Public relations refer to the practice whereby someone manages the flow of information between the public and an organization or a company (Grunig et al, 14). This field aims at gaining either individual or an organization positive exposure, where exposure is vital to the key stakeholders. The reason why I chose the public relations specialist career is due to its positive role in image shaping, through the generation of positive publicity of an individual, an organization, or a company. This career idea was triggered by my realization of the important role it plays in charting the direction that guides the relationship between organizations and the society in which they operate and serve. It offers a person an opportunity to play a mediation role between organizations and the public. The nature of work in the public relations profession has always interested me because I love reading, learning, and keeping in touch with issues that relate to the organizations’ duty to society and vice versa. Furthermore, it offers new challenges every day which fosters personal growth as well as a providing an opportunity to acquire problem-solving skills. I have had 2 months of experience in this field when I was an intern in a customer service providing office in a company during my vacations. From general knowledge, the career involves the dissemination of information to the public but is sometimes viewed negatively as a “spin doctoring” profession. Public relations specialists are very important in any organization due to the major role it plays in promoting a positive relationship between the organization and the public, but it has received negative views and has even earned a title “liars” in reference to the specialists. The paper will enable me to understand more about the career in public relations especially in regard to its function and the challenges that are experienced in this profession. In addition, the paper will shed more light on the role of public relations in image shaping.
A public relations career requires one to execute a program of action in order to earn both public acceptance and understanding. The program is based on the attitudes of the public, which are defined by the policies and the procedures that an organization has together with the organization’s interest. Robert Heath in Encyclopedia of Public Relations defines public relations:
“Public relations refers to a set of management, supervisory and technical functions that foster an organization’s ability to strategically listen, to appreciate, and to respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values” (Robert L. 31).
The career focuses on two-way communication and has the responsibility of fostering mutually beneficial relationships between the public and organizations. According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (www.bis.gov), public relations specialists are advocates who build and maintain positive relationships between the public and organizations (hospitals, universities, and non-profit organizations). The specialists also offer advice on strategies and policies that the management uses in undertaking the public relations programs. They handle various organizational functions as well as employee-investor relations by first understanding the community concerns and attitudes. This is then followed by the establishment and maintenance of cooperative relationships. For instance, drafting of press releases is done by the public relations specialists where the releases may touch on the organization’s policies or other public issues. The contacts between the organization representatives and the public are kept to date by programs that are conducted by public relations specialists. In the government, the government public relations specialists have the responsibility of informing the public on the activities of the government agencies as well as its officials. For instance, the public affairs specialists employed in the US Department of State always informs the public on travel advisories together with the positions that the US holds on Foreign issues (US Department of Labor and Statistics, www.bis.gov) A public relation specialist job is described to have various aspects such as creativity, good judgment, and good-communication which defines the nature of a public relation specialist’s work. In addition, the job involves decision-making, use of research skills, and problem-solving which in turn requires an outgoing personality, enthusiasm, self-confidence, and human psychology understanding in the specialists. This field of profession is very competitive and it integrates teamwork and the opening up to new ideas.
A public relations specialist has certain responsibilities, which aim at creating a positive relationship between the public and the organization. The specialists who are employed in the organizations usually handle all the functions of an organization that relates to the public which involves the planning of an organization’s media functions, and mediation of conflicts that may arise from misunderstandings that may arise between organizations and the public. Articles that are featured in radio and television stations, newspapers, and magazines about an organization are approved by public relations specialists as a mandatory measure that prevents negative image of an organization to the public and instead ensuring that the information about an organization is disseminated to the public promotes the positive relationship. Furthermore, specialists have a responsibility to prepare speeches for a company’s officials and they are expected to represent the employers at community projects (Seitel, 64-65). Other professions that are related to the public relations profession are many and to some extent share a lot of similarities. These professions include those of a public relations manager, sales manager, advertising managers, marketing managers, product promoters, models, news analysts, reporters, correspondents, market researchers, survey researchers, and wholesale representatives, and manufacturing representatives. The police and detectives who handle community relations can also be considered to relate to the public relations responsibility because they work to ensure everyone in the community lives in harmony with each other. Public relations specialists receive certain amounts of salary depending on the economic ability of a nation/state and the job position held. The lowest 10 percent of salaried public relations specialists in the USA earned less than $28,080, the middle 50 percent between $35,600 and $65,310 while the top 10 percent received over $89,220 (Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey Program, May 2006). In addition, the Occupational employment and wages in May 2007 were able to estimate the mean hourly wage of the public relations workers (May 2007, National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates) where the mean hourly wage for the public relations specialists was estimated to be $27.45. The average salary for public relations specialists who hold the position of a manager for the Bay area in California was between $55.72 and $68.76 as the mean hourly wage.
For one to become a competent public relations specialist, one requires to be both academically qualified and to have acquired the necessary training. To enter into a public relations career, one needs to have a minimum academic qualification of a college degree that is related to the communication field. Acquiring knowledge necessary for a public relations specialist through a college degree offers a person an excellent opportunity for the interested individual to enter the public relations field. Examples of college degrees that offer the necessary public relations knowledge and experience include degrees in public relations, journalism, communication, or advertising. The qualified students are required to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and skills through good communication skills. If these skills are complemented by the experience in other pubic-related fields (like information technology, science, sales, finance, or health care), it becomes an added advantage to the potential employees. University degrees in public relations offer a good foundation for future public relations professionals where the various courses are offered specifically for distinct areas of operation, (US Department of Labor and Statistics, www.bis.gov). For instance, some universities and colleges offer courses that are specifically related to business, non-profit organizations, or certain government departments. It is worth noting that knowledge and skills apart from being acquired in class can also be acquired through experience, with a good example seen when students gain a part-time internship in various organizations/companies. This provides the students with valuable experience in the public relations field and trains them as well. Furthermore, students who write school publications, television, or radio articles acquire great experience and material that is important for one’s portfolio. It is demanded that organizations that have employed a large number of public relations staff offer various formal training programs for both new and old employees with the aim of empowering the employees to become competent public relations specialists. In smaller organizations, public relations training is done by putting new employees to work under the guidance of the already experienced employees which allows new employees to learn from those who are already effective in their work. To further encourage experience in new employees, public relations specialists who are just beginning to work, are encouraged to communicate with the public or the press more frequently. Other activities that one may undertake to increase their experience level include handling invitation lists, press conferences details, and escorting the visitors. With time, the specialists are given a responsibility to write new releases articles for publication or speeches. They can in addition plan and implement the necessary public relations programs. The experience acquired in small firms and large firms differs in some ways with the experience in small firms tending to be all-around while experience from larger firms is more specialized. The public relations specialists are expected to show creativity, initiative, and a good ability to judge where clear and simple communication skills are very vital in this field. One will also require making decisions wisely, solving problems, and displaying excellent research skills. Other requirements of a public relations specialist include an outgoing personality, self-confidence, enthusiasm to motivate people, and human psychology understanding where all complement the previously mentioned qualifications to make one a competent public relations specialist. For one to be fully qualified in this career, schooling should involve ones learning up to the higher education levels (college or university) and undertaking a degree course for at least four years (period of undertaking a college degree).
Many colleges and universities offer high-quality public relations courses to students. Universities that have won accreditation by the American Council on Education for Journalism due to their good public relations program in the previous years are as follows, Boston University, University of Georgia, Ohio state university, Oregon University, University of Wisconsin, University of Texas, University of Southern California, University of Maryland, Ohio University, University of Oklahoma, University of Florida and University of Georgia. These universities lead in the quality and quantity of public relations courses including postgraduate degrees. (www.ipra.org/detail.asp?articleid=36. In addition, the best universities in the US which provide quality public relations degrees include American Intercontinental University in Los Angeles, Virginia International University (VIU) university of Tennessee, European school of Economics California State University in LA, Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts University of Nevada. Recognition for providing high-quality public relations courses in Miami are the Barry University, Gonzaga University, and University of Miami’s School of Communication. In this field, a public relations professional resume provides quick and clear information to make one’s experience relevant to the job position. The professionals provide their personal details, their objective in the career, a summary of academic qualifications and skills and experience in order to show how well they suit in this profession. The resume should have a clear objective and most importantly show their qualifications in relation to the career, to enable potential employees to secure employment. What can be noticed from the public relations job posting is the fact that public relations have gained increased acceptance worldwide (Tymson, Candy et al 88, 136). The reason behind this is that all the branches of the economy and public institutions require a public relations specialist which makes the demands for public relations specialists clear in terms of its relevance to all areas of the economy and institutions (Center, A. 116).
The need to have a positive relationship between the public and the institutions has continued to demand public relations specialists to ensure a positive relationship is maintained. The increasing use of computer technology is expected to increase the public relations roles development with the technological advancement offering the greatest opportunity for the growth of the career. This career has continued to grow and will continue growing to match the growing global communication network coupled with the great need the career will have in the future because of the increasing need to establish a positive relationship between the public and institutions. Working in this career is very advantageous, with the merits in relating to the skills that one acquires (Bernays, E. 19-26). Specialists gain skills, knowledge, and a great ability to communicate with others. Through experience, one acquires excellent writing and public speaking skills, learns how to persuade others, and becomes a critical thinker. The ability to come up with new and clever ideas encourages creativity in a professional and enables one to make initiatives as well as practice good judgment. This profession enjoys many job opportunities because of the recognition it has received as a field that is crucial in a competitive business environment. The demand for public relations representatives is increasing in organizations of all sizes, making it a good profession to work in.
The disadvantages of working in this profession are several. One demerit is that working in this field requires one to have a close association with the clients which makes it very demanding. This in turn makes it difficult to work, sometimes causing stress in public relations specialists (Kelly, K. 43). It has been observed that public relations professionals face criticism for lack of accuracy and honesty. They are said to give wrong information to suit the business interests of the organizations they represent. In addition, professionals in this field face the challenge of performing their work to match everyday changes that occur (McNamara, Jim 5th Edition). It requires one to be always flexible and dynamic which makes it hard for some professionals to cope with the pressure.
Television and radio news involves communication between the public and the media houses on current events and happenings. News anchors are public relations professionals who are employed to ensure there is a flow of information between the media and the public and they even discuss various issues with the public through phones or online sites. This depicts them as professionals in this career. Oprah Winfrey’s show is very instrumental in educating people and allows people to share their experiences with others. The show has managed to encourage the public to speak out in order to support good deeds and also solutions to problems that people experience every day. News reporters interact directly with the public in establishing accurate reports about happenings. They use their public relations acquired skills to gather information while at the same time promoting positive public relations.
A reporter’s lifestyle seems to revolve around much traveling and learning, in a challenging environment. Reporters collect information on different events from many areas, which demands of them to travel to many nations and regions. They need to overcome both language and geographical barriers to do their work and they are always at a very high risk of injury or death, especially when they are working in areas that are experiencing both man-made and natural disasters.
After conducting my research, I think a public relations career is a great field to work in because it offers one an opportunity to learn new things and to practice fully what one has learned. It is also very interesting to work in this field because it demands new ideas and creativity in the place of work. The need to work while integrating new technological advancements makes it very enjoyable. However, one will need to work very hard to establish and maintain close associations with the public to reduce stressful situations. One thing that I have discovered that has surprised me is that sometimes public relations specialists may become dishonest and inaccurate to suit an organizations’/employer’s interest. I can see myself working in the field one day because it is both a very interesting career provides challenges. This will offer me a chance to grow and acquire new skills over time and will assist me to avoid boredom. Finally, it keeps one up to their toes to deliver in order to satisfy the career’s demand.
Bernays, Edward.Public Relations Boston MA: Bellman Publishing Company. 1945.
Center, Allen, and Jackson, Patrick, “Public Relations Practices,” 5th Ed, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle N.J. 1995
Grunig, James E, and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations (Orlando, Fl: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e.
Kelly, Kathleen, “Effective Fund-Raising Management” Lawrence Eribaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ. 1998.
McNamara, Jim. Jim McNamara’s public Relations Handbook, 5th Ed, Melbourne: Archipelago press OES National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, 2007.
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) New York. 2008. Web.
Robert L. Health 2005 Encyclopedia of Public Relations. 2008. Web.
Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations Englewood Cliffs NJ; 10 ed. 2006.
Tymson, Candy and Peter, Lazar. Public Relations Manual Sydney: Tymson Communication. 1998.
US Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor statistics. 2008. Web.