How to Become a Public Relations Professional (Step Guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 10 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A public relations career can lead to a fulfilling and rewarding work life. A broad range of roles and responsibilities related to this career can allow you to socialise with others and be creative. If you want to become a public relations professional, it's important to understand the steps you can take. In this article, we explain what a public relations career is, discuss how to become a public relations professional, describe the personal attributes of ideal candidates, explore key public relations positions and provide tips on beginning your career in this field.

What is a public relations professional?

A public relations (PR) professional develops and preserves the image of a brand, government, person or company to the media and general public. They work to deliver a strategically shaped perception of a client to their target market. The work of a PR professional is vital in maintaining the confidence and trust of the public to encourage growth and maintain success.

A PR professional initially works with their client to create the brand or person's public perception or to evaluate their current reputation. Once they determine the public's view of their client, they may conduct the following tasks:

  • organising and preparing clients for press conferences, statements and interviews

  • responding to media enquiries in various situations, including crisis management

  • preparing and monitoring social media activity and content

  • raising brand awareness through strategic marketing campaigns

  • assisting clients in communicating with the public in a way that maintains a positive reputation

  • creating and delivering media releases

  • analysing and monitoring competitor's public relations

Public relations professionals often use a range of platforms to advertise their clients brand, company or persona. They may encourage clients to use television, social media, radio and print media to communicate with their target market.

Related: 8 Marketing Communications Careers (Plus Types of Marketing Communications)

How to become a public relations professional

The following steps can help you learn how to become a public relations professional successfully:

1. Get an education

Aim to achieve your high school certificate to enter further education. You can consider getting a Vocational Educational Training (VET) certificate or diploma from a TAFE provider or pursue higher education at a university. The appropriate VET courses offered by TAFE are:

  • Certificate IV in Business (Public Relations)

  • Diploma of Business (Public Relations)

  • Advanced Diploma of Business (Public Relations)

The names of the higher education courses are subject to change depending on the university offering the course. They include:

  • Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations)

  • Bachelor of Communication Management (Public Relations)

  • Bachelor of Public Relations

  • Bachelor of Creative Arts and Industries (Public Relations)

  • Bachelor of Media (Public Relations and Advertising)

  • Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations)

  • Bachelor of Arts (Communication)

  • Bachelor of Strategic Communication

  • Bachelor of Business (Public Relations)

2. Gain work experience

Although you're likely to be involved in some form of work experience during your educational course, you could benefit from gaining as much practical experience as possible. You may access opportunities to gain on-the-job training throughout your education. For example, you may complete practical projects or take an unpaid placement with a company as part of your coursework. Alternatively, you may complete an internship alongside your studies. Gaining prior experience before applying to entry-level positions can you more appealing to a potential employer. Aim to work in various areas of PR to determine what you enjoy the most.

Another advantage of work experience is the references that might come from it. Take your work experience seriously, accept constructive feedback gracefully, offer your input and ask questions. Some employers may provide feedback at the end of a temporary placement, which you can refer to in future applications. You can also ask permission to include previous supervisors as a reference on your resume. Future employers can call your reference for an account of your skills and work ethic.

Related: How to Show Work Experience on Your Resume (With Example and Tips)

3. Become a member of The Public Relations Institute of Australia

The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) is the national industry body for public relations and communications professionals. You can become a member of the PRIA once you commence study for public relations or communication. They offer membership types for different levels of professionals, including students. The PRIA provides access to a range of resources for their members, including professional support and tools to help develop your skills. As a member, you can access information on education, industry-related events, professional recognition, professional networking and job opportunities.

4. Consider Your career growth

According to Job Outlook, there's a growing demand for public relations professionals, meaning you might find many opportunities in this field. You could enter the workforce as an advisor or coordinator and advance your career to become a manager or director. As you progress in your career, you could specialise in a particular area, such as marketing, communications, social media or accounts. One of the great aspects of public relations is the broad range of opportunities with the flexibility of career pathways.

Read more: What Is a PR Manager? (With Skills and Responsibilities)

Personal attributes of a public relations professional

There are a few personal attributes that are important to understand before pursuing a career in public relations:

Honesty

As a public relations professional, it's favourable to remain honest, upfront and reliable throughout your career. These qualities can enhance the quality of service you provide and ensure you secure a good professional reputation and relationships. Showing honesty may increase your career growth opportunities through references and recommendations.

Adaptability

It's important a public relations professional is the type of person that adapts to change easily and works well under pressure. Public opinion and media trends can change fast. A PR professional can use this quality to stay up to date on market trends and ensure the client stays relevant to their target market.

Self-motivation

As a public relations professional, it's productive to keep a self-motivating mindset. Motivation aids creativity, a useful tool when developing innovative communication and marketing strategies. In this career, you can also use motivation to manage your time successfully to track tasks. You may often work with tight deadlines, so it's important to organise your time efficiently.

Related: Personal Attributes: Definition, Examples and Key Tips

Public relations roles

There are various roles and career opportunities in the public relations profession. Many businesses, governments, not-for-profit organisations, departments, agencies and public figures can benefit from a good public relations professional. There are five primary areas of public relations you can consider when planning your career. These include media, communications, account management, marketing and development.

Below is a list of various roles included in the public relations profession:

1. Promotions coordinator

National average salary: $91,765 per year

Primary duties: A promotions coordinator organises and delivers promotional material about a client's current and upcoming products, services and developments.

2. Social media manager

National average salary: $81,529 per year

Primary duties: A social media manager's responsibilities include developing and implementing a client's social media strategy. They typically create social media content and monitor the results of the content using digital analytics.

Related: What Does a Social Media Manager Do? With Skills and Salary

3. Communications specialist

National average salary: $94,775 per year

Primary duties: A communications specialist's responsibility is to create and deliver public relations material to the media and public. This includes press releases, interviews, information output, advertisements and social media content.

4. Copywriter

National average salary: $69,129 per year

Primary duties: A copywriter creates informative written content for their client intending to market their product or service. They write content for websites, social media posts, slogans, emails, blogs and brochures.

Related: How to Become a Copywriter (With Skills and FAQs)

5. Account supervisor

National average salary: $80,093 per year

Primary duties: An account supervisor oversees budgets, accounts, fees, marketing plans and campaigns. They monitor their accounts team and provide them with feedback on their performance.

6. Senior Account Executive

National average salary: $111,583 per year

Primary duties: The key responsibility of a senior account executive is to manage and support their team of accountants. These professionals establish targets for their team to meet and support their colleagues in reaching these targets. They also monitor, maintain and grow current client relationships.

Related: What Is an Account Executive? (Plus How to Become One)

Tips on beginning your public relations career

  • Research public relations to determine what area you might be interested in.

  • Analyse the content you find in your everyday life for an idea of current trends and strategies.

  • Speak to professionals to build your professional network.

  • Develop an online portfolio where you can easily direct potential clients.

  • Prepare for an interview by practising job interview answers.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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