The majority of public relations account executives are employed by PR agencies, and handle a number of different client accounts simultaneously. Alternatively, in some cases PR account executives are employed by integrated marketing agencies or the in-house PR departments of large commercial companies.
Essentially, PR account executives aim to generate a buzz around their clients and promote the positive image of the company or individual they are representing across different media outlets, including print, online and broadcast media channels.
If their client is launching a new product or service, or just wants to enhance their public profile, PR account executives aim to get them plenty of exposure across the internet, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.
Each account executive handles a client portfolio, directing their PR efforts and strategies towards their client’s specific target audience. Indeed, if you enter this profession, you could end up specialising in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-customer (B2C), financial, healthcare or sports PR.
Firstly, it’s all about discussing PR strategies with your client. Once you’ve gained approval, you’ll be designing and implementing PR campaigns in accordance with your client’s requirements.
In order to implement a successful PR campaign, you’ll need to cultivate relationships with influential contacts in the press and broadcast media. Furthermore, you’ll need to collaborate effectively with external business partners, such as advertising agencies.
Once PR campaigns have been implemented, you’ll be monitoring media coverage and reporting back to your clients via email, over the phone and through presentations. Moreover, you’ll be improving and revising current PR initiatives and managing various other elements of successful PR campaigns, such as press releases and product launches.
In addition to all this, you’ll be responsible for managing the public perception of your clients, speaking on their behalf from time to time, and clarifying their positions on certain critical issues. Occasionally, you’ll also be called on to take control of predicaments and problems that derive from any negative publicity.
As you progress into an account management role, you’ll also be responsible for generating new business accounts, managing junior PR execs and organising events.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for account executives in the early stages of their careers tend to be around £18,000 to £22,000, while mid-level executives can earn between £20,000 and £30,000 per annum.
Senior PR professionals working at senior management or director level can earn salaries upwards of £50,000, with some people even earning up to £110,000 a year.
PR account executives engaged in B2B or financial PR tend to receive higher salaries than their peers who work in fashion, retail or sports PR. Senior executives with shedloads of experience and an established reputation can opt to work on a freelance basis and develop their own client base.
In theory, if you choose to go freelance, your earning potential is limitless.
In theory, PR account executives work on a standard nine-to-five basis. However, in practice, these guys are frequently required to put in some seriously hard graft and work extra hours in order to meet the requirements of individual PR campaigns. You’ll most likely be required to go above and beyond when major deadlines are looming.
Senior PR account executives will also spend a large amount of time socialising and networking with new and existing clients, business partners and industry professionals. Unfortunately, these activities are also typically conducted outside of regular office hours.
Travel outside the office is also a regular fixture, sometimes including overseas travel for PR professionals who represent multinational corporations and international superstars.
A good undergraduate degree in any discipline is acceptable for entry into this profession, although an academic background in public relations, English literature, journalism, marketing or a similar subject may give you an edge over other candidates.
You could even do a postgraduate degree in public relations to really boost your chances of finding employment.
The PR industry is incredibly competitive to get into, so getting a degree is pretty much essential. A background of work experience, internships or industrial placements is generally expected by most employers as well.
Training & progression
The structure and scope of the training you’ll receive will be specific to your PR agency and the industry sector you work in, ranging from gaining hands-on experience and work shadowing, to participation in graduate training programmes.
Your employer may even arrange for you attend professional courses offered by professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), to help you improve your skills.
Opportunities for internal promotion depend on individual performance and expertise. The majority of people start out as trainees and become full-on executives within a year. From here, you may progress to become an account manager and then an account director.
Some senior PR execs choose to take the freelance route and work for themselves. Eventually, you could even set up your own PR agency!