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How to Sort Through the Different Public Relations Sectors

Published on November 28, 2017, at 8:05 p.m.
by Mallory McDonald.

The public relations industry is like an ocean, vast and endless with a plethora of opportunities for starting professionals. Every industry is in need of PR. From sports to technology and everything in between, public relations is a necessity for a successful business or brand.

The demand for public relations professionals in different fields allows upcoming PR practitioners the opportunity to determine a sector that best suits them. For some, this decision may seem inherently simple. Maybe a candidate has spent their whole life learning a certain sport and that led them to their future home in sports PR. Or maybe, another upcoming PR professional’s parents were in the health field, and because they didn’t enjoy a science or engineering class, they found their niche in health care PR.

But for some, none of these are the case, and they have absolutely no idea what sector of PR they belong in. If this is the case for you, that is OK, you are not alone.

The vast amount of industries that use public relations can be overwhelming and leaves many young public relations professionals confused about which is best suited for them. Of course, the option to go into an industry wherever a job presents itself is always an alternative. There is a chance it will be the perfect fit, or it can be a learning opportunity for future endeavors.

For many, however, starting a job in a sector that interests them is coveted. There is nothing better than finding a home in PR in a field that is familiar and enjoyable. But how can you tell what that is?

Each sector of PR has certain attributes that are needed to be successful in that industry. What works for technology PR most likely won’t work for the entertainment industry. In order to sort through the different sectors, it is crucial to understand the requirements for each of the main areas.

Touchdown. Goal. Sports PR.
Sports public relations has always attracted a large number of professionals. Oftentimes, people who work in sports PR knew early on it is where they wanted to end up. It could be because they grew up around sports or because they resonate with a specific team.

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“Ever since I was a child, participating and attending sporting events was a large part of my life,” Emily Baker, Master of Sports Business Management candidate, said. “My family had season tickets to the nearest NFL team (Washington Redskins), and when we weren’t physically at the game, we were religiously cheering them on from the comfort of our living room. This instilled a strong sense of tradition, pride and commitment in me at a young age that has continued to grow and flourish into my future career.”

A background in sports is not required to work in sports public relations. What is required is a deep understanding of the sport and the different teams in the league. Knowing the insides and out of the sport and teams better prepare public relations professionals for working in this sector.

Lights. Camera. Entertainment PR.
In entertainment public relations, the red carpet is rolled out for your client, not for you. Due to the high level of publicity and media attention of the clients in entertainment PR, the stakes can be extremely high.

“In the entertainment public relations sector, you better have tough skin,” Lori Bizzoco, founder, and CEO of NV Media Inc. and Cupid’s Pulse said. “I have been in this industry for over 10 years, and it requires a thick skin, the ability to take constructive criticism and adapt to how quickly the entertainment industry changes. One day your client could be the queen or king of the industry, and the next day the media could tear them to pieces. You must be able to be the backbone of your client and have crisis management plans ready in advance.”

Pharma. Vaccines. Health care PR. 

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Health care public relations is an up-and-coming industry with a lot of opportunities for young professionals to work their way up. It may not be as exciting as entertainment public relations or as well known as sports PR, but it has exciting campaigns that are constantly getting national recognition. Some previous nationally recognized health care campaigns are the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Change Direction and Merck’s HPV vaccine advertising campaign.

“Ultimately my educational and professional background led me to the beginning of my career in health care PR,” Allison Cloutier, assistant account executive, health at Zeno Group, said. “One of the most prominent differences between health care and other practices is that oftentimes you’re helping clients to navigate a tight regulatory space, which is challenging but exciting! Another difference is that you’re sometimes speaking to a different audience, depending upon the task. Your audience could be doctors, hospital executives, sales representatives, consumers, patients and their families.”

This sector requires extensive research on the different diseases, treatments and audiences that are involved in each individual campaign. The willingness to dive headfirst into a field that is more strictly regulated is crucial to success in this sector.

Latest. Breaking. Technology PR.
According to Forbes,“Information-technology firms and construction-related companies dominate the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.” This correlates directly with an increase in demand for public relations professionals in the technology sector.

In an article on PRWeek, Jonathan Simnett, a specialist in technology PR specialist said, “What we

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do is not about publicity, it’s a well-managed, important element of the marketing mix. And we have all kinds of different clients, from new economy companies that are cash rich but resource poor that we help to grow quickly, to global mature companies that need to reinvent themselves. The idea of being a few months out of college and being put on a team that changes the future of a global player is one of the most exciting career options you can have.”

Working in technology necessitate communication at a product level to an IT audience. This requires practitioners to at least have a base knowledge of technology. A good way to test out this profession would be a class or a minor in computer science.

Runway. Designer. Fashion PR.
Similarly to sports, public relations professionals in fashion usually are drawn to that niche early on. Whether it started as dressing up in mom’s or dad’s expensive clothes as a child or reading the latest Vogue, fashion PR held its door wide open. But don’t be fooled by the glitz and glamour; fashion PR is not to something to underestimate or take lightly.

Fashion PR has some of the most grueling hours, and while attending some of the most glamorous parties and having the most high-profile clients are part of the job for fashion PR associates, their work becomes their life.

Here are some anonymous quotes from two women with extensive fashion experience:

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“The biggest misconception about working in fashion PR is that it’s a breeze or in any way glamorous. Everything that has a hint of glamour is constructed for the enjoyment of others, so you don’t usually get the chance to relax and enjoy it! Oh, and boozy lunches? They do happen, but we’re not the ones drinking.”

“Although fashion week seems great on the outside, the first time I planned a show at Bryant Park, I worked 20 days in a row and ended up having a major anxiety attack that took me to the hospital.”

“My hours while working in PR were the most intense I’ve ever experienced, which is why it’s so frustrating to have people perceive the job as drinking and Ab-Fab-ing it up all day. The days of the Adina Monsoon-style of PR are long gone and now it really is a very considered, formulaic process that is driven by quantifiable results. It’s only gotten harder with the digital landscape and social media.”

So if long hours and multitasking like a pro sound enticing, the fashion industry may be the perfect fit.

Still lost?
For those still confused about what direction to take in the different realms of public relations, fear not — it takes time. Even though the PR industry gives the option to go into a sector, that doesn’t mean it is the right decision.

Another option is working for a nonprofit organization as a public relations specialist, which has its rewards and hardships, just like work in any other PR sector. Working for a nonprofit can be some of the most beneficial and fulfilling work out there.

Many PR students entering the workforce start at an agency, such as Edelman or Weber Shandwick, where they work on a multitude of clients all from different sectors. One week the client could be in the entertainment industry and, the next, representing a cutting-edge technology. This gives PR professionals an opportunity to get experience on multiple accounts and learn where they are best suited.

Whether you know your industry from the start or grow into a trade over time, the world of public relations is your oyster.


  1. Post comment

    This article was a great read and very interesting as a current PR student. I’m a junior studying PR with a specialization in sports and entertainment management and seeing the quotes from people who have worked in both industries was very interesting for me. It was also great to learn more about healthcare and technology PR, and to see that they’re not exactly as they seem. To hear about all of the supplemental information that you need to know in healthcare PR was interesting, since some may not think of PR specialists as having to the some of the same knowledge as healthcare professionals. Fashion PR was another great sector to learn about since I always categorized it myself, as a part of entertainment PR.


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