Preliminary data suggests 2021 was a record year of growth for the PR agency sector, with an average of 20-25% revenue increases across the board and some firms expanding by as much as 40-80%. The need for companies to consistently maintain a competitive edge spells opportunity and considerable job security for those pursuing a career in public relations, making it an optimal time to join the field.
I didn’t know any of this when I was considering a new job. Fresh out of graduate school, I had decided I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. The decision was difficult to come to, and, even as I was leaving, I knew I wanted to continue to do work that mattered. By the time I applied for a job in public relations, I hadn’t given much thought to whether it would be a good fit for me, my skill set, or the type of employee I was. I got lucky.
You don’t have to leave it up to chance. Whether you’ve been working in a separate industry for decades, are feeling unfulfilled in your current position or are inspired by the latest Great Resignation figures and the mass movement of professionals from career to career, a job in PR might be exactly what you’re looking for.
What is Public Relations?
According to the Public Relations Society of America, public relations is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” By implementing PR solutions for paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) media channels, PR professionals produce high quality results that reach the right audiences and are supportive of overall business objectives. PR professionals working within an agency will typically work across multiple “accounts,” meaning they will handle responsibilities for multiple companies at once.
For those companies, a PR professional may work on a variety of tasks ranging from tactical to strategic, including:
- Write and distribute press releases
- Produce high-level media and communications strategy
- Write pitches (less formal than press releases), develop media lists and distribute those pitches to relevant media contacts
- Develop product and company messaging sets
- Collaborate with designers and marketers on multimedia content projects
- Conduct competitive research and media landscape analysis
- Write short and long form blogs
- Engage in big-picture content planning
- Develop and perform crisis public relations strategies
- Draft and publish social media posts or advise social media promotions
If you enjoy consuming media, are a great communicator, and understand the value of relationships, then you might very well excel in PR. Working in public relations means contributing to a fast-paced, high-energy professional environment in which no day is ever quite the same. Between solving problems, producing ideas, generating content and making connections, the range of work to be done in PR is more than enough to consistently excite and keep you on your toes.
PR is a unique industry in the sense that it allows for employees to tailor their learning and the application of their skills to a vast range of topics – PR firms of all sizes may focus specifically on anything from tech to healthcare or the arts. More often, those firms will have in-house subdivisions representing multiple areas of focus, i.e. a team for tech, a team for healthcare and so on. Through a career in PR, you may very well become a specialist in a wider array of sectors and industries than you otherwise thought possible.
Consider Your Skill Set
Not every PR agency adheres to the “degree in communications” rule, but having a relevant undergraduate and/or graduate degree can certainly help. Past experience in a field tangential to media or where communications skills were paramount may also give you an advantage heading into your interview. That said, if a job in PR is on the table, the following assets will serve you particularly well and might even be more important to your interviewer than your credentials:
- Creativity. A large part of public relations is the ability to think strategically. PR professionals must be able to take in and process a range of information about current news cycles in order to think inventively about how best to sell their clients’ stories to the media. This not only involves thinking creatively, but also involves the strategic use of language to relay clients’ information in ways people want to listen to.
- Being a team player. Your individual roles and responsibilities in PR will be integral in making sure your team functions effectively, and you will be in near-constant contact with those team members in order to make it happen. Be ready for a lot of collective brainstorming, too – if you’re not shy about sharing and building off the ideas of others, your input will be much appreciated in PR, even in entry-level positions.
- Making connections. People who appreciate the ability, the value, and the enjoyment of creating long-term relationships will find it simpler and more fulfilling to do so with a variety of different groups including media, others in the PR industry, clients and colleagues. Real networking – beyond just the surface level – is a communications must-do.
- Handling rejection well. You’ll get told “no” a lot in PR. If you’re pitching a story idea to the media, be prepared to hear crickets and reframe accordingly. When developing content for a client, be ready to apply substantial edits (especially as you’re getting to know their tastes, messaging and language preferences). Those who are not easily discouraged and quick to integrate constructive criticism will thrive in the troubleshooting and review processes of PR.
Does this sound anything like you? If so, we’re hiring.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based PR agency with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.