Pros and Cons of a Career as a Public Relations Manager
Public relations (PR) managers are experienced communications professionals with the media savvy to keep a client's name or business in the public eye for the right reasons. Find out the pros and cons of becoming a public relations manager to make an informed career decision.
|Pros of Becoming a Public Relations Manager|
|Potential earnings are quite high (median yearly salary was around $101,510 in 2014)*|
|Can specialize in an area of interest (e.g. public affairs, crisis management)*|
|Employed by firms in many different industries (e.g. non-profit, healthcare, fashion)*|
|Degrees in a variety of fields can lead to public relations work (journalism, English, communications, business, etc.)*|
|Cons of Becoming a Public Relations Manager|
|Long hours, often including nights and weekends (up to 33% worked 40+ hours per week)*|
|Can be stressful, especially when working under deadlines or coordinating multiple projects*|
|Top positions can require 5-10 years of prior work experience*|
|Substantial competition likely for upper management positions*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Info
Job Description and Duties
Public relations managers use information gathering and communications skills to develop, cultivate and promote a good public image for their client, which could be an individual, business, political figure, non-profit organization or other entity. As a PR manager, you would develop relationships with the media and monitor external communications to maintain a positive spin; you may also be charged with creating internal communications, crafting an organization's reports, raising necessary funding or writing speeches to be delivered to the public. A career in public relations management is not an entry-level position, so if you work in this position you may also direct the work of other public relations staff members, as well as confer with advertising and marketing departments to ensure all client messages are synchronized and cohesive.
Career Paths and Specializations
Since so many different people, groups and entities rely on public relations professionals to establish a public face, the profession allows for quite a bit of specialization. For example, public relations managers might work within a specific industry, such as technology or healthcare.
If you are interested in politics, you might enjoy working in public affairs, dealing with domestic or international government policies, political campaigns and crisis management. You could also work with non-profit organizations or educational institutions, which would entail community involvement or fundraising activities.
Salary and Job Growth
Whichever facet of public relations interests you, the financial rewards can be significant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of 2014, the median annual salary for public relations and fundraising managers was around $101,510 (www.bls.gov). The median salary for these professionals working within the advertising, public relations and related services industries was even higher, at approximately $145,000 per year. The BLS has also projected that employment of public relations and fundraising managers would increase 13% from 2012-2022.
Education and Requirements
To become a public relations manager, you'll generally need to earn a bachelor's degree in public relations or a closely related field, such as business, journalism or English. Many 4-year degree programs in public relations include, or even require, an industry internship to give students real-world experience and make contacts prior to graduation. While some employers may prefer candidates who have earned a master's degree, only about 25% percent of public relations managers had a graduate degree in 2010, according the BLS.
Top Skills for Public Relations Managers
In addition to a degree, public relations manager positions often require extensive industry experience, such as working for a public relations firm or in another media relations capacity. Because the job relies so heavily on communications, it is imperative that prospective public relations managers hone their public speaking and writing skills. They also need a keen understanding of a range of media outlets, including print, broadcast and online platforms. Another important skill is the vision to craft strategies that reach the right audiences at the right times.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Job postings for public relations managers often emphasize relevant experience over formal education, with employers typically expecting candidates to have between five and ten years of experience in public relations management or media relations. Overwhelmingly, employers that were not public relations firms noted the importance of subject-matter knowledge related to their industry. Additionally, nearly all available job postings advertised for computer and Internet-savvy applicants who could manage online and social media, in addition to traditional print and broadcast platforms. An April 2012 sample of available opportunities posted on the Public Relations Society of America's job board included the following positions:
- A New York City consumer products company advertised for a public relations manager to serve as a media relations strategist. Key attributes included the ability to spearhead campaigns and oversee product launches, maintain regional and national media contacts and manage a team of public relations specialists. A bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience were required.
- A Seattle public relations firm desired an account manager with high-tech industry experience to guide client communication plans. Qualified candidates have a bachelor's degree, at least seven years of public relations experience and at least one year of account management experience.
- A Georgia insurance company sought a senior public relations manager to be the spokesperson for the company, as well as spearhead and manage all media and public relations activities. While a bachelor's degree and eight to ten years of public relations management experience were required, the company preferred applicants with a master's degree and insurance industry designations.
How to Maximize Your Skills
Develop Social Media Skills
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) advises jobseekers to develop an understanding of social media. This is partly because it can give a company instant access to the public conversation about a client, which can lead to the development of enhanced public relations strategies, designed to target specific audiences.
Using social media and other tools to develop your own online presence can also demonstrate your branding skills to potential employers. The PRSA recommended maintaining a blog about industry topics and carefully crafting your reputation through online media as a way to show expertise, enthusiasm and tact. Internet tools can also help you network with other professionals, which can lead to job opportunities.
Public relations managers can also demonstrate their knowledge, skills, abilities and expertise by obtaining professional accreditation, a type of certification administered by the Universal Accreditation Board. The Universal Accreditation Board includes nine organizations, including the PRSA, and grants the Accredited Public Relations (APR) certification. According to the PRSA, certification demonstrates both competence and experience, and some employers prefer to hire applicants who have obtained it. The application process includes a portfolio review and an exam, but it is a lifetime designation, provided members continue to fulfill the requirements.
Other Fields to Consider
If you feel your communications skills might be better put to use selling products and ideas rather than creating or maintaining a public image, then a career in advertising could be a better fit. Within advertising agencies, there are careers in copywriting, art and art direction, sales, account management and media management, so you can play to your strengths. There are also positions for advertising managers with experience in sales, advertising, public relations or marketing. Most advertising managers have a bachelor's degree in advertising, journalism or a communications field and have taken courses in marketing and market research, sales, visual art, finance and communications. The BLS projected 13% employment growth for advertising and promotions managers from 2010-2020. As of 2011, these professionals earned a median annual salary of around $88,000 per year.
Similarly, a career in marketing can engage your ability to communicate persuasively. It can also give you the opportunity to decode the desires of consumers and develop pricing strategies for businesses. Marketing also has statistical and analytical components, because marketing managers have to analyze sales figures and economic trends to forecast what consumers will buy in the future - and what they'll be willing to spend. Although marketing managers are projected to experience average employment growth from 2010 to 2020, those with a pulse on niche markets and innovations, such as green marketing, may have better opportunities. A career in marketing management can provide excellent financial rewards, with a median yearly salary of $116,000 (according to 2011 BLS figures).