Career and Job Search Guide

Public Relations Specialist

A company's public image can affect its profits and reputation. Public relations specialists, commonly known as communications specialists, work to bolster the image of companies and organizations. Many business owners and managers consult with public relations specialists to develop their strategic direction. Public relations specialists can have expertise in the following areas: media, government, community, staff, and customer relations. These experts not only represent the organization that employs them, but they also must have an understanding of the different concerns various groups could have with the organization's operations.

Public relations specialists prepare statements for the media as well as respond to media questions. Since so many organizations employ public relations specialists, the press releases of these specialists are often quoted in media reports. Usually these press releases concern an organization's policies or a subject it wants to emphasize, such as its commitment to social policies or the environment.

Public relations specialists are also responsible to act as liaisons between companies and outside parties. Many times, these specialists coordinate speeches or seminars to be presented by an organization's management. Public relations specialists will sometimes be asked to represent the company at a convention or meeting. They also have the duty to write yearly reports and prepare proposals for different organizational operations.

Public relations specialists working for government agencies, better known as press secretaries, act as spokespeople for the agency employing them. A press secretary working for the State Department would be responsible to update the media on U.S. foreign policies and warn the public if they should not travel to certain countries because of political upheaval. Those working for Congressional representatives are responsible to issue press releases regarding the congressperson's activities.

Executives working as public relations specialists, usually at bigger companies, usually work as vice presidents. Since they are high level executives, they are often responsible for developing their company's policies. These larger companies usually have their own public relations divisions employing numerous public relations specialists.

Public relations specialists employed by smaller companies usually are responsible for all their firms' public relations duties. For example, they are responsible to speak with the press, prepare written reports to distribute, and conduct research for their firms. Some public relations specialists have sales and marketing responsibilities.

Work environment. Public relations employees usually work in hectic environments. Since they often must meet deadlines, they sometimes work under stress. Those working in public relations usually work between 35-40 hours a week; however, many work extra hours during the week and do not receive compensation for overtime, and some work very erratic schedules. Many must be available to deal with a situation 24 hours a day. Since public relations specialists attend a lot of seminars and conventions as well as meet deadlines, their schedules often change.