- Social sciences
- English and creative writing
Career Prospects and what to expect
As stated by the national careers service, https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/public-relations-officer#WhatItTakes, Public Relations officers are usually office based (although this could be subject to change after this year, check out the next section). It is also likely that you will be required to attend some networking and media events as well as meeting clients, suppliers and partner organisations. This could mean that your social and working life can become slightly intertwined.
Travel is also a part of the job, as the PR industry has a wide geographical spread. Depending on the organisation, you may occasionally stay away from home overnight or travel internationally.
The competition for jobs is fierce in this industry (again, especially now) and although people think of PR as a glamorous profession, there are pressures within the job that you certainly need to be aware of just as much as you are aware of the rewards.
As a graduate going into the field of Public Relations, you can expect to work a a PR assistant or junior account executive for the first few years before gaining a promotion to a PR officer or account executive.
Deeper into your PR career is when management-level promotions are likely to take place but this depends on your personal performance and motivation. You also have the option of working freelance/self-employed and being your own boss. This can be exactly to your taste if you are motivated, but if teamwork is your thing, working in an agency or in-house is definitely more for you.
It is also important to remember that PR jobs can be disguised in the job title. When looking for a job or at a job advertisement, make sure you get down to the nitty-gritty of the job tasks before dismissing the job from the title. A lot of the time, the job description is basically describing the role of a PR professional but has called it a completely different name.
Some job titles to look out for and check out the job description:
- Media Relations
- Community Relations
- Content Creator
- Reputation Management
- Social Media Management
- Communication Management
Public Relations in 2020
After the year we have had, the Public Relations profession has definitely changed. Before, you could be pretty much guaranteed to work in an office if you were part of a team and not working freelance. Now that agencies and in-house teams have experienced home-working due to the lockdown in 2020, you could possibly expect to begin your career in Public Relations working from home. It is going to be unknown whether this will continue, or whether you will be back to working in an office once the virus is suppressed, and this will dependent upon each individual company. Working from home will require a completely different kind of drive and motivation that you will definitely need, especially if you are going to be a graduate in 2021.
Jobs in the majority of industries in 2020 are going to be difficult to find and even more competitive to get than they ever were before. 2020 has given people the gift of more free time, and even if it doesn’t feel like that right now, use the time you have got and invest it into Public Relations. The more familiar you are with current affairs in 2020, and the more time you invest in work experience, practice and attending networking events, you will be gaining yourself more of a chance for your career.
Let 2020 help you pursue your passion and let it help you get on the right career path for you.