Many students think public relations is only about publicity and parties – glitz and glamour in media relations and event organizing. They tend to be influenced by shallow media coverage of ‘public relations’ and movie characters. However, a public relations career can be much more wide-ranging – satisfying – and important. There are great career opportunities in PR for college students. For example, think of Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s sensational success in leading his nation’s desperate fight against the Russian invasion in 2022. Through his public relations campaign, Zelenskyy captured sympathy and support for his nation from billions of people worldwide.
Public relations is about communication and influence. A public relations career offers great potential for new graduates because there is always a strong need for people to communicate well professionally and to influence others in business life.
Everyone needs to communicate and influence the development of constructive relationships with others to survive and thrive. Individuals, groups, organizations and nations all need to communicate with the people who are important to them. They seek the goodwill of those people. Effective soft skills are essential for establishing goodwill and positive relationships.
PR functions at several levels
The PR role can function at five levels:
- Individual level—in interpersonal communication
- Program or project level—in communication activities designed to reach targeted individuals and groups
- Functional level—within and between organizational departments
- Organizational level—within and between organizations
- Societal level—within and between different parts of our globalized society.
Public relations works largely on behalf of organizations in many sectors of society, such as in companies (public and private); government at federal, State and local levels; non-profit organizations; education bodies like schools and universities; PR consultancies, and many others, including individuals such as prominent people like politicians, entertainers, social media influencers, and sports stars as well as for alliances like environmental and community groups.
Such bodies set their purpose (mission) and broad goals and work to achieve their purpose. But they can’t do this alone; they need the cooperation of others, especially those who may have a major impact on their capacity to achieve their goals. Those people interact with the organization or group and have a view about what they want in their relationship with its people.
For instance, employees want satisfying jobs, customers want useful products and services, investors want an adequate return on their investment, environmentalists want organizations to minimize their impact on the environment, the government may want to see a safe workplace and compliance with laws and regulations, and suppliers want to receive regular orders. Public relations helps make all of that happen.
An organization may not necessarily want to deal with some of those people it finds itself dealing with if they are likely to pressure the organization to get what they want. But if they are essential to the organization’s viability, it has no choice but to interact with them. Therefore, the interaction between an organization and its audiences or stakeholders is a continuing process of negotiation and collaboration. The best role of public relations is to act as a bridge or conduit between the groups. You can see from this that there a great PR career opportunities for college students.
Examples of PR role
Some examples of the valuable role public relations can play are:
- Persuade the best employees to join and stay.
- Communicate with employees whose jobs will be changed or cut by mergers and restructures.
- Convince affected people to accept the need for new government regulations relating to product safety.
- Inform people in the community about health risks and solutions.
- Develop a positive relationship with people who want to contribute ideas about a new community centre.
- Deal with speculation by bloggers and on Twitter about the launch of a new product.
- Organize a fundraising event for a charity as part of a corporate social responsibility initiative.
The key role of communication
Prof. Anne Gregory, former Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, says “Communication is complex, fluid and often misunderstood. It is a function but also a [central] part of organizations and organizing in a way that other professions are not. It is perfectly possible for organizations to operate without buildings, money or products, but it is not possible for them to exist without communication.”
What’s more: recent research prompted high-profile social psychology and marketing professor Robert Cialdini to say in his 2016 book, Pre-suasion, that “…we should think of language as primarily a mechanism of influence. People are always persuading others: …the intent is not to explain our position to others as to persuade them to it.” [p. 100]. So, public relations plays a vital role in society.
Courses that will help you get a job in PR
Different types of courses will help you get a job in public relations. You should choose the best college offering courses in PR. The course will help you get the proper knowledge and skills for this field. Once you start your course, put more effort into learning the skills.
The main PR courses offered in colleges are public relations, communications, and media. Some students focus on a major in consumer psychology or project management. Others focus on journalism, communications, campaign planning, and even advertising. I would also suggest signing up for some business units because communication careers are primarily based in private and public organizations where employees must understand business terms and operational matters.
Many career opportunities are available in the public relations/communication field. Professional communicators are knowledge workers, and Bryan Hancock, a Washington DC McKinsey talent expert, said in a 2022 podcast, “Knowledge workers with skills that are easily portable across employers and geographic locations have power.”
You need to learn core writing skills to get a job armed with your PR degree. You must love finding out facts and reading widely, plus a keen interest in news and current affairs. A course in PR is demanding and extensive. If you need to develop your writing skills, the Edubirdie writing platform will help you tackle assignments.
Where can you work in PR?
The PR field is very wide. Consider the immensely wide scope of public relations. The range of the activities below are just some of the diverse roles you can find under the umbrella of public relations:
- Media relations
- Internal communication
- Digital media
- Social media engagement and marketing
- Community engagement
- Stakeholder relations
- Marketing communication
- Sponsorship manager, coordinator
- Event management
- Issue management
- Crisis communication
- Government relations and lobbying, and staffers/advisers
- International communication
- Website development
- Financial relations
- Content strategist.
Nearly every employer larger than a small business in the world requires a public relations/communication specialist to help them create a positive relationship and, therefore, positive outcomes between them and the people who are important to them. The best role of public relations is to act as a bridge or conduit between parties. This means excellent PR career opportunities exist for college students who want to make a difference.
PR professionals can also represent small groups and individuals. Individual politicians hire PR pros to engage in communication on their behalf. Many NGOs hire PR professionals too. The most considerable portion of PR workers is in the private sector, in the business world. After graduation, one of the options to gain experience is to join a PR consultancy and learn about how clients operate in various fields. PR opportunities abound in companies in the motor vehicle industry, technology companies, and public companies registered on the stock exchange. You can also work in the retail market, marketing field, fashion industry, and many more.
What PR job positions can you work in?
The PR professional role can be identified in any of these job titles:
- Public relations manager, officer
- Public/corporate affairs director, manager, officer
- Corporate communication manager, officer, strategist
- Media and communication manager
- Manager, digital and social media
- Social media specialist
- Program coordinator
- Relationship manager
- Event manager
- PR consultant, communication consultant
Aim to gain experience
The PR job field is competitive, with many PR students seeking to start their careers. One of the reasons the field is competitive is because it has a bright future. Communicating well will always be a strong benefit to a career in a professional field. It is a universal benefit for job prospects and a career in PR. The practical part that you learn in college is not enough. Take advantage of available internship programs. If possible, volunteer to work for a certain company for free. You can work for three or six months. This can help you reach a strong future because there are great PR career opportunities for college students.
The public relations field is highly competitive. To get a job in this field, you need to have the right education. Register for a PR course and major in any key PR major. You can register for public relations, journalism, or communication. The places to get a job differ depending on what you expect. You can work both in the public and private sectors. If you have some experience, you will be in a better position to get a job. As the world around us keeps changing, it is important to continue to gain more skills – or your career will crash. So, strengthen your career prospects by becoming a lifelong learner.
The long-term outlook is bright for employment in the public relations field. This view is supported by trend information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which in 2022 estimated the job outlook for “Public Relations Specialists” to rise at an average rate of 11% annually through 2030.
Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.