Monday, May 7, 2007

A Career In Public Relations

As the world grows more and more media saturated, the need for organizations to have a Public relations specialist continues to grow. A public relations specialist serves as advocates for the business and organization, such as universities and hospitals. It's their job to deal with media relations, and public perceptions of their organization. They organize material to be composed into press releases, and in smaller organizations, handle media inquiries.

A public relations specialist is more than a talking head; they're there to strategically plan how communications interact with their organization, and are critical for the proper, planned deployment of information to the benefit of their organization. Increasingly, their expertise is used by managers before moves and media interactions made. To do their job properly, public relations specialists have to do research, not only on their own organizations objectives, but also on how public groups are reacting to key issues of interest. Perception and reality both have to be weighed carefully in the mind of a public relations specialist.

Skills a public relations specialist has to have are research skills, public presentation and writing skills, plus "people skills". While there is no formal degree program in public relations, course classes in pre-law (for research), journalism (for writing) and marketing and business (for demographics and people management skills) are essential to someone working in the public relations field. Generally, the way to get the job is to apply for it, and learn how to do it as you learn; this is much the same way that most marketers learn how to market, and the two jobs are similar, but not identical.

Pay in the public relations field starts at $25,000 a year at a small firm, where your public relations hat will be worn in addition to your marketing hat, and maybe along with your advertising writer and web site designer hat. As your experience grows, and your resume improves, you'll be able to parley your experience, and your successfully managed public relations and marketing campaigns into higher paying positions. At mid-level companies, public relations is a managerial position, and is compensated accordingly, at $50,000 to $70,000 per year or more. The truly big money in public relations is tied to political campaigns, particularly at the Federal level in the United States. Public relations specialists at this level can expect to pull down high six-figure and low seven-figure salaries.

At this highest level of public relations work, you'd be expected to coordinate data from polls, formulate polling questions, test run responses to issues raised to find the one with the greatest resonance with the widest audience segment likely to vote for your candidate at all. You'll be on the lookout for news about your candidate that the other side could and will use against your campaign, and the entire job can be likened to simmering in stress hormones for the better part of a year. That being said, if you've got a journalism or marketing degree, the run up to the primary season next year is a beautiful opportunity to get lots of exposure as a public relations specialist, and work your chops in. Some public relations specialists parley their campaign experience into government appointments. Ron Brown, the FEMA manager who was pilloried for his handling of Hurricane Katrina, got his job because of his role as one of the state public relations coordinators for the Bush campaign.

Nearly every organization (corporate, philanthropic and otherwise) has a public relations person working for them. Look for the person everyone turns to for answers about that organization, particularly when someone asks questions. The public relations person is the one who knows the answers to questions asked, the one other people in the organization comes to. It appeals to a certain mind set, the person who wants to know everything and be The Answer Guy. If this is your basic personality type, and you have the requisite research skills and ability to deal with the public, this may be the ideal career for you!

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