Public relations is the process used by businesses or organizations to present the most favorable image for them to the public. It is the responsibility for public relations professionals to provide carefully crafted information to the target audience about the individual, its goals and accomplishments, and any thing else that may be of public interest. The public relations professional also helps integrate its client?s image in its business strategies and daily actions. Public relations is practiced by a department in a company, an organization, or as a public relations professional firm. It serves to shape the best market perception. It helps sell a product, service or an idea.
A young reporter named Ivy Ledbetter Lee was the first public relations counsel. He was a public relations representative for a large coal mine operator just before World War II. He convinced the miners to give feedback to reporters to enforce positive opinions over the negative public reactions to the coal business. Public relations really began to take hold during WWII. The rapid advancement of communication led to an increase of much needed awareness of the War. Manufacturing firms began to enlist the aid of public relations professionals to bring new public relations business approaches in front of the public.
Today public relations professionals help position a product, service or an idea in the business and consumer world. Companies use its techniques to launch new products and lessen the effects of a crisis. Politicians craft their messages with the help of public relations specialists. Indeed the current widespread use of public relations is causing a crisis in this public relations profession. ?The future is indeed bright for the field of public relations. But there is one major qualification – having enough trained people to meet the expanding demand for public relations services and counsel.? (Kerr)
Less than 10 percent of public relations professionals do not go to college. According to Kerr:
Some new Public Relations professions are being born; others are becoming more Public Relations professional, for example, business administration and social work. The university becomes the chief port of entry for these Public Relations professions. In fact, a Public Relations profession gains its identity by making the university the port of entry.
The majors most preferred by public relations managers are Public Relations, English, and Journalism. Recruiters look for entry level candidates who have a strong background in traditional liberal arts and social science education. An understanding of computers and the Internet are also required. Students looking toward the public relations field are also encouraged to minor or major in the field they feel they are going to pursue as a career such as science or psychology. In the 1990?s more than 150 colleges and 35-graduate schools offered Public Relations degrees. Three hundred other colleges in the country offer at least one course in this field. There are an increasing number of masters and doctoral level degree Public Relations programs.
Once working in this field, public relations professionals are encouraged to become certified. Certification requires passing an examination from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). PRSA demands public relations practical and ideal knowledge. After several years working in public relations, a mentor counsels the employee and assists in the passage of this exam. Once certified, public relations professionals have the credibility to assume more responsibility in their organizations. This translates into higher pay and increased job satisfaction. Certification helps ensure that public relations professionals have the necessary skills and experience to guide their clients or companies in an increasingly fast paced world driven by information.
?There is no clear-cut formula for finding a job in public relations.? (Public Relations, Jobs, 256) A high grade point average helps. But, personality plays a big role. The most successful public relations professionals lean towards an outgoing personality. It is important that job candidates present themselves well and are comfortable in public speaking or presentations. Having experience in a school newspaper can be important. Many times recruiters will ask to see examples of a job candidate?s written work or have the candidate give a presentation. The ability to communicate precisely is a highly valued attribute. Also, many companies have internships. This is the easiest way to find the first job in public relations.
In the early 1990?s a salary for a trainee in the field of business and industry began at about $15,000 a year. Within a few years they earned to $21,000 or more. Today, most professional entry positions begin at $25,000. Public relations professionals have median salary earnings about $75,000. For, top level workers in this field their salaries ranged from $100,000 to more than $1,000,000. Those in non-profit organizations earn less, with a median of approximately $33,500 a year. Public relations in the federal government make between $25,000 and $35,700. Higher paying jobs are located in large cities.
Workweeks can range from 35 to 50 plus hours per week plus travel. While public relations professionals work on scheduled projects, it is not uncommon for events in a company?s life to create additional work. Crises happen and public relations departments are called upon to create communications that explain the situation to the public.
In companies or organizations public relations duties include: press releases, trade shows, interviews with the media, executive speeches, brochure creation, informational seminars, and coaching other employees on what to say about the company or organization. Each of these activities demand that the public relations? professional communicate precisely with a memorable message. To complete these activities requires many specialists. They include copy writing, media production, presenting, graphics, media planning, investor relations, geographic area expertise and research. These specialists support the public relations professional. Interns and entry-level professionals often begin in one of these specialties. The higher level professionals design the projects and rely on specialists to deliver the content of their public relations campaigns. It is the senior level professionals who interact with the public and the media. They also receive the credit or blame if a campaign is not successful.
As companies become global, the messages become more difficult. Experts in different geographic areas are required to ensure that the message is the same across cultures. For instance, Ford, Microsoft and other companies want to ensure that their brand carries the same meaning across cultures. If there is a strike they want to paint the best picture possible to governments and the public workers at their other locations. Public relations professionals must be very careful that their message does not interfere with the company?s growth because they do not understand that different cultural values require a different message wording.
Today in the United States public relations is increasingly being used to portray a company as a great place to work. As the employment levels soar to record levels, companies must compete for talented employees. If they are not able to attract them, they will no longer be able to grow against competition. Public relations professionals conduct research on ideal working conditions. They help bring these conditions into the workplace and then publicize the results to attract talented employees.
?The most difficult aspect of this profession is handling crises, good or bad news. Every company or organization has situations that are unfavorable. With the spread of the media and the Internet, information is globally instantaneous.?(Tull) A carefully crafted message or program must explain the company?s version of the incident. Often, other employees at the company panic. Public relations professionals must react calmly. They must create and distribute a consistent and accurate message.
With the rapid pace of new products introduced, public professionals must ensure that announcements are timely and accurate. Often, new products do not allow for carefully designed project lengths. These professionals must respond quickly with the right support programs. This frequently means long hours and disrupted lives. A public relations professional can not simply sit in an office and create the answers. If they are to be successful they must meet with people from manufacturing, operations, finance, marketing, customer service, advertising and executives. Each one of these departments can sometimes have a biased focus. Competing groups must give objective information. It is public relation?s job to make sure they communicate amongst each other. They must create messages that span department lines. Being a shrewd person is often required. People management skills are critical to success.
New technology makes the public relations job more difficult. Profession often demands much travel. Professionals are in instant global contact with cell phones and now e-mail. The senior Public Relations professionals must be able to assemble a team to manage a project from long distances. This means that workdays become more dependent on the project not on normal working hours. Public relations professionals indicate that stress is a much bigger factor in their lives than before. Someone can always contact them in whatever time zone they happen to be. Sometimes it seems they cannot find time to sleep or eat. If a professional works with an agency and travels with a client the workday begins when the client wakes up and ends sometime after the client goes to sleep. The professional is expected to handle all the travel details as well as the specific business objective.
Successful companies and organizations need dedicated public relations professionals to meet their economic goals and achieve their objectives. For this reason the most talented professionals earn high salaries and bonuses. ?Time is the most precious commodity. Service in the sense of delivery at any hour of the day or night is prized.?(Twomey) But, there is often a personal cost. Living at the demand of public relations projects can make it difficult to have a predictable 40-hour workweek. The financial and personal satisfaction can be enormous, but it can increase the demands on many professionals? personal lives.
The demand for public relations professionals is predicted to increase. According to ?Public Relations Education??:
The growth, evolution and maturation of public relations is sure to continue. Elements are in place for impressive incremental growth and change in this new century: the spread of democratic institutions around the world; the growing importance of communicating with internal as well as external publics; the veritable explosion of one-to-one communication and the technology to implement it; and the steady advance of the public relations body of knowledge, especially analysis of public awareness and change in attitude and behavior.
This growth will be complicated by the growth of the Internet and related technologies. Information can be spread more rapidly. It does not have to be accurate information as was before in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Public relations professionals will have to be even more skilled to make sure that their message cuts through the information overload.
?Public Relations.? Jobs of Today. 1997 edition.
?Public Relations.? Occupational Outlook Handbook. Jan. 1998 edition.
?P.R.? Vocational Jobs Today. 1999.
Tull, Melanie. Personal Interview. 27 January, 2000.
Twomey, Michael. Personal Interview. 5 February 2000.
?You Need Public Relations?? Under Construction Jobs of the 21st Century. January 2000.