Job Description: Public relations specialists handle organizational functions for groups in areas of media, community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations. They also can be involved in political campaigns, interest group representation, conflict mediation and employee and investor relations. Public relations specialists do more than “tell the organization’s story.” They must understand the attitudes and concerns of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups and establish and maintain cooperative relationships with them and with representatives from print and broadcast journalism.
Training and Educational Qualifications: There are no defined standards for entry into a public relations career. A college degree combined with public relations experience, usually gained through an internship, is considered excellent preparation for public relations work; in fact, internships are becoming vital to obtaining employment. The ability to communicate effectively is essential. Many entry-level public relations specialists have a college major in public relations, journalism, advertising or communication.
Job Outlook: Employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow 18 percent faster than average for all occupations through 2016. The need for good public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment should spur demand for public relations specialists in organizations of all types and sizes. However, keen competition likely will continue for entry-level public relations jobs, as the number of qualified applicants is expected to exceed the number of job openings.
Salary: Median annual earnings for salaried public relations specialists are $47,350. The middle 50 percent earn between $35,600 and $65,310; the lowest 10 percent earn less than $28,080, and the top 10 percent earn more than $89,220.
• Although employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow faster than average, keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs.
• Opportunities should be best for college graduates who combine a degree in public relations, journalism or another communications-related field with a public relations internship or other related work experience.
• Creativity, initiative and the ability to communicate effectively are essential.
Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?
I had several. I interned at Seventeen magazine in the fashion department, at a museum doing research for a blockbuster expedition on the Harvard renaissance, at KISS FM radio in New York, and I did the training program at Ruder Finn.
Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?
The Ruder Finn program is renowned throughout the industry. If you get into the program, which is not the easiest, you are immediately immersed into the business of the agency.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
It depends on your area of interest. For example, in the hi-tech industry, I imagine a lot jobs are in Silicon Valley. Most major cities have cultural institutions for someone interested in public relations for arts and cultural organizations. Overall, the cities that have the most opportunities are generally known to be New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
What is your typical day like?
In a word, busy. I deal with client demands. This includes doing reports, doing research, writing and brainstorming.
What are your job responsibilities?
When you are coming up in this business, you are charged with execution in terms of research and drafting materials. The agency side of public relations is entrepreneurial and in management, it’s exciting to bring in income for the agency doing what you enjoy.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Interacting with clients and coming up with different initiatives, plans, and programs for them to do. That is the most exciting part. Also, I have to stay on top of different trends happening in the field.
What do you dislike about your job?
It’s constantly nonstop, so things that people do for fun are work for me. People say things like, “Did you see the exhibition at the Met?” A lot of those things I don’t do because I do them for a living.
Have you had any turning-point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
I moved to Chicago and was immediately embraced by a lot of good people. That was a good turning point for my career. Ultimately, coming back to Ruder Finn where I began, has been wonderful. I work in an environment where creativity is appreciated and encouraged. And working with David Finn, a giant in the industry, is fantastic being in his presence is an honor.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
In the beginning, I didn’t really know what this career was. My peers were going to be lawyers or investment bankers. I applied to law school but decided I didn’t want to pursue that career. Then I signed up for a presentation at Boston University and I was the only person who showed up to the event. I ended up having a one on one conversation with the speaker about a career in public relations. I got a scholarship to Boston University and the rest is history. This career combined what I love to do: writing, working with creative people and being around the arts.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest professional accomplishment has been the innovations I have brought to the field. I have done things that have never been done before in the spirits industry. I am proud of promotions I personally created for certain brands. Finding and creating new ways to promote my clients’ products and services continues to drive me.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
Journalism or law.
To what professional associations do you belong?
I don’t belong to professional associations but I do participate in non-profit organizations. I am on the board of a few charitable organizations. I am active in supporting minority scholarships and neonatal wellness and literacy.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
Learn as much about the field as you can. Be open to opportunities. Be committed to being very professional. Sometimes people have an image of doing parties and events and hanging out with people; there’s much more to it than that. Get a strong foundation with skills like writing and understanding media trends.