Career in public relations

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Robert Hall is head of communications for a financial services business in Manchester. He and his team could be writing stories for a staff magazine one moment and talking to journalists the next.

What is public relations?

My career in public relations is all about making sure people know what an organisation is and what it does. For this company, it involves getting the right messages out about our business. We have two main audiences that we communicate those messages to – the internal audience of the 15,000 people who work for us, and the general public. I'm not responsible for advertising or marketing.

What do you mean by messages?

For example, we have been currently merging two businesses, so staff have been going through a lot of changes. We need to explain this to them and help them understand their roles in the new business. Our success depends on everyone pulling together, so it's important to encourage that. Externally, we want people to understand the new organisation.

How do you get those messages out?

Within the company, we produce a staff newspaper and we write information for the intranet – a website that's for use exclusively for people in the company. We also organise face-to-face briefings to pass on news and get feedback and we have organised a series of roadshows around the country.

We talk to people outside the company by getting information in the media – by sending stories to newspapers, radio and TV, answering enquiries from journalists and organising interviews and presentations.

Who do you work with?

I have a team of 14 press officers and communications staff. I'm responsible for creating the strategy that steers what they do day-to-day. I make sure that what is being said to the press and to staff fits in with how we want to be seen.

Do you have a typical day?

I tend to get in around 8 a.m. and start by going through emails and the post before deciding which are things I need to tackle and which need to be passed to the team to follow up. There might be a quick review with my senior team, and, every week, there's a full team meeting where we look at what's been happening and what's coming up.

I may be involved in writing a report for the Board or producing the annual report and accounts. We've got a conference for 800 staff soon and I'm writing the paper that outlines what themes we need to talk about.

Public relations looks like a lot of pressure?

Absolutely. You have to be able to stay calm. Other skills you need are to be able to handle more than one task at once. You also have be able to communicate sensitively – that means recognising that we might have one underlying thing we want to get people to understand but we have a lot of different audiences and we have to present that message in a way they want and can understand.

Robert's route to his career in public relations

  • A levels.
  • Joined a management development programme
  • Postgraduate diploma from the Institute of Public Relations.

Robert's public relations tip

  • Keep a portfolio (record) of work you're proud of – and keep polishing your writing skills.

Public relations related jobs

  • Conference organiser
  • Journalist
  • Market research executive
  • Marketing manager

Salary working in public relations

  • Starting salaries would be around £12,000 with an experienced public relations officer earning around £23,000.
  • Senior managers, such as directors or head of corporate affairs, can expect to be paid from £40,000 to £100,000.

Career in public relations

  • Most public relations officers are graduates.
  • The Institute of Public Relations (IPR) has a list of approved degrees in PR.
  • Competition for jobs is so fierce that a postgraduate diploma and experience are often needed too. You could gain experience through placements or through voluntary work or holiday jobs.
  • The CAM ( Communications, Advertising and Marketing) Education Foundation Advanced Certificate and Higher Diploma in Public Relations can be studied parttime, full-time, by intensive or distance learning.
  • Public relations officers can work towards membership of the IPR by studying for the IPR Diploma Foundation and Diploma.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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