What is Public Relations?
Public relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.
Public relations is the area, which looks after reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
'Publics' are audiences that are important to the organisation. They include customers - existing and potential; employees and management; investors; media; government; suppliers; opinion-formers.
To be effective, an organisation needs to listen to the opinion of those with whom it deals and not solely provide information. Issuing a barrage of propaganda is not enough in today's open society. At its best, public relations not only tells an organisation's story to its publics, it also helps to shape the organisation and the way it works. The practitioner needs to find out the concerns and expectations of a company's publics and explain them to its management.
Building a career in PR
Career development opportunities within the public relations industry are excellent but often competition for jobs is fierce. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the main professional body for individuals within the PR industry, and publishes a list of approved courses, which provide a good foundation for a career in PR. All of the approved courses include opportunities for work experience, and all have good employment records in the industry. Whilst studying, students on these courses can become student members of the institute and can start making their own contacts with PR practitioners. There is no standard promotion pattern for the industry but a talented and industrious individual might expect the following career development plan:
One to two years as a Junior Account Executive
Two to three years as an Account Executive
Two to three years as a Senior Account Executive or Account Manager before moving to Associate or Account Director.
Day to day in PR
Writing and editing - this could be shareholder reports, annual reports, press releases, articles and features, speeches, booklets, newsletters.
Media relations - developing and maintaining a good working contact with the media.
Corporate identity - developing and maintaining an organisation's identity, presenting the company's name and reputation rather than its products.
Special events - news conferences, exhibitions, facility celebrations, open days, competitions and award programmes are all used to gain the attention of specific groups.
Research and evaluation - the first activity undertaken by a public relations practitioner is usually analysis and fact gathering.
More information can be found on the CIPR's website.
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