When it comes to companies and corporations, everyone has an opinion – customers, shareholders, the media, the government and the general public. There are dozens of viewpoints, and almost as many types of PR. Each type has a purpose, and each one suits a different type of professional. Here are some examples to get you started, as well as an overview of the skills you need to thrive in public relations and facts you might not know.
What is public relations?
People who work in PR are responsible for building good relationships between their clients, their clients' audience and the wider public. You'll often see PR agencies used to build, maintain and repair reputations or the image of a brand.
Typical roles in public relations
Media relations is all about dealing with the media – writing press releases, scheduling interviews and giving press conferences. The goal is to generate positive coverage of your company or your product. Basically, you want the media to do your advertising for free.
The key to media relations is generating a ‘hook’ to draw in audiences. You need to have an eye for a compelling story that the media will want to cover. You also need to have the skills to get the story out there, which can vary depending on the role. Copywriters produce snappy, well-written press releases, while company spokespeople stand up and give speeches to the press. In smaller organisations, one person is responsible for everything.
Community engagement officers work to develop a company’s relationship with the local (and not-so-local) community.
Reasons for doing this include:
- getting local support for a project, such a building a new manufacturing plant
- ‘giving something back’, which improves the company’s ethical reputation
- getting people interested in your products or services
To be a community engagement officer you need to understand how people in the community think and act, and how best to engage with them – whether by running events, visiting schools or writing newsletters. You need to be organised, intuitive, enthusiastic and strategic.
Corporate and social responsibility
Related to community engagement, there is PR that improves the company’s reputation for ethics, environmental responsibility, and community and charity works. This area of PR can hugely affect an organisation’s business practices. A CSR PR officer might recommend the company to change its entire recycling policy or even its business direction.
To be a good CSR officer you need the ear of the company leaders – which takes networking skills, people skills, persuasion and the ability to endear yourself to your colleagues.
Public affairs, also known as lobbying, is all about getting the government on your side. Say you wanted a change in farming legislation so you could sell your product for more money. You’d need to make contact with a minister, convince them of your case, and provide them with information so they can talk confidently about your issue and fight your corner.
Public affairs professionals work to make contacts within government and other organisations. They’re personable, tenacious, and occasionally sneaky. Learn more about a career in Public Affairs.
Crisis management is the PR you need when disaster strikes: a faulty product has to be recalled, an oil tanker spills, an employee accuses the company of wrongdoing, or the CEO is arrested for public indecency. These things could ruin the company’s reputation and need to be dealt with quickly.
Crisis managers are quick thinkers who know how to spin an issue. They can manage teams and delegate tasks. They understand every media channel so they can tell which problems need a press conference and which can be solved with a single tweet.
Also known as internal PR, employee relations is the business of giving employees a positive view of the company they work for. The goal is to keep them satisfied, motivated and loyal.
Employee relations work might include:
- organising employee events
- creating internal newsletters and other communications
- helping line managers develop good relationships with their team
This is perhaps the most sensitive form of PR, as it’s based less on image and more on action. For example, in resolving disputes you can only offer as much as the higher-ups in the company will let you – and it’s very difficult to put a positive spin on the word ‘no’. Find out how you can make it into PR.
Skills you need
- Commercial awareness - signup to Bright Network's weekly commercial awareness update to stay in the loop
- Written ability
- Time management
- Interpersonal skills
- Good IT skills
Learn more about the Skills You Need for Marketing & PR.
Did you know...
- The first ever PR firm, The Publicity Bureau, was formed in the early 1900s in Boston.
- By the end of 2022 the PR industry is expected to surpass a worth value of 93 billion dollars.
- In 2019, the American PR and marketing firm, Edelman was ranked the number one agency in the top ten global PR agency rankings.
- The PR industry has evolved significantly with technology. Social media press releases didn't even exist until the early 2000s.
How do I know if PR is the career for me?
Working in PR can be highly rewarding and exciting, but it can also be fast-paced and intense work that often doesn't sit under a typical 9-5. We've noted some key things that might help you decided whether a career in PR is for you...
- You always have your phone handy - as we mentioned, working in PR isn't a 9-5 job. The industry is working 24/7 so you would need to be comfortable with logging on outside of your fixed hours.
- You enjoy working to deadlines - if you're working in-house or for an agency with clients, you'll always be working to meet a deadline. This also means you need to be extremely efficient with your time management!
- You enjoy talking to people - to work in PR you need great interpersonal skills, so if you like meeting new people and building or maintaining relationships with clients, then a PR career might be for you.
- You have great attention to detail - it's likely you'll be working towards a brief, goals or objectives. It's important you understand every detail so that you can produce the best work for that client.
Ready to take the next step towards a career in PR? Browse our available graduate opportunities in the field and get started today.