Public relations professionals do more than draft press releases and build relationships with key media representatives. They must also be familiar with the attitudes and concerns of consumers, employees, public interest groups, and the community in order to establish and maintain cooperative working relationships.
In addition to fulfilling their traditional role of getting a company's message out to its audience, those who have completed their studies in communications and public relations may also be responsible for developing and running programs designed to keep the lines of communication open between company and organization representatives and their various audiences. This might include such activities as scheduling speaking engagements for key company staff and speech writing.
Why is Public Relations Important?
At its core, public relations revolves around this universal truth: people act based upon their perception of facts. By managing, controlling, or influencing people's perceptions, public relations professionals hope to initiate a sequence of behaviors that will lead to the achievement of an organization's objectives. When those in public relations successfully create, change, or reinforce opinion through persuasion, their primary objective is accomplished.
How Does Public Relations Work?
Public relations professionals follow a set of principles in order to achieve success. Most campaigns begin with the identification of the problem or challenge, then move on to setting the public relations' goal. In order to achieve the goal, the public relations specialist crafts persuasive messages and implements key communication tactics while monitoring progress and fine tuning as necessary.
Career Opportunities in Public Relations
Those who have either earned their degree from an accredited communications and public relations educational program, or obtained a public relations graduate certificate, have a wide variety of career options. Jobs range from being employed by an individual, such as celebrity publicists, to large firms, such as corporate public relations managers and executives.
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Public Relations for the Stars: Publicists
Publicists can turn a little known actor into a household word. In essence, they are responsible for nurturing and shaping a star's career by creating an image though various public relations activities. Sometimes known as publicity agents, publicists work to get their clients the right kind of press coverage and help them to restore or "reinvent" their public image if it's been damaged. One of the best known publicists is Lois Smith. Over the course of her career she has worked with stars and film directors including Marilyn Monroe, Meryl Streep, Rosie O'Donnell, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Hopkins, Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, and Steven Soderbergh.
Working For Companies: Public Relations Firms
While some companies keep the function of public relations entirely in house, others opt to outsource all public relations functions. Others strike a balance in which in-house public relations efforts are complemented by the work of an outside agency. A good example of an agency campaign that has increased product sales while raising awareness and establishing a company as a concerned corporate citizen is Yoplait's "Save Lids to Save Lives" campaign. This unique breast cancer awareness and fundraising campaign has Yoplait making a donation for every pink yogurt container lid mailed back into the company. The campaign has not only raised awareness and funds (Yoplait has donated over $10 million for breast cancer research), it has also given the brand added visibility and resulted in increased sales.
Considering a Public Relations Career?
It's no secret that communication skills are important for those considering a career in the public relations field. Pairing an English or Journalism degree with courses in marketing, sales, public relations, and business can be an effective way to prepare for a career in this industry. There are also many excellent online communications and public relations degree programs and public relations graduate certificate programs to choose from which can make learning about this exciting industry convenient and rewarding.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)