Public relations specialists are responsible for establishing and maintaining a favorable public image on behalf of the organization they represent. These individuals are gifted communicators who can convey information accurately and effectively, as well as perceive social trends and public sentiment and respond accordingly. Designed to bridge the gap between consumers and institutions and to instill confidence in the goods and services provided by the latter, public relations specialists are tasked with upholding the positive image of a product, individual, project, or entire organization by shaping the client’s communications in such a way that the message is received favorably by the public. Individuals completing a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies degree program may be qualified for employment within the challenging and highly creative realm of public relations, making it beneficial for these individuals to understand the skills and duties required of a public relations specialist.
Education & Experience
While there are numerous bachelor’s degree programs available that focus solely on public relations, a degree in interdisciplinary studies can prepare individuals for the rigors of a career in public relations by bolstering their ability to learn and adapt on the job whilst simultaneously providing a sound foundation of critical thinking, research methods and interpersonal skills. Given the competitiveness of entry-level positions in the field, candidates may wish to take advantage of internships and professional certifications in order to gain a competitive edge over other applicants, or may choose to work directly for a public relations firm that offers on-the-job training to new employees. While learning the ropes, ambitious candidates should seize every opportunity to display an aptitude for professional initiative, good judgment and creative problem solving.
Employment for public relations specialists is expected to grow by roughly six percent from 2016 to 2024, on par with the national average for all professions. The need for organizations to cultivate and maintain their public image is evergreen and will continue to drive employment growth in public relations, though candidates can still anticipate competition for jobs at advertising firms and/or high profile organizations that receive a great deal of media exposure. The median annual income for public relations specialists was $58,020 in 2016, though public relations specialists with five to ten years of experience reportedly made as much as $158,100 in 2016.
Public relations specialists are responsible for directing publicity campaigns on behalf of the organization they represent, raising awareness of their clients’ positive contributions and establishing trust between the public and the client. As such, public relations specialists must possess sharp verbal and written communication skills, as well as a high threshold for stress, integrity of character and the ability to think on his or her feet. Typically, a public relations specialist’s responsibilities include:
- Writing press releases and preparing communications for the media.
- Drafting comprehensive strategies for cultivating positive perception of clients’ goals and activities.
- Helping clients effectively convey information to the public.
- Drafting speeches and arranging interviews.
- Monitoring public opinion of clients via social media platforms.
- Responding to information requests from the media.
- Evaluating advertising and promotional material to ensure they are consistent with the organization’s values.
- Managing company sponsorships.
- Formulating policies and procedures for communications both within the client organization, and between the company and the public.
Public relations specialists are primarily concerned with actively campaigning on behalf of their clients, showcasing the positive traits and obvious strengths of the organization or individual. For example, a public relations specialist might coordinate with media outlets to publicize a client’s charity fundraiser and thereby create favorable buzz surrounding the organization. However, public relations specialists must be ready to strategically handle negative press or feedback. It is crucial that PR specialists use their resources and communications acumen to restore public faith in an organization following a corporate scandal or misstep.
In order to thrive in the demanding profession of public relations management, candidates must demonstrate proficiency in the following disciplines:
- Communication – As an organization’s primary source for disseminating information to the public, public relations specialists must possess unparalleled written and verbal communication skills. PR specialists are expected to write clear, concise speeches and press releases that convey information in a succinct manner. Strong oratorical skills and the ability to listen attentively are also key in bridging the gap between an organization and the public, as the public relations specialist is responsible for maintaining a friendly and approachable demeanor that reflects positively upon their organization.
- Persuasion & Social Perceptiveness – Public relations specialists are expected to influence the public’s perception of a brand, individual or organization. In order to do so, they must have the capacity to argue effectively while placing the proper spin on content to help sway opinion. It is similarly helpful for public relations specialists to monitor people’s reactions—be it word of mouth or social media reviews—and be able to understand the root cause of these feelings.
- Judgment and Decision Making – Public relations specialists must exercise sound judgment when weighing all possible outcomes of a PR initiative and have the ability to execute decisions that entail the fewest costs and greatest benefits to the company. In order to accomplish this, PR specialists must adhere to a strict code of ethics designed to protect clients’ interests while maintaining full transparency with the public; when and if these two interests contradict one another, the public relations specialist must always err on the side of honesty.
- Active Learning & Problem Solving – There is no “one size fits all” solution in PR, and public relations specialists are constantly adapting their methodology to best suit the situation at hand. Public relations specialists understand the implications of new and unique information and are able to apply this knowledge to solving current and future problems.
Traditional Industries for Public Relations Specialists
- The Military – Public relations specialists working for the military typically operate under the purview of the Department of Defense, Public Affairs office. These specialists are tasked with producing news releases, radio programs, and television broadcasts designed to disseminate important information to the public and often play a crucial role in keeping citizens abreast of contingency and deployed operations.
- Advocacy Groups – Also known as special interest groups or “lobbies,” advocacy groups are powerful fixtures of politics and public policy. While individual lobbyists and/or advocates push for the organization’s agenda with political maneuvering behind closed doors, public relations specialists are responsible for orchestrating media campaigns, polls and policy briefings in order to convince the public that the organization’s goals and undertakings are worthwhile and beneficial.
- Corporate Entities – When representing a corporation, the public relations specialist usually functions as a brand representative. These individuals are tasked with building enthusiasm for a brand, product or service by providing detailed information to the public, as well as publicizing sponsorships, charitable initiatives, or partnerships. Alternatively, public relations specialists working for corporations are often responsible for helping allay public concerns about the organization, such as internal crisis from leadership and personnel changes, or financial missteps.
Public relations specialists are essential to the success of the organizations for which they work. While manufacturers, brands, organizations and individuals provide goods and services—and in some cases, greatly impact public policy and everyday life—it takes a capable public relations professional to earn and maintain the public’s trust. Public relations is an attractive field for individuals who enjoy straightforward, project-based work that pays well and presents a wide array of challenges. The education provided by a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program can help individuals foster the communication skills, organizational habits, and capacity for critical thinking and complex problem solving necessary to become public relations officers who are able to establish positive and mutually beneficial relations between organizations and individuals.
As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.
Norwich University’s online Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program is a comprehensive, engaging educational experience that helps produce graduates who are prepared for demanding careers across a variety of disciplines. Our rigorous curriculum provides you with an all-inclusive study of essential learning skills, as well as an interdisciplinary approach to the gathering and analysis of information.