Where perception meets reality — or at least tries to — public relations specialists’ jobs entail more than just managing trolls and building bridges. Nor are they mere spin doctors in the digital age. Public relations specialists work hard to cover a lot of ground: from reputation management to research and analysis, and everything in between. The role involves extensive verbal communication skills, among others, in order to keep up with the fast-paced environment in which it is set — that is, wherever and whenever public relations is happening. In today’s 24-hour news cycle, that potentially means around-the-clock PR coverage. So, what does a public relations specialist do in a typical day? And more foundationally, what is a public relations specialist? Use this guide on all things PR specialists to get started.

What Is a Public Relations Specialist?

Kicking us off, exactly what is a public relations specialist? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a public relations specialist is someone who will “promote or create an intended public image for individuals, groups, or organizations. May write or select material for release to various communications media. May specialize in using social media.” Further, US News and O*Net Online describe public relations specialists as individuals who generally generate positivity around someone or something through a variety of means of publicity.

What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do?

In terms of public relations specialists’ responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, you can expect to find individuals taking on the following tasks:

  1. Handle media inquiries and designate suitable spokespersons or information sources.
  2. Strategize and oversee programs aimed at maintaining positive public or shareholder perceptions of an organization's achievements, goals, or environmental commitments.Manage the posting and updating of content on company websites and social media platforms.
  3. Draft press releases and other media materials to boost client promotions.
  4. Foster cooperative relationships with community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups.
  5. Collaborate with other managers to identify trends, group interests, or concerns, offering advice on business decisions.
  6. Train client representatives to communicate effectively with the public and employees.
  7. Analyze organizational objectives, promotional policies, or needs to develop public relations strategies influencing public opinion or promoting ideas, products, or services.
    Prepare or edit organizational publications for both internal and external audiences.
  8. Coordinate public events, contests, or exhibits to enhance product or service awareness and goodwill.
  9. Conduct market or public opinion research to assess product potential, conveying findings to clients or management.
  10. Collaborate with production or support personnel to create advertisements or promotions.
  11. Liaise with advertising agencies to coordinate promotional campaigns across various media platforms.
  12. Deliver speeches to advance public relations objectives.
  13. Create marketing campaigns for environmental technologies or services.

As you can see, the tasks involve managing various aspects of public relations and communications for organizations or individuals. This includes handling media inquiries, overseeing programs to maintain positive perceptions, managing digital content, drafting media materials, fostering relationships with diverse groups, conducting research, organizing events, and promoting environmental initiatives. Additionally, tasks may involve coordinating advertising efforts, delivering speeches, managing responses to environmental or pressing issues, and creating marketing campaigns. Overall, these responsibilities aim to enhance public perception, promote organizational or individual goals, and effectively communicate with stakeholders across different platforms and contexts.

What Is the Educational Requirement for a Public Relations Specialist?

Looking into the educational requirements to become an esteemed public relations specialist, the BLS cites that typically, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required. However, depending on the position in which you are interested and the industry you are pursuing, you may find that the education requirements for PR specialists differ. Additionally, the BLS notes that a certification may be required on top of a bachelor’s degree by some employers. For more information on the most up-to-date educational requirements of public relations specialists, visit this site here.

What Skills Are Needed to Be a PR Specialist?

O*Net Online highlights a number of skills, both soft and technical, needed to become a public relations specialist. Summarized into smaller, related categories, some technical skills of public relations specialists include:

  1. Cloud-based data access and sharing software: Google Drive, Microsoft SharePoint
  2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software: Blackbaud The Raiser's Edge, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle Eloqua, Salesforce Software
  3. Database reporting software: Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer
  4. Database user interface and query software: Airtable, Cision CisionPoint, FileMaker Pro, LinkedIn
  5. Data mining software: Google Analytics
  6. Desktop communications software: ParentSquare
  7. Instant messaging software: Twitter and Social Media Platforms
  8. Desktop publishing software: Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher
  9. Graphics or photo imaging software: Adobe Creative Cloud Software, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, JamBoard
  10. Document management software: Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Acrobat Reader
  11. Word processing software: 3M Post-it App, Adobe Acrobat Writer, Google Docs, Microsoft Word
  12. Web page creation and editing software: Adobe Dreamweaver, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress
  13. Web platform development software: Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Drupal, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), JavaScript
  14. Multimedia and educational software: Nearpod
  15. Video creation and editing software: Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Express, Apple Final Cut Pro, YouTube
  16. Office suite software: Microsoft Office Software
  17. Presentation software: Apple Keynote, Google Slides, Mentimeter, Microsoft PowerPoint
  18. Project management software: Microsoft Project
  19. Networking and online conferencing software: Network Conferencing Software, LogMeIn GoToWebinar, Slido Interaction Software
  20. Network monitoring software: Wireshark
  21. Sales and marketing software: Google Ads, HubSpot Software, Marketo Marketing Automation
  22. Email and operating system software: Apple OS, Microsoft Outlook, and Email Software

Clearly, there are many technical skills to learn in order to be successful as a public relations specialist. In order to implement these skills well, you may want to brush up on the following suggested soft skills as well:

  • Active listening: Attentively understanding others' viewpoints and concerns without interrupting.
  • Speaking: Effectively conveying information and ideas to others through verbal communication.
  • Reading comprehension: Grasping and interpreting written information accurately and efficiently.
  • Social perceptiveness: Being aware of others' emotions, reactions, and motivations to understand their behavior.
  • Writing: Communicating thoughts, ideas, and information clearly and effectively through written text.
  • Coordination: Adjusting actions and activities to ensure smooth collaboration and achievement of shared goals.
  • Critical thinking: Using logical reasoning and analysis to assess and evaluate different perspectives, solutions, or problems.
  • Time management: Efficiently organizing and prioritizing tasks to make the most of available time and resources.

Is Public Relations Specialist the Right Career for Me?

Trying to decide on the right career path is not easy. If you find yourself asking if becoming a public relations specialist is right for you, consider asking yourself these six questions:

  1. Do I understand the multifaceted nature of public relations?
  2. Am I aware of the educational requirements for becoming a PR specialist, including the necessity of at least a bachelor's degree and potentially a certification?
  3. Do I possess the balance of technical and soft skills to be successful in PR?
  4. Can I handle juggling the various tasks involved in a PR specialist's role, such as handling media inquiries, drafting press releases, and conducting market research?
  5. Do I have a clear understanding of the role of a PR specialist in maintaining positive public perceptions of organizations and individuals?
  6. Am I prepared to continuously learn and adapt to stay relevant in the ever-evolving field of public relations?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, you are well on your way to understanding the ins and outs of what a PR specialist is and what the career would be like. Starting with research is always your best bet for learning more about the right career for you, as it provides insight into the industry, its demands, and the potential opportunities for growth and success.

Summary: What Is a Public Relations Specialist?

Acknowledging the multifaceted nature of public relations, including its educational requirements and the diverse set of technical and soft skills required, indicates a solid foundation for pursuing a career in this field. Additionally, recognizing the importance of tasks such as media handling, content creation, and relationship management demonstrates an understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities involved in PR work. With this awareness and preparedness to continuously learn and adapt, you are poised to embark on a rewarding journey in the dynamic world of public relations.

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