By Luke Smith
Our ultra-connected digital landscape has connected our world in some incredible ways. It also means clear communication is especially important. For public figures, brands, or public services, clarity can drive positive engagement. On the other hand, the smallest misstep in messaging can spread around the globe in an instant. This means skilled public relations specialists are an increasingly valuable commodity.
The demand for PR specialists can also make the field an attractive career choice. Not to mention that it is a varied field with options to engage with a variety of industries and clients. If you’re entering the workplace or still in college and reviewing your options, this can be a great area to explore.
Understand the Responsibilities
Before you set about laying the groundwork for a career in PR you need to establish whether it’s right for you. Being successful in the sector requires a significant amount of time, commitment, and skill-building. It’s worth spending a little time reviewing the duties and requirements of a PR position. This allows you to make a more informed decision about whether it’s a good fit for your needs and whether you in turn are suited to it.
At its core, the role of a PR specialist revolves around managing communications between an organization and the general public. This means you’ll be expected to take responsibility for cultivating relationships with the media and leveraging them during campaigns. You’ll also strategize how communications can be used to best manage the client’s reputation.
The day-to-day actions you’ll be performing will be a combination of the creative and the administrative. You’ll be writing speeches and press releases, monitoring social media activity, and occasionally designing crisis communication plans when something goes wrong. It’s a multifaceted career and your skillset has to be just as agile.
There are certainly job-specific skills you can learn through a formal education. Whether at university or during on-the-job training you’re likely to cover press release composition and brand campaign creation. But it’s also important that you pursue opportunities to help you build relevant soft skills. An effective PR specialist has to be able to demonstrate leadership during campaigns, tight organization, and outside-of-the-box thinking.
Review the Market
One of the reassuring aspects of pursuing a career as a PR specialist is the great outlook for positions now and in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 7% growth rate between 2019 and 2029, which the agency considers to be faster than average. That said, not all PR specialist jobs are alike — the landscape is evolving and there are various fields, client bases, and business models. It’s important to take the time to consider what part of the market you’re aiming for and identify the prospects.
Some elements to look at can include:
● Industries of Interest
While PR is an industry in and of itself, you’ll also have opportunities to operate within other sectors. It’s important for your long-term job satisfaction and your ability to make an impact to look into areas you’re committed to or that spark your interest. This could include sustainability, entertainment, and nonprofits, among others. Review what the outlook and standards are for PR specialists in those fields. This can help you make sure you’re identifying sectors with good opportunities while also directing you to build a more relevant skillset.
● Future Needs
The statistics on job outlook give us a general sense that growth is likely to continue. However, this doesn’t give you a lot of information about what the future requirements of a PR specialist are likely to be and how you can be a competitive candidate for jobs. Reach out to current professionals and talk to them about where the future challenges lie in the industry and what is needed to address them. There may be new technology coming down the line or emerging priorities. Start to understand the market gaps that, with some additional effort and focused development, you will be able to fill.
PR is a competitive industry and there is no shortage of candidates vying for a career as a specialist. To progress through the ranks, build a reputation, and — if you’re running your own agency — gain clients, you must be able to promote your achievements. This begins as soon as you enter the field and will be a feature throughout your career. After all, if you can’t be successful with your personal messaging how can you be expected to handle anyone else’s?
Particularly in your early years, your resume is vital in this regard. It is the document you’ll be sending to agencies and your achievements tend to be the element that grabs recruiters’ attention. Don’t treat your achievements in the same way you’d list your skills or work history. Rather, you need to demonstrate a quantifiable impact you had on a project that is relevant to the PR role you’re applying for. Identify which of your achievements will be of most direct interest to the recruiter and write about them in a way showing how your presence on the project had a direct impact on its success.
Beyond your resume, you have to develop a professional online presence. Start using the tools of our digital landscape to promote your expertise as a PR specialist. This can include social media accounts discussing your campaigns. It might be a blog where you give insights into the industry at different stages of your career. Just start talking to the world about your specialized subject; cover the challenges and celebrate your achievements.
Becoming a public relations specialist can start you on a journey toward an enriching career. To take the most positive first steps, it helps to gain a deeper understanding of the role and to examine what the market’s opportunities and needs are. By practicing the art of self-promotion you can plot a path that takes you to some interesting places.