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Public Relations Officer

Public Relations Officer

Tell me about it
Public relations officers are concerned with an organisation's reputation. Their task is to build long-lasting relationships by establishing and maintaining mutual understanding and goodwill between an organisation and the public.

The work involves providing the outside world with information about the organisation or its products through newspapers, magazines, promotional literature, radio, TV and websites.

Some public relations officers work in the public relations (PR) department of a large organisation, while others work for a consultancy, serving the needs of a number of different clients. In either case, the work is likely to include liaising with the media, organising and arranging news conferences, press launches, exhibitions and trade fairs, writing and producing leaflets, brochures, press releases, company newsletters and websites, setting up photographic sessions, and speaking at presentations, news conferences and in radio or TV interviews.

Entry level
Most people applying to work as public relations officers are graduates, although entry into this career is so competitive that it is beneficial to have both a postgraduate diploma and previous experience. Relevant experience can be gained through placements on some first degree and postgraduate courses, or by doing voluntary work or holiday jobs. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) can provide a list of approved first degrees in PR, together with appropriate masters degrees and postgraduate diploma courses.

Making the grade
Training is performed mainly on the job, but varies according to the size and type of employer. Some of the larger consultancies and companies have graduate training schemes.

You can study part-time, full-time or by distance learning for the Communication, Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation Advanced Certificate and Higher Diploma in Public Relations. You can also become a member of the CIPR and study for the CIPR Diploma.

Career progression for an in-house public relations officer could involve promotion to public relations manager, public relations director and head of corporate affairs.
Similarly, in a consultancy, you could progress from junior account executive to account executive, then to senior account executive/account manager, and could reach the position of associate or account director.

You may have to move from one organisation to another to gain promotion, and some public relations people move into related areas such as advertising, writing or marketing.

Personal qualities
As a public relations officer, you would need excellent people skills. You must be able to write clearly and concisely, to communicate effectively at all levels, and to work well under pressure, with tight deadlines.

You should be able to understand and interpret information, to adapt to situations as they arise, and to organise and manage other people.

Looking ahead
After a very tough period in 2008 and 2009, the international PR consultancy sector started to grow again in 2011. This is according to the latest World Report from the International Communications Consultancy Organisation. Digital and social media services look set to play an increasingly important role.

The world’s two largest markets for PR – the US and the UK – both rebounded from a decline in fee income in 2009 to a sizeable recovery in 2010: US consultancies posted an average 11% increase in overall fee revenue, while the UK saw a 13% increase.

The issue of attracting talent, and then retaining it, is one of the biggest concerns for PR consultancies this year, since growing the business depends upon achieving the right mix of skills and experience and having the ability to form lasting relationships with clients. There is, however, deep concern about jobs within the public sector.

Alternative suggestions
Other possibilities might include advertising executive, civil servant, events manager, journalist, marketing executive or market researcher.

Take-home pay
There are very wide variations in salary depending on the setting and according to region. Generally, pay is higher in the private sector. Apart from the public sector, there are no set salary scales and initial starting salaries are often modest. The CIPR reports that around a third of private sector, consultancy and freelance PR practitioners earn a salary in excess of £50,000. This contrasts with just 20% in public sector and not-for-profit organisations.

Working hours, nominally Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, typically include regular unsocial hours. Public Relations work can often mean being on-call at weekends and during public holidays in order to deal quickly with any media interest.

Sources of information
Communication, Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation:
Chartered Institute of Public Relations:

Public Relations Consultants Association:




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