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Career: Public Relations

A Day in the life of a Public Relations

A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation. The client can be a company, an individual or a government. In the government PR people are called press secretaries. They keep the public informed about the activity of government agencies, explain policy, and manage political campaigns. Public relations people working for a company may handle consumer relations, or the relationship between parts of the company such as the managers and employees, or different branch offices. Though the job often involves the dissemination of information, some view this cynically as "spin doctoring." There is an old saying about PR that 'Advertisers lie about the product. Public relations people lie about the company.' Regardless, the successful PR person must be a good communicator-in print, in person and on the phone. They cultivate and maintain contacts with journalists, set up speaking engagements, write executive speeches and annual reports, respond to inquiries and speak directly to the press on behalf of their client. They must keep lines of communication open between the many groups affected by a company's product and policies: consumers, shareholders, employees, and the managing body. Public relations people also write press releases and may be involved in producing sales or marketing material. Public relations is a good career for the generalist. A PR person must keep abreast of current events and be well versed in pop culture to understand what stories will get the publics' attention. It takes a combination of analysis and creative problem solving to get your client in the public eye. The content of the work is constantly changing and unforeseen challenges arise every day. As one public relations person explained, "In addition to the standard duties, a PR person might have to shepherd an alcoholic and half-mad (but brilliant) author through a twenty-city interview tour or try to put a warm 'n fuzzy spin on the company's latest oil-spill."

Paying Your Dues

Though some colleges offer a degree in public relations, most industry professionals agree it's unnecessary. Since public relations requires familiarity with a wide variety of topics, a broad education is the best preparation. Any major that teaches you how to read and write intelligently will lay good foundation for a career in public relations. Or, as one PR person put it "if you can write a thesis on Dante, you should be able to write a press release." Internships are a common way to get some practical experience and break into the field.

Associated Careers

Because public relations people work so closely with the media there is often a great deal of exchange between these fields. Many PR people become journalists to exercise more creativity; a number of journalists turn to public relations for better money. PR people also often go into marketing, particularly at the more senior levels.

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