Career Guide

Public Relations Officer

Ben Maples  · Sep 17th 2020

Ever found it weird how your favourite musical artists happen to go to rehab around the same time as a new album comes out?

Team business meeting

If you answered yes, then you should consider joining the public relations career, which is ideal for creative communicators who would love to work with brands on their identity and reputation. Take a look at our comprehensive guide for working in PR below.

Public Relations Officer Career Guide

What is a PR job?

What is PR work? It involves following the aspirations and demands of a client - or clients - while managing their reputation and identity to their audience. Public relations in the UK work around understanding and supporting clients within the incredibly competitive field. A PR role may also influence their behaviour or opinion on campaigns or particular approaches. If we consider the PR job description, we find that they use a range of communications and media to create, maintain and adapt the reputation of a business, organisation, charities and public bodies.

They’ll communicate messages, utilise endorsements from third parties and define the target audience. Also, under the communications job description, the role will establish and manage the understanding of the company and the public. A public relations specialist will research concerns and expectations from audiences and stakeholders and monitor publicity for the brand. They’ll then report and explain the findings to their clients or PR manager.

What does a public relations officer do?

What does a PR officer do? We’ve established the role of PR, but what do daily tasks look like? A public relation officer will plan, develop and implement campaigns and strategies, as well as research, create and distribute press releases to media organisations in the hopes they’ll publish them. Communication with colleagues, clients, spokespeople and the media is standard for PR careers.

The PR assistant salary tends to start at around £18,000 but may be offered at £20,000.

Also, collating and analysing media coverage, whether it was from their press release or not, is a crucial duty. PR careers will focus on liaising with the media, individuals and other companies, dealing with enquiries, requests and complaints. They may write and edit in speeches, articles, reports and in-house magazines and newsletters, alongside supervising and preparing brochures, handouts and leaflets for publicity. Under the public relations job description, we can also see that they may plan multimedia, including videos, films and photographs for online and social media. They’ll organise events, press conferences, photo opportunities, open days, exhibitions and press tours. Also, maintaining information on the client’s website, social media and publicity packages is a common task.

A public relations manager may supervise a team of officers and lead the department; therefore, they will have more senior responsibilities. Both officers and managers may commission market research, source sponsorship opportunities and manage speeches at events. Under the PR management job description, emergency incidents, or important clients may be under the superior role’s remit, like driving the PR during a crisis or bad press.

What does PR do in consultancies and agencies? Some brands choose to use a PR agency to cover the relations, including dealing with the press and publicity packages. These roles will have the same duties as those based in a particular company; however, the agency may have hundreds of clients divided up between PR positions. Others may employ in-house officers who work there permanently.

Public Relations Officer Career

How to become a PR person, officer or manager?

There are no set qualifications individuals need to have for public relations careers, but most study a relevant degree or HND. There are PR qualifications available in undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across various universities. They may be called PR and communications or communication and media studies degrees. Although studying business, management, media studies, marketing, English, creative writing, communication, politics, and social science qualifications are relevant and can help you in your PR career.

Whilst learning, you may answer the question ‘why work in PR?’, as most PR officers have a love of communication, the written word and media. Most employers look for enthusiastic, experienced and creative individuals who will be able to respond to queries and situations while keeping the brand in a positive light. Entry positions may be under a PR assistant or officer role.

You can later achieve the Chartered Public Relations Practitioner Status if you want to go far in the career. Most individuals start in junior roles either in-house or as part of a consultancy where they can gain experience working for various brands.

Under the communications job description, the role will establish and manage the understanding of the company and the public.

Where to find PR work experience?

Work experience is very desirable from employers, and there are several ways for you to achieve this either before, during or after studying. You can volunteer for university societies, activities and charities and plan events, writing press releases and contacting media organisations for coverage. Writing is a crucial task for the role, so writing for a magazine, whether a student or local newspaper, is handy.

Another option is to undergo a work placement, either through your course or within your own time. You can visit your university career advisor for help for finding one, or contact companies themselves to request the opportunity to shadow a PR officer. Students can join the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, where they can access work placements, opportunities and be able to network with employers. Other routes include graduate training schemes, courses and training while you work.

What skills are useful for PR and communications?

PR jobs require individuals with excellent communication, writing, persuasion and interpersonal skills. A public relations officer will be superb with organisation, time-management and problem-solving, as well as have an excellent knowledge of current affairs and business awareness. Drive, confidence and flexibility are essential, as they may be out-of-hours emergency releases you need to put out depending on the brand and the role.

Being able to copy while under pressure and meeting deadlines are also crucial for a public relations job. Also, someone who has a willingness to learn and can multitask should do well in this career. PR roles are perfect for individuals who can work alone and within a team, who are creative, imaginative and have excellent initiative.

Public Relations Officer

What is the average PR salary?

The PR assistant salary tends to start at around £18,000 but may be offered at £20,000. This salary is also typical for a graduate PR officer role. The average PR salary in the UK is generally between £22,000 and £28,000. After gaining experience, wages can increase to be more than £40,000.

The public relations salary in the UK for senior or managerial positions can range from £40,000 to £100,000. These tend to be those within PR director positions or working as head of corporate affairs. However, the public relations salary varies with location, region and setting. People tend to earn more within the private sector or London and the south-east. Some companies offer benefits alongside the PR salary, including a company car, health insurance, laptop and mobile phone and a pension scheme.

Where to find jobs in public relations?

PR officers work within companies of all sizes, or agencies and consultancies. To find work in PR, you should look in financial, consumer, trade, and business firms. A PR officer vacancy may also be within the local and national government, charities and not-for-profit organisations. Most companies have a job profile for PR, as a brand’s identity and online presence is vital in the society we live in.

There are no set qualifications individuals need to have for public relations careers, but most study a relevant degree or HND.

You can search for individual companies or particular sectors if you have an interest in a specific area, like medical or fitness. Or you can contact PR consultancies if you’d like to work across a variety of market sectors. Some consultancies are large international firms and work within specialised areas from fashion and healthcare to music and finance. Others may offer PR work across all industries. Search local, national press and job websites, social media and networking sites like LinkedIn.

What are the PR prospects?

You may be asking yourself, ‘is PR a good career?’ but if you love communication and the media, then it’s a great start to utilise your skills in these areas. There are decent development opportunities for a PR officer, but it is also a highly competitive field. There may not be a traditional career progression path in small companies or agencies.

Although it’s common for an assistant or junior roles to take on more responsibility, or clients, and eventually work as a PR manager. Titles may also be referred to as an account executive, junior press officer or junior account executive. Typically, PR officers are promoted after two to three years to PR management depending on personal experience, performance and success. If you are in a job and feel you want to progress, you should open up to the idea of moving company or location for more experience and opportunities.

Individuals may choose to obtain a broad range of experience in a consultancy before specialising or working freelance. Working on a self-employed basis is achievable, but you will need extensive knowledge and networks to kickstart your freelance career or a firm yourself. Most PR managers progress by moving to more prominent companies and taking on larger teams and more responsibility.

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