Natalie Balfour, Public Relations Supervisor for Lululemon Athletica, Vancouver, BC, Canada – Photo Courtesy: Lululemon Athletica
With the explosion in social media networking and the ability to publicize information on a global scale at the push of a button, the work of public relations professionals has never been so much in demand. Likewise, competition between people wanting to work in the field has grown considerably.
Tools for the Job
If you are thinking about pursuing a public relations career, there is a definite skills subset required. Polished communication skills are a must, with excellent grammar and punctuation a minimum. Being able to express complicated ideas succinctly and in the voice of the entity you represent is at the center of the profession. You will need to develop dynamic media campaigns across a variety of platforms and integrate them with a well defined strategy. To do this successfully, you will also need strong organizational skills in order to coordinate effectively.
You will be required to interact with very senior individuals, famous clients, and media controllers, so not being flustered easily is very important. Keeping up to date with the latest news and current trends in media use is vital.
Agency Versus In-house
Working for an agency with many clients, all of whom have individual needs, is very different from working in-house in the media relations department of a single company. The commercial mindset required at an agency in order to stay alive will require you to quickly shift between tasks and deal with client demands and personalities.
In-house public relations, on the other hand, may be more corporate and involve you working with the same senior level colleagues for many years. These people may not appreciate the need for public relations professionals, so you will have to work hard to impress on them the importance of what you do.
Your Online Persona
Many companies, especially those in public relations, will now carry out an online search of selected candidates prior to employment. Though social networking profiles are not officially used as hiring tools, if online information about you is negative or you keep company with less than stellar individuals, this will taint your profile. It may be worthwhile to do a little online housekeeping to clear out any questionable acquaintances, literature or photos available online before you send in your application.
No Fairy Tale Career
Many people see the industry as being glamorous, offering a chance to work with their favorite celebrities, aid causes close to their hearts, and put their communication skills to good use. Though you may one day have the chance to work on issues and with people you look up to, you will most likely spend many years working on tasks that are far from glamorous or appealing. It will be a test of your professionalism as to how well you can handle these challenges.
The public relations profession requires unique skills and the confidence to counsel senior individuals. Sometimes, you may have to work with clients who have unsavory reputations or be asked to spin negative publicity. Though a good challenge, both of these are times when you may be called on to let your conscience take a back seat – but you should remember that integrity is the hallmark of an excellent public relations professional. Once lost, it will be very difficult for both the public and the media to take you at face value.
Dale Runyon is a business-savvy freelance blogger, writing on behalf of a masters of political management program – an ideal degree to earn if you are looking at a career in public relations.