Public relations specialists are a valuable asset to any business. They help create public awareness and positively influence public opinion for their company, product, or service. It all sounds amazing, but where’s the catch? What does it take to be a flawless public relations specialist? 

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Are you interested in becoming one yourself? Here’s what you need to know about the job description and how to qualify as a public relations specialist.

What is a public relations specialist and what do they do?

Long story short: public relations specialists are responsible for managing the public image of their company, product, or service. They work to create positive public opinion by developing and executing communication strategies that promote their organization. This can include anything from writing press releases and pitching stories to the media, to organizing events and building relationships with key stakeholders.

How to become a public relations specialist

Public relations is an exciting career that combines business acumen with creativity and public speaking. If you’re ready to enter the workforce, now is a great time to start preparing for your public relations career. You should follow these 10 steps to becoming a public relations professional:

#1 Attend a public relations program at your local college or university

Public relations specialist is a popular career choice, so there are many programs available to choose from. Make sure you do your research. Find one that offers a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of public relations. Remember that such a program can provide you with some of the skills and experience necessary to break into this field. It can also help determine if public relations is right for you.

Good PRactice: Consider studying marketing or journalism, as these disciplines will give you a strong foundation for a public relations career.
#2 Learn the basics of public relations online

Maybe you can’t find a public relations program in your area, or you’re not ready to commit to a full-time education yet. Don’t worry, as there are plenty of online courses that can teach you the basics of public relations. This is a great way to gain some foundational knowledge and decide if public relations is the right career for you.

Good PRactice: Try searching for courses offered by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Furthermore, there are many free online courses you may want to consider – even YouTube videos may be helpful.
#3 Get experience in the field by interning for an organization that has a PR department

Get your foot in the door with volunteer work in public relations. Look for opportunities at non-profit organizations, public figures (such as politicians or celebrities), and companies in your industry. Furthermore, even in this stage, you can also look for internships with public relations agencies. This will give you a chance to learn from experienced professionals and develop your skills.

Good PRactice: Use keywords such as “public relations internships” or “volunteer public relations.” + your location to narrow the results and quickly find some interesting offers. 
#4 Make contacts within the industry and network with other professionals to find out what you want to learn about PR

Now that you have some public relations training and experience, it’s time to start networking. Join relevant professional organizations working in the field of PR, or take part in various industry events. That way, you make connections with people who can help you learn more about PR and potentially offer job leads in the future.

For example, you can attend local chapter meetings of professional organizations related to public relations. You can also attend public speaking events in your area where professionals from various industries will be present. If this is not possible, simply join an online group or forum where PR professionals share their knowledge and experience.

Good PRactice: To improve your public speaking, try joining a Toastmasters or similar club to practice giving formal speeches in front of an audience.
#5 Build up your portfolio: write articles, create videos, etc., and be sure to include any relevant experience

As you continue to network and build relationships in the public relations industry, start accumulating a portfolio of work. This can include writing articles, creating videos or blogs, conducting interviews with public figures, or any other creative content that showcases your skills and experience in public relations. Make sure to list any relevant experience you may have as well.

By doing this, you’ll be able to demonstrate your knowledge and experience in public relations. This will help potential employers take notice of what makes you a great candidate for the job.

Good PRactice: Keep track of all public relations projects you work on at each stage of your career so that later on they can serve as examples when applying or interviewing for public relations jobs.
#6 Learn how to write press releases and pitch stories so that you can get publicity for clients 

It is important to realize that public relations specialists need excellent writing and communication skills. You’ll write press releases, pitch stories to the media, and more. You must be able to understand what makes a good story, as well as how to target the right media outlets for maximum exposure.

Good PRactice: Make sure to study up how to write a good press release and pitch a story. Here’s a brilliant guide from Backlinko. 
#7 Do some informational interviews to get advice from professionals in the field 

Informational interviews are a great way for public relations specialists to learn how public relations professionals in their field operate and what they do on a daily basis. This is also an opportunity to find out more about the public relations industry. That can help you determine if it’s really right for you.

You can either ask people who work at different public relations agencies or public figures who work in public relations for informational interviews. Just remember to do your research and select individuals whose careers you would like to emulate. That way, you can learn more about the field. You can also get their advice on how to break into public relations.

Good PRactice: When you’re trying to set up an interview, make sure to send a personalized email to the expert you’re trying to reach. This will increase your chances of getting a positive reply!
#8 Determine what type of public relations you want to specialize in (corporate, nonprofit, political)

A public relations specialist must be willing to work within different industries, so being flexible is key. You’ll have to determine what type of public relations you want to specialize in, whether it’s corporate communications or public affairs for a political campaign.

This will give you more job opportunities since each industry has its own unique challenges and requires specific public relations expertise. For example, public affairs is more of a public-facing role that requires public speaking and media skills to be successful. On the other hand, corporate communications may require an in-depth knowledge of the company’s culture along with its industry experience.

Good PRactice: Keep track of all public relations jobs you apply for so that you can learn what areas of public relations you excel at and would like to focus on.
#9 Create a template for resume and cover letter

Once you have some experience and training under your belt, it’s time to start looking for a job. Make sure your resume and cover letter are up to par, as public relations is a competitive field. Make sure your CV highlights your skills and experience in public relations, as well as any other relevant training or education you may have.

Good PRactice: The more creative you are, the better. You may consider sending a short video clip and a link to your LinkedIn profile for a more successful application. 
#10 Apply for a full-time role in a PR agency or go freelance

Public relations positions are usually available both within public relations agencies and for public figures.

If you’re interested in working at a public relations agency, applying directly will be the best option since public relations specialists can have more opportunities to move up through the ranks of an agency. If it’s public figures you want to work with instead, then going freelance may be a better fit. Public relations professionals tend to have more control over their own work and schedule.

Good PRactice: When applying for a public relations job, make sure to customize your resume and cover letter to match the requirements of the position.

Skills needed for the public relations specialist job

Communication skills

PR specialists are likely to get in touch with hundreds of people, so their communication skills should be nothing but strong.

In public relations, you have to be able to put your client’s needs first while still being tactful with the public. In order to promote a product or organization successfully, public relations specialists must also know how and when to get their message across without it coming off as aggressive or patronizing.

Media monitoring knowledge

If you want to be a public relations specialist, it’s essential that you have some knowledge of media monitoring and are familiar with social listening tools. This will allow you to pitch your clients’ stories to the right journalist at the right time, but also react accordingly in case a social media crisis occurs. So how do public relations specialists monitor what journalists are writing about, and what PR chances are there not to be missed?

First up is Google News, which tracks news content from thousands of respected news sources worldwide. You can use keywords or topic filters to find the right stories, and then save them as alerts so you can keep track of any changes.

Another great resource for media monitoring is Mediatoolkit – an award-winning media monitoring & social listening tool trusted by 45,000+ users worldwide. Among many features, Mediatoolkit tracks mentions of your or your client’s brand or product across the online world, giving you a chance to always be in the know about your brand’s public perception. 

Social media monitoring tools like these are essential for public relations specialists, as they need to be up to date when it comes to their promoted brands or services. Media monitoring is an invaluable skill for PR professionals.

Organization

Public relations specialists are responsible for planning, implementing, and managing public relations campaigns – so they have to be organized. They need to be able to keep track of their work, as well as the work of their team, in order to ensure that everything is on schedule and running smoothly.

Strategic thinking

Public relations specialists work with clients to create a strategy that will help them achieve their goals. This requires public relations professionals to think in a strategic way about how they can use public relations to meet their client’s KPIs.

Media relations expertise

Public relations specialists are often responsible for pitching stories to the media and getting coverage for their clients. They need to have a good understanding of how the media works, as well as what journalists are looking for when they’re pitched a story.

Public relations specialists must have excellent media relations skills in order to pitch stories and build relationships with reporters. They also need to be able to respond quickly to any inquiries that come in.

Writing and speaking

Probably the most important skill needed is strong writing skills. Public relations specialists create a variety of documents, such as media releases, fact sheets, and website content. They must be able to write clearly and concisely so that their message is easily understood by their target audience. Additionally, public relations specialists must also have excellent public speaking skills so that they can give presentations and speak with the media.

Detail-oriented approach

Public relations specialists need to have a detail-oriented approach as they are responsible for ensuring that all aspects of their campaigns are accurate. This includes checking facts and figures and making sure that all the details in their pitch materials are correct.

Social media knowledge

A good understanding of social media is also necessary because it’s now an integral part of any PR campaign. Public relations specialists need to be able to use social media to help spread the word about their campaigns, as well as engage with their target audience.

Thinking outside the box

Public relations specialists often need to come up with creative ideas in order to get their clients the coverage they want. They must be able to think outside the box and come up with unique ideas that will help them stand out from the competition.

Education requirements for the job

Can you be a PR specialist without a PR degree? You don’t need a PR degree to be a PR specialist, but it may help

There are many ways to get started in public relations. You can study communications, journalism, marketing, or business. Or you can take courses in advertising, copywriting, event management, and social media. Most PR agencies will prefer to hire people with some formal training in PR. If you have strong writing skills and experience in marketing or social media, you may be able to land a job with a smaller agency. It’s also possible to start your own freelance PR business. It’s more about communication skills than a degree.

Public relations specialists salary expectations

How much does a public relations specialist make? The 2020 median salary for Public Relations Specialists was $62,810 according to USNews. That year, the top 25 percent of earners made $85,380, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $46,630. 

This means that public relations specialists can make a good salary, depending on their experience and skills.

Additionally, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2020 to 2030, the employment of public relations specialists is predicted to increase by 11 percent, faster than the average for all occupations.

Is it the start of a bright career for you? The choice is yours! 

Over to you

Public relations is an exciting, fast-paced field where you can make a real impact.

Just like we mentioned before, Mediatoolkit is your go-to helper in making that impact. Check it out for free and always be in the know about all the online mentions of your brand. By following this and other tips above, you’ll be on your way to becoming a public relations specialist yourself. Good luck!

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