The job of a public relations account executive is to gain positive publicity for clients. This is done as part of a PR team to try and influence public attitude without the use of advertising. They do this through merchandise placement, news items, and events. A PR relations executive is judged on how well they can uphold and advance the profile of their client. An agency will usually specialise in one industry area, such as business to business, consumer, or fashion.
Typical starting salary is in the area of £19,000, with those moving up to account managers able to earn around £28,000. Salaries at senior level are typically around £35,000 for account managers, £40,000 for account directors, £54,000 for creative directors, and £100,000 for chief executive officers. Salaries vary based on the agency and its location, as well as its speciality, B2B agencies often paying more than fashion agencies for example. Other benefits may include gym membership and medical insurance.
The working day is usually 9 to 5; though flexibility is a must should a crisis occur, such as a client’s image being placed in disrepute. Conferences and PR events may take place during evenings, and you will be expected to work overtime to meet deadlines. Work is mainly office-based, though travelling to meet clients and attend events can occur.
Absence from home overnight is possible but depends on the client, as can international travel should your agency have overseas clients. A PR account executive will usually work on more than one account at a time. Freelance work is achievable once a reputation is founded, with career breaks also a possibility. Most agencies are based in London, where the pay is usually highest, with other large cities also housing agencies.
The following HND degrees would be beneficial:
A postgraduate degree may also improve your chances. Though educational qualifications can be valuable assets they do not guarantee a job in public relations. A prospective employer will place much more emphasis on actual experience and extracurricular activities. This will show you have applicable work skills.
There is a list of agencies offering work placements on the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) website, however most PR agencies do not advertise such positions. Showing initiative by contacting an agency directly is often the best option. Do so once you have properly researched the role and the agency, as well as their clients. It can be difficult to gain a work placement, a position in journalism or marketing just as advantageous.
You will likely start as a junior account executive, with training given on the job. After 3 months to a year you can move up to the position of PR account executive. The position of senior account executive will be open to you after a period of 2 to 3 years, with the role of account director available after a further 3 to 4 years. Advancement to PR director is for those who have shown real flair for the job, with a select few able to move up to board level.
Promoting through the ranks will see you dealing with higher profile clients, and taking responsibility for other members of the PR team. If a reputation is earned, as well as a strong contact list, opening your own agency is a distinct possibility. Progression will depend on the agency and their clients, but will mainly be based on individual merits and attitude. Further training to boost your credentials are available from the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations), and also, the Henshall Centre.