A Career in Public Relations – starting as a Public Relations Account Executive
Public relations account executives manage the reputation with the objective of earning understanding and support, as well as influencing opinion and behaviour for an organisation.
The work of a public relations account executive can be very varied and will depend on the area of PR that the agency may specialise in, as well as the executive’s client portfolio. PR agencies often specialise in specific industry sectors, such as consumer, business-to-business (B2B), financial and healthcare.
- Liaising on an everyday basis with clients and the media, often via telephone and email.
- Relationship building and networking with colleagues, clients and the media.
- Working as part of an account team to develop client proposals and implement the PR activity.
- Preparing regular client reports and attending client meetings to assess the progress of the PR campaign.
- Researching, writing and distributing press releases to targeted media.
- Promoting news stories and features to the media, often via the telephone.
- Collating and analysing media coverage.
- Event management, including press conferences and promotional events.
- Attending and promoting client events to the media.
- Assisting with the production of client publications, such as in-house magazines, which may involve writing, as well as possibly managing the design and distribution of the magazine.
- Commissioning market research and co-ordinating studio or location photography.
- Undertaking research for new business proposals and presenting to potential new clients.
- Managing the PR aspect of a possible crisis situation.
- Business-to-business (B2B)
- Government and public affairs
As PR is a key element of the marketing mix, some of the larger full-service marketing consultancies have a department dedicated to PR (just as they may have a design and/or advertising department). Opportunities for PR professionals can exist in full-service marketing agencies, providing account executives to work closely with other departments to deliver integrated marketing campaigns to their clients, as well as developing their knowledge of other elements of marketing.
Opportunities also exist within in-house PR departments, working exclusively for that particular organisation. In-house PR professionals may deal with all the organisation’s PR and communication matters, or work in tandem with PR consultancies on certain projects.
- A typical salary for a public relations (PR) account executive is likely to be in the range of £18,000 – £29,000
- Account managers can generally expect to earn between £30,000 and £40,000
- PR salaries at more senior levels can range from £45,00 up to £60,000
A good PR account executive can expect to be promoted to senior account executive or account manager in two to three years. Account managers will have the responsibility of managing client accounts, in addition to managing more junior members of the team. After a further three to four years at this level, many PR professionals often have enough experience to seek promotion to account director, where they will have responsibility for higher profile clients and all staff working on the account teams, including account managers. The next step is generally to PR director, taking responsibility for all client accounts and PR staff.
Career progression is generally the individual’s own responsibility, with consultancies rewarding those who show professional ability, initiative and commitment. Some PR professionals may find it advantageous to move consultancy/organisation to obtain a more rapid career progression. Professional qualifications may also assist with career development and can be gained through the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
As there is little standardisation of PR job titles, professional titles may vary depending on the agency or organisation.
There are few specific public relations (PR) degree courses available and employers tend to judge graduates on their skills and attributes. Although entry to the profession is generally open to all graduates/Diplomates, the following degree/HND subjects may improve your chances:
- communication and media studies
- English and literary studies
A postgraduate qualification may improve your chances of securing a PR position. However, it will not guarantee a job or replace the personal qualities and experience that employers are looking for.
- Relevant pre-entry work experience is useful and can include vacation work, work placements, shadowing or volunteering.
- Careers services often have details of placements available, but be prepared to contact PR agencies directly.
- Details of work placements and other industry information are available through the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which students can join at a reduced rate. Membership can also provide opportunities to network with employers.
- Employers may also prefer graduates with experience of writing for student magazines or who have been involved with student radio or university societies.
- Consider related jobs (e.g. journalism, marketing) for work experience, as employers often find the skills and experience gained in these roles transferable to PR.
- The CIPR organises two regional careers days each year for graduates interested in PR.
- Interpersonal skills.
- Good presentation skills and confidence.
- Excellent written communication skills.
- Flexibility, determination, enthusiasm and the ability to cope well under pressure.
- Good teamwork and negotiation skills.
- Ability to think strategically.
- Business awareness and a good knowledge of current affairs.
- Thoroughness and problem-solving skills.
- Excellent organisational skills, with the ability to work on more than one project at a time.
- Creativity and imagination.
- Ability to use initiative.
- Analytical skills