Posted At: December 1, 2008 1:11 PM
by Kristin McDonald
Your job shouldn’t feel like work; it should be fun and rewarding. So before you begin the job search process, you should know what you want. The field of public relations offers a variety of jobs in three basic institutions: corporations, agencies and nonprofit organizations. Each of these three areas appeals to different types of people with diverse personalities, preferences and range of interests. Each area is individualistic. All three types of public relations connect under the umbrella of reputation management and communication, but each type has its own persona, requirements and goals. While the end result is the same — getting a job in the PR field — the means to which the end is achieved can vary based on where you work.
In the process of learning the basics of public relations practice throughout your education, you also learn about the job search process. While the article “Finding a Job 101” discusses practical tips for finding a job, this article can help you find a job that you love and that fits your personality best. Public relations offers its professionals unlimited opportunities to apply their skills and personalities to their job, so take advantage of the variety this field offers and find a job that fits you.
I gathered the following information from André Taylor and Stephen Bradley while attending the Agency vs. Corporate vs. Nonprofit session at The University of Alabama’s PR Day on Nov. 6, 2008.
Corporate Public Relations
Structure embodies this type of public relations. In corporate PR, professionals are usually responsible for one or two specific tasks. For example, your job might specifically entail working on the company newsletter. Expectations would be clearly defined and, typically, there would be no surprises. Corporate PR is also considered the best paid public relations position. Entry-level jobs are estimated to earn between $27,000-$35,000.
One of the disadvantages to working within a company’s public relations department is lack of variety. Your client will always be the company, and your responsibility will always be promoting the company. Also, freedom in decision-making can be stifled in corporate PR. Decisions must be made that benefit not only the company, but also take into account the opinion of your boss and his boss. Everyone is not always as savvy in public relations as you are, and their decisions will not always be in the best interest of the company and its image. However, in order to keep your job, you must learn to compromise between their opinions and your own.
Agency Public Relations
Working within an agency is very different and more complex than working within a corporation. Agency PR is often associated with issues management. This type of public relations can work with government and politics to persuade a person for or against taking an action to help the client. An agency’s focus is on serving the client and providing any kind of service necessary to help the client. The kinds of projects and work involved with agencies will vary day to day based on the current clients and their needs. The agency is continually changing to better serve the client and working efficiently to keep the client satisfied.
One difficult aspect for agencies is maintaining clientele. Constant turnover characterizes agencies. An agency is always gaining new clients with new problems and losing old clients after their work is complete. And unlike in corporate and nonprofit PR, finding clients is up to the agency itself.
Nonprofit Public Relations
The award for most challenging and smallest budget goes to nonprofit public relations jobs. In this job, professionals must get creative with ways to effectively and cost-efficiently promote their organizations. Usually, the public relations department for a nonprofit organization is very small; therefore, everyone is involved in all aspects of the communication plan. When taking a job in the nonprofit sector, be prepared to work in a variety of areas including advertising, event planning, marketing, design and writing.
Public relations professionals working with nonprofits will most likely be paid less than both corporate and agency public relations professionals. However, most people in nonprofit PR are passionate about the cause their organization supports and are able to see the tangible results of their work.
After you work hard to find the job you love, remember to work hard to get that job. Employers seeks employees with sharp verbal and writing skills, so make sure to keep learning and improving. Your portfolio demonstrates your abilities, so always keep it updated with your best work. Get to know the business you are working for and start learning how your target audience views your company. And always be conscious that as a representative of a company, your reputation affects its reputation. And lastly, take leadership opportunities when they come your way. The employee who comes to work a little earlier, leaves a little later and works a little harder will make the best impression.
Choose wisely when deciding where to take a job. Just because most job titles include the words “public relations” or “communications” doesn’t mean each job includes the same type of work or environment. Pick a public relations job that will allow you become the person you want to be instead of letting a job determine who you will become. If you find a job that you love, your job will no longer be work; it will be fun.
André Taylor, VP (ret.) of Communications, Alabama Gas Corporation
Stephen Bradley, President, Stephen Bradley & Associates LLC