How to Become a Public Relations Manager or Specialist
A bachelor’s degree is typically needed for public relations manager and specialist positions, while public relations managers also need work experience.
Public relations managers and specialists typically need a bachelor's degree. Public relations managers also need related work experience.
Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Employers usually want candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.
For public relations management positions, a bachelor's degree in public relations, communication, or journalism is generally required. Courses in advertising, business administration, public affairs, public speaking, political science, and creative and technical writing are helpful. In addition, some employers prefer a master’s degree in public relations or journalism. In 2010, one-fourth of public relations managers held a master’s degree.
Public relations specialists typically are trained on the job, either in a formal program or by working closely under more experienced staff members. Entry-level workers often maintain files of material about an organization’s activities, skim newspapers and magazines for appropriate articles to clip, and assemble information for speeches and pamphlets. Training typically lasts between 1 month and 1 year. After gaining experience, public relations specialists write news releases, speeches, and articles for publication or plan and carry out public relations programs.
The Public Relations Society of America offers a certification program for public relations managers that is based on years of experience and on passing an exam. The Accredited Business Communicator credential is also available from the International Association of Business Communicators.
Public relations managers must have several years of experience in a related public relations position. Lower level management positions may require only a few years of experience, whereas directors are more likely to need 5 to 10 years of related work experience.
Interpersonal skills. Public relations managers and specialists deal with the public regularly; therefore, they must be open and friendly to build rapport and get good cooperation from their media contacts.
Organizational skills. Public relations managers and specialists are often in charge of managing several events at the same time, requiring superior organizational skills.
Problem-solving skills. Public relations managers and specialists sometimes must explain how the company or client is handling sensitive issues. They must use good judgment in what they report and how they report it.
Research skills. Public relations managers and specialists must often do research, including interviewing executives or other experts, to get the information they need.
Speaking skills. Public relations managers and specialists regularly speak on behalf of their organization. When doing so, they must be able to explain the organization’s position clearly.
Writing skills. Public relations managers and specialists must be able to write well-organized and clear press releases and speeches. They must be able to grasp the key messages they want to get across and write them in a short, succinct way to get the attention of busy readers or listeners.