A public relations officer will work to uphold and further the standing of a client by influencing public attitude and behaviour. This is done through the aid of media and communication, including newspaper stories and public events, without the aid of advertising. A PR officer will analyse public opinion through research and media analysis to understand the standing of an organisation, and the necessary action needed to alter its status. PR officers can work in-house or with external clients, in either the private or public sectors.
The usual starting salary is £16,000 - £25,000, moving up to £30,000 after a few years. Promotion to senior positions such as PR director can see you earn from £40,000 - £100,000. The variety in salaries is down to the agency and its location, as well as individual merits and experience. Other benefits may include a company car and health insurance, with salaries in London being typically better paid.
Working hours are typically 9 to 5, with extra hours a requirement should a deadline need to be met. Due to the necessity of social networking you may have your evenings and weekends eaten up if having to attend events, or if a media crisis occurs. Work is usually done within the office, though you may have to travel to meet with clients and other media contacts. If an organisation has international clients you may have to travel overseas.
The dress code is usually smart, with self-employment a possibility once you have gained a good standing in the industry. Most agencies are based in London, with many of the other large cities also housing several agencies.
A HND degree in any of the following areas would be a valuable asset:
Postgraduate study may also be an advantage but will not guarantee a placement within an agency. Although a degree is often required, evidence of key working skills within the industry is just as important. This can be within a PR department, or other relative placements such as at a local newspaper or charity organisation.
Positions are not usually advertised, and it a good idea to contact agencies directly, but only once you have researched the role and agency properly. Persistence is the key. Your university careers service should have information on local placements, or see the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) and PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) websites for further information.
If you do not have a degree you will likely start in an administrative role, while those with degrees may start in a graduate position. Typically starting as a PR assistant or in a junior position, after a few years experience you can move up to the role of PR officer. Promotion to management is possible after around three more years experience, with the speed and chance of promotion dependent on tenacity and ability. Moving between agencies may be necessary to gain promotion. Job titles within the PR industry are often named differently but of a similar nature.
Most training will be done on the job through interaction with colleagues and clients, but it can also be beneficial to do further training, with many agencies now encouraging such development. Courses are available from organisations including the CIPR, Henshall Centre, PRCA, CAM (Communication Advertising and Marketing Education Council), and also the CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing). Courses include: