When the bohemian tennis player, Andre Agassi, piped up in his advert for Canon cameras, looked over his sunglasses and uttered the immortal words, “Image is everything,” he certainly had a point.
Now, we know he was getting paid a ton of cash to try and flog cameras, but he actually highlighted something rather pertinent, which applies to the world of public relations in general. In fact, the phrase “image is everything” underpins everything to do with PR.
In order for an organisation (commercial or non-commercial) to maintain its reputation, they need someone to manage their public image. Enter publication relations officers. Essentially, these guys’ careers are all about managing the public perception of their companies.
PR officers tend to work directly for the companies they are representing, rather than working for PR agencies. They monitor publicity and use multiple communications channels and media platforms to promote their company’s image and brand.
If you work in this profession, you’ll be conducting extensive research and planning, implementing and managing public relations strategies. It’ll be your job to liaise with internal and external stakeholders and business associates, such as employees, senior management teams, media professionals and advertising and marketing agencies.
It’s not all about networking and schmoozing, though – you’ll also be preparing and distributing PR materials, such as press releases, brochures, posters, ad campaigns and company reports.
Furthermore, you’ll be responsible for maintaining and updating internal and external communication portals, such as newsletters, websites and social networking pages. You’ll also be in charge of coordinating press conferences, open days, speeches from senior managers, company visits and community projects.
Finally, if it all kicks off and your company is experiencing some kind of crisis, you’ll be responsible for handling everything on the PR side of things.
Salary & benefits
Your salary is likely to depend on your location, the industry sector you work in and the size of your organisation. Multinational companies are likely to pay much higher remuneration packages than local, regional and smaller national enterprises.
Average starting salaries range between £18,000 and £25,000. However, as you gain more experience, your wages could increase to around £30,000 to £35,000 per annum.
Senior PR officers at the top of the ladder can earn salaries in the range of £50,000 and £150,000.
While junior public relations officers may have slightly more hectic work schedules, especially when working on PR campaigns with short deadlines, those with more than three years’ experience can expect a regular nine-to-five working day.
However, senior PR officers will spend a greater amount of time socialising and networking with new and existing clients, business partners and industry professionals; these activities are typically conducted after regular office hours.
Travel outside the office is also a regular fixture, sometimes including overseas travel for PR professionals who are working with multinational corporations.
A good undergraduate degree in any discipline is acceptable for entry into this profession, though an academic background in public relations or a similar subject may give you an edge over other candidates.
You could even do a postgraduate degree in public relations to really enhance your employability.
The PR industry is incredibly competitive to get into, so getting a degree is pretty much essential, and a background of work experience, internships or industrial placements is generally expected by most employers.
Alternatively, volunteering and extra-curricular participation in the promotion of university projects or societies is an acceptable alternative.
Training & progression
The structure and scope of the training you’ll receive will be specific to your employer and the industry sector you work in, ranging from gaining hands-on experience, to participation in structured training programmes.
Your employer may even arrange for you attend professional courses offered by professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Communication Advertising & Marketing Education Foundation (CAM), in order to boost your skill-set.
Developing a diverse range of experience, obtaining professional qualifications and maintaining a consistently high level of performance is the key to success and rapid career progression.
It’s possible for talented individuals to rise to middle and senior management positions within five to eight years. Your career path, however, will understandably vary from employer to employer.