What is a Public Relations Specialist?

A public relations specialist is someone who creates and maintains a favourable public image for their employer or client. They write material for media releases, plan and direct public relations programs, and raise funds for their organizations.

What does a Public Relations Specialist do?

A public relations specialist is someone who creates and maintains a favourable public image for their employer or client by writing material for media releases, planning and directing public relations programs, and raising funds for their organizations.

Public relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Write press releases and prepare information for the media
  • Identify main client groups and audiences and determine the best way to reach them
  • Respond to requests for information from the media or designate an appropriate spokesperson or information source
  • Help clients communicate effectively with the public
  • Develop and maintain their organization's corporate image and identity, using logos and signs
  • Draft speeches and arrange interviews for an organization’s top executives
  • Evaluate advertising and promotion programs to determine whether they are compatible with their organization’s public relations efforts
  • Develop and carry out fundraising strategies for an organization by identifying and contacting potential donors and applying for grants

Public relations specialists handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters, and other media specialists. In government, they may be called press secretaries. They keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.

Public relations specialists must understand the attitudes and concerns of the groups they interact with to maintain cooperative relationships with them. They draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of public relations specialists. For example, a press release might describe a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does to advance that issue. In addition to publication through traditional media outlets, releases are increasingly being sent through the web and social media.

Public relations specialists also sponsor corporate events to help maintain and improve the image and identity of their organization or client. In addition, they help to clarify their organization’s point of view to its main audience through media releases and interviews. They observe social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the organization, and they recommend ways to enhance the firm's image based on those trends. For example, in response to a growing concern about the environment, an oil company may create a public relations campaign to publicize its efforts to develop cleaner fuels.

In large organizations, public relations specialists may supervise a staff. They also work with advertising and marketing staffs to make sure that advertising campaigns are compatible with the image the company or client is trying to portray. For example, if the firm has decided to emphasize its appeal to a certain group, such as younger people, the public relations manager ensures that current advertisements will be well received by that group.

In addition, they may handle internal communications, such as company newsletters, and may help financial managers produce an organization’s reports. They may help the organization’s top executives by drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public contact.

Public relations specialists must be able to work well with many types of other workers to accurately report the facts. In some cases, the information they write has legal consequences. They must work with the company's or client's lawyer to be sure that the information they release is both legally accurate and clear to the public.

Are you suited to be a public relations specialist?

Public relations specialists have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

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What is the workplace of a Public Relations Specialist like?

Public relations specialists usually work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel. They work in fairly high-stress environments, often managing and organizing several events at the same time.

What is the difference between a marketing manager and a public relations manager?

Although there are some similarities, marketing managers and public relations managers have different roles and day-to-day responsibilities:

Marketing Manager
Marketing aims to reach current and potential customers in order to return direct sales by way of advertising, promotional, and direct marketing. Marketing is defined by Dr. Phillip Kotler as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”

Marketing managers help generate sales for a product or service by creating and overseeing marketing plans. They perform extensive market research so as to make informed decisions and seek out new and emerging market trends, work with advertising agencies and the media so as to reach their marketing objectives, manage budgets, and work with a company's marketing staff and creative team to develop marketing campaigns. They are the go-to people on anything related to marketing a product or service, as they have a pulse on the latest social media, graphic design trends, and web designs.

Marketing managers require a high level of creativity and top-tier professionalism. They often work closely with an organization's executives, providing them with an in-depth understanding of marketing trends, new marketing strategies, and on-going campaigns.

Public Relations Manager
Public relations is focused on maintaining positive media coverage and positive relationships with those who have an interest in the company or brand. This covers a broader audience, from customers and media to employees and stakeholders. The PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) says that “public relations helps an organization and its publics 
adapt mutually to each other. Public relations broadly applies to organizations as a collective group, not just a business; and publics encompass the variety of different stakeholders.”

Public relations managers are experts in maintaining a positive public image for their clients by communicating effectively through written, verbal, and interpersonal form. They do this by sending out media releases, creating media kits for product launches and promotions, handling press conferences, and creating and writing messages/speeches delivered by their clients. They also respond to unfavourable publicity by creating and leading all communication with the goal of restoring the public's trust. Public relations managers proactively work with public relations staff and creative staff (writers and designers), to develop a positive image for their clients.

While a marketing manager and a public relations manager's core roles are very different, both types of managers must have excellent verbal, written, interpersonal, and leadership skills. They must also possess strong business knowledge, which comes from years of professional experience.

A marketing manager going over strategies with her marketing team.

Public Relations Specialists are also known as:
Public Affairs Specialist PR Specialist Media Relations Specialist Public Relations Coordinator