Career Aspirations in PR

Team of business people stacking hands. Image Credit: PxHere

If you’re interested in a corporate setting, but fear a dull or repetitive career, or hoping to find a lucrative field that allows for creative and collaborative pursuits, there may be an appealing opportunity for work that you haven’t yet considered.

“If you’re cool under pressure, a team player, a problem-solver and a strong speaker and writer, check out a career in PR. As a public relations major, you’ll learn to build and maintain good relationships, public understanding and reputation for various types of organizations. The public relations professional applies an integrated and creative approach to promote products and services by mastering PR strategies, tactics, emerging technologies and social media.”

That description comes from Marquette University, who offer a major many colleges lack: Public Relations. Being at the helm of shaping how the world sees a brand, a cause, or even a person is the key of Public Relations, or PR. It’s a strategic, ongoing communication process that builds relationships between organizations and their audiences. It’s the fine art of managing reputation, crafting compelling stories, and navigating the complex waters of public opinion.

As someone who has myself always enjoyed the art of storytelling and considered by strengths to revolve around softer skills centered on people, what draws me into this exciting world is the challenge of communicating effectively in an ever-changing digital landscape, where a well-crafted persona is worth millions and a viral campaign can change minds and hearts.

Potential roles in the field

Having had my own sights set on the general realm of PR in a business setting after seeing my aunt’s success with it as a fellow Marketing/Communications student who has built an impressive career in the corporate world using her human-focused skills, I’m already somewhat familiar with the selection of career paths it offers. In PR, you can find yourself working in various settings: from agencies orchestrating multifaceted campaigns for diverse clients to in-house positions where you become the brand ambassador for a specific organization. My own research and her individual experiences in the field have each contributed towards my knowledge of these opportunities as well as how impactful they can be on any industry.

  • The most common PR position title as I’ve come to understand it would be that of a standard, non-specific Public Relations Specialist. Specialists act as the liaisons between an organization and the public, crafting press releases, organizing events, and managing social media presence.
  • If you have a natural ability for crisis management and quick thinking, skills which are difficult to quantify but invaluable to many employers, Crisis Communication Manager can also serve as a well-paid and fulfilling line of work. Crisis managers are problem solvers and mediators through and through, devising strategies to handle unexpected issues in order to protect an organization’s reputation.
  • For those who enjoy storytelling and relationship-building like myself, becoming a Media Relations Specialist could be ideal. Media specialists cultivate relationships with journalists, pitch stories to the media, and coordinate interviews, ensuring their clients or organizations receive positive coverage. Additionally, Social Media Managers navigate the ever-evolving landscape of social platforms, crafting engaging content and fostering online communities. As someone with a personal interest in journalism and with a strong belief about how the nature of stories affects both individual and collective perspectives on a person or group, I find this to be the most intriguing option, and one I hope to learn more about as I prepare to pursue new internships and eventually graduate.

Qualifiers to work in PR

What makes someone excel in PR varies from position to position, but there are several core traits that any representative absolutely needs. Adaptability, for example, is key. Being a successful PR professional means having a finger on the pulse of current events, pop culture, and digital trends, something I myself am aiming to improve at to become a better fit for the position. Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, are essential, as is the ability to think critically and strategically. A blend of creativity and analytical thinking will help you craft compelling narratives backed by data, a skill that means one’s speech or writing needs to be well-rounded and dynamic all the same.

Challenges and demands of the industry

As one sets their eyes on the opportunities and rewards found in the PR sector, it’s crucial to conduct one’s self and one’s work ethically and responsibly. Ethics in public relations is not just something to put on a resume; it’s about having a moral compass every single day with the knowledge that this is the sort of work which, due to its nature as outreach and communications, will affect many and possibly even millions of people. In the age of digital misinformation, ethical considerations have become of utmost importance.

Per Open Edition Journals, “In 1980, Edward L. Bernays, who was probably the first public relations theorist, told public relations educators meeting at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication that, ‘Public relations is the practice of social responsibility. It holds the key to America’s future.’ ” Questions about transparency, authenticity, and the responsible use of data are central to the practice, and have come under far more public scrutiny in recent years. PR, as it does exist adjacent to marketing, finds itself with similar criticisms and concerns as its counterpart.

One current debate centers around the ethical implications of influencer marketing. As influencers become powerful voices for brands, questions arise about disclosure, authenticity, and the potential impact on impressionable audiences. Beyond influencers, the existence of social media itself as a fairly new, consistently evolving, and still somewhat unregulated market comes with ethical challenges applicable to PR work. From the Public Relations Society of America, “Huyse noted a study in the journal Science that found humans are more likely to spread false information than the truth on digital channels. Social media managers, as well as employees on every level of an organization, should be trained in how to fact-check information and know their responsibilities to adhere to their employer’s social media policy.” Additionally, the ethical use of data in targeting specific demographics and the responsible handling of user information are hot topics, especially concerning privacy regulations like GDPR. You can find out more about why these concerns are especially relevant here.

To stay informed and engaged with the ongoing discussions surrounding PR ethics, I was able to find PR blogs such as PRsay by PRSA and The Holmes Report, which provide insightful analysis of industry trends and ethical considerations, and podcasts like “Ethical Voices” and “For Immediate Release“. These are excellent resources for in-depth discussions on ethical dilemmas faced by PR professionals, and I recommend them to those interested.

To anyone else currently beginning their journey in the world of Communications Studies, especially those looking to bridge that line of work with general business and marketing, Public Relations offers an exciting landscape filled with challenges, more creativity than the typical position in the office, and the important role of responsibly and ethically shaping the narratives currently being shared in our society today.

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