Public Relations

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Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire a public relations officer, noted the American social historian Daniel Boorstin.

A public relations officer creates and maintains a positive relationship between an organisations and the public. They do this by communicating a positive image through various mediums. Public bodies, businesses, celebrities, and voluntary groups all use public relations techniques. PR officers have a variety of duties. They help to create interest in the media and produce publicity material. They also organise events and conferences. In addition, they build relationships with communities and individuals.

Education

There are a limited number of specific PR options at third level in Irish colleges and universities. These include Public Relations at Dundalk Institute of Technology, and Communications & Public Relations at Carlow’s Institute of Technology. These are both Level 8 courses. In addition, many third-level courses in subjects such as Business or Marketing include PR modules.

Examples of subjects you will encounter on a PR course at undergraduate level include:

  • Theory
  • Writing
  • Management
  • Advertising
  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • Languages
  • International Business
  • Research Methods
  • Project or Event Planning
  • Media Production
  • Media Analysis

Many students take an undergraduate degree in a related area, such as Business, Marketing or Media Studies. They then do a postgraduate qualification in Public Relations. Further education and on-the-job training are important aspects of a PR career. The Public Relations Institute of Ireland validates professional qualifications.

Options After Qualification

Many PR undergraduate and postgraduate courses offer work placements. These can be valuable for building workplace experience and securing a permanent position. People with qualifications in related fields such as advertising, journalism and marketing often move into the PR area. In addition, entry-level jobs in promotions or marketing can be the first step to a career in PR.

Everyone from the Football Association of Ireland to the Department of Health needs PR people. Therefore graduates can find work with a wide range of companies, bodies and organisations. There are also a number of specialist agencies that provide PR services for other businesses or organisations.

The Work

There are somewhat misplaced ideas that the life of a PR officer is filled with glamour and excitement. The reality is very different. A PR officer’s day-to-day tasks and responsibilities include writing press releases and articles. They may also advise clients on PR strategies, organise news conferences, make presentations and produce leaflets, videos and websites. Those employed in the corporate sector may also do product marketing and customer research.

PR professionals working for a public body or government department may have to react to crises by putting a ‘positive spin’ on situations. Consequently, it is common for PR officers to have a reaction policy in place. This might include statistics and anything that may back up/distract from a situation depending on that particular scenario. PR executives can represent their organisation in public, and appear in the media or at a conference or meeting to put across their employer’s side of an argument, communicating difficult messages to the public in a clear, unambiguous way.

Personal Qualities & Work Environment

A talent for communicating well with others and exuding confidence in pressure situations are just two of the necessary attributes a public relations officer should have. Other beneficial traits would be expertise in persuading, negotiating, influencing, bargaining, and arguing. A certain amount of resourcefulness and innovation would also be desirable and, considering the nature of the job, possessing excellent public speaking and writing skills is essential.

Working hours are not typical and often include evening and weekend work. Most PR professionals will be office-based, but will often have to travel to events and meetings. Foreign travel is a definite possibility, as are long, unsociable hours.

The Jargon

  • Press Release: A message sent to the media so they can let the public know of your organisation’s achievements or plans
  • Fact sheet: A list of facts prepared for the media that is meant to give a brief overview of a company, individual, event, or ongoing situation. Most often used by businesses as part of a media kit
  • Image consultant: A professional who maintains and improves a client’s image, often using public relations tactics as part of an overall campaign
  • Crisis management: The communications management function used to convey accurate facts and data to the general public during a crisis situation

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