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What is a Public Relations Specialist?

A Public Relations Specialist is a specialized type of Publicist. Also known as: Public Relations Coordinator, Media Relations Specialist, PR Specialist, Public Affairs Specialist.

A public relations specialist is someone who creates and maintains a favourable public image for their employer or client. They write material for media releases, plan and direct public relations programs, and raise funds for their organizations.

What does a Public Relations Specialist do?

Public relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Write press releases and prepare information for the media
  • Identify main client groups and audiences and determine the best way to reach them
  • Respond to requests for information from the media or designate an appropriate spokesperson or information source
  • Help clients communicate effectively with the public
  • Develop and maintain their organization's corporate image and identity, using logos and signs
  • 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
  • Develop and carry out fundraising strategies for an organization by identifying and contacting potential donors and applying for grants

Public relations specialists handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters, and other media specialists. In government, they may be called press secretaries. They keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.

Public relations specialists must understand the attitudes and concerns of the groups they interact with to maintain cooperative relationships with them. They 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 to advance that issue. In addition to publication through traditional media outlets, releases are increasingly being sent through the web and social media.

Public relations specialists also sponsor corporate events to help maintain and improve the image and identity of their organization or client. In addition, they help to clarify their organization’s point of view to its main audience through media releases and interviews. They observe social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the organization, and they recommend ways to enhance the firm's image based on those trends. For example, in response to a growing concern about the environment, an oil company may create a public relations campaign to publicize its efforts to develop cleaner fuels.

In large organizations, public relations specialists may supervise a staff. They also work with advertising and marketing staffs to make sure that advertising campaigns are compatible with the image the company or client is trying to portray. For example, if the firm has decided to emphasize its appeal to a certain group, such as younger people, the public relations manager ensures that current advertisements will be well received by that group.

In addition, they may handle internal communications, such as company newsletters, and may help financial managers produce an organization’s reports. They may help the organization’s top executives by drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public contact.

Public relations specialists must be able to work well with many types of other workers to accurately report the facts. In some cases, the information they write has legal consequences. They must work with the company's or client's lawyer to be sure that the information they release is both legally accurate and clear to the public.

What is the workplace of a Public Relations Specialist like?

Public relations specialists usually work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel. They work in fairly high-stress environments, often managing and organizing several events at the same time.

How can I become a Public Relations Specialist?

Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor's degree. They also need related work experience. Employers usually want candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, english, or business.

Public relations specialists typically are trained on the job, either in a formal program or by working closely under more experienced staff members. Entry-level workers often maintain files of material about an organization’s activities, skim newspapers and magazines for appropriate articles to clip, and assemble information for speeches and pamphlets. Training typically lasts between one month and one year. After gaining experience, public relations specialists write news releases, speeches, and articles for publication or plan and carry out public relations programs.


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