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Career in Public Relations (PR)

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Overview
Public relations(PR) is about reputation, perception, credibility, confidence, harmony, and seeking mutual understanding based on truth and full information. The objective of PR is not confined to the business or commercial fields but is equally important in government and politics. PR is more than a publicity tool; it is an essential part of successful management in an increasingly competitive environment. PR is a function which promotes better understanding between an organisation and the public. All organisations, whether educational, social, political, commercial or government need to practice PR to meet their objectives and goals. The function of PR is to act as the communication link between the client and the public.

The basic philosophy underlying the practice of PR is that with public support and understanding it is much easier to achieve success in attaining identified objectives rather than in the face of public opposition or indifference. PR therefore works on the ways to develop relationships with sections of the public whose support and goodwill is essential for the success of an enterprise. The public relations representative of an organisation plans, directs and conducts public relations programmes designed to create and maintain a public informed of employers’ programmes, accomplishments or point of view.

Nature of Work

Whether it is used in the political arena, the business or commercial field, in community relations, for charity or fund-raising, or in many other situations, the essence of PR remains the same; only the methods vary in the different circumstances.

In communicating the right image of the client, public relations officers use the media effectively. They research public attitudes and opinions and assist in the
Framing or reviewing of policy with the background of the results/findings of the research. Once this phase of research is over they handle communication of the policy to the public. In the process of communication they keep in mind the message to be conveyed, the objectives for conveying it, the audience to be targeted, and the medium through which the message will reach the target audience most effectively.

Organisational functions handled by PR specialists include media, community, consumer, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation, or employee and investor relations.

Public relations officers provide factual stories about clients or their product to newspapers, magazines, and television, thus keeping the product or the service in the news and creating a ‘favourable image or climate’.

They also answer journalists’ questions about their clinents’ products, views or services, and may take journalists to see the product or service. They arrange receptions, exhibitions, and other projects of ‘put over’ a client or promote a cause, and give talks to interested groups. They deal with inquiries and also complaints from the public.

Specialising in researching data, creating ideas, writing copy, laying out art work, contacting media representatives or representing clients before the general public all fall under the purview of the PR function.

Work Environment

Public relations professionals work in event management companies, internal communication, shareholders communications, government-related work, product launches, exhibitions, corporate identity, public affairs, crisis management, financial PR and even overall strategic advice.

Some public relations specialists may work regular hours but unpaid overtime is common. In addition, schedules often have to be rearranged to meet deadlines, deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel out of town. Occasionally, they have to be at the job or on call around the clock, especially if there is an emergency or crisis.

Public relations specialists may work in offices most of the time but they must continue to meet and discuss with the top management and media agencies to develop an easy relationship. Hence, business and social networking at the workplace or in the social circuit, is required.
Specialisations

Celebrity management are off-shoots of PR or its specializations. Celebrity management is all about managing an individual’s legal, professional and publicity needs and is very much a PR as well as a management function. Event managers are responsible for organizing long-standing events, activities such as a music/drama festival, a holiday entertainment, a fashion/awards show, etc.

PR consultancy is likely to be involved with several different clients simultaneously and therefore need to have knowledge of several different industries or subjects. The work is, therefore, more varied.

Client servicing/management in an advertising agency is also a PR specialization.
Physical and Psychological Requirements

In this profession personality traits play a crucial role in ensuring success. Aspiring public relations officers should possess the ability to get on well with people of all kinds; a lively and inquiring mind; compassion; self-confidence; adaptability; an open mind; ability to write and speak well; ability to persuade and convince; enterprise and initiative; good news sense; sense of salesmanship; tact; a calm temperament: imagination; ability to communicate effectively in the regional language and English; and an unbiased approach.

The good PR person is sensitive to atmosphere, to other people’s feelings, to situations, to appreciate what is happening and to what is likely to happen-something in the nature of a sixth sense.

Aspiring public relations professionals should possess a reasonably good knowledge and understanding of the ways in which the country is governed, the laws prevailing, some knowledge of psychology, an appreciation of art, colour, form, design type and print, business experiences, buying, selling, commerce and banking, knowledge of films-the process of film making, and an interest in television and radio.

Study/Training

Training in PR is ideally through postgraduate degrees in journalism, public relations, advertising, or other communications-related fields. The minimum edudcational qualification for admission is a graduate degree. Admission is generally on the basis of the results of entrance tests and an interview. The entrance test assesses powers of expression and presentation in language and overall general awareness.

Formal training programmes are available as Mass Communications/Public Relations degree/diploma programmes conducted by various universities. These are of 1 or 2 years’ duration. However, even short-term courses of 6 months and 9 months duration known as PG Diploma courses are conducted in various polytechnics or professional training institutes. A degree in the liberal arts with a broad general understanding of the social, cultural, economic and political affairs could be a good launch-pad. You should be a good communicator both in the native language and English. Ability to communicate in Hindi is necessary for jobs in the Central Government or public sector undertakings.

PR is usually taught as a component of the Journalism course or combined with Advertising courses. Basically, this is due to the fact that PR is an adjunct in the process of mass communication and the PR person needs to have good journalistic (media) sense combined with the sense of salesmanship. In effect, therefore, training in Journalism/Mass Communication/ Advertising could lead you to a job in PR.

Ideally, a PR course would cover principles and techniques of PR, PR management and administration, writing, emphasizing news releases, proposals, annual reports, scripts, speeches and related items. In the present context, visual communications including desktop publishing and computer graphics is an important input.

This profession has also seen people coming in from journalism, law, teaching, marketing, advertising, personnel administration, business management, behavioural sciences and so on.

Employment Prospects

Possibly the government is the largest employer of PR personnel. One encounters them as public relations officer, information officers,publicity officers, etc. However, the trend is not always to employ trained PR personnel; instead general administrative staff is posted to departments which mainly function as grievance/complaint cells. They may be in charge of press relations and advertising and publicity for the organisation.

Public sector undertakings now have accepted positions assigned to PR professionals who handle their public/media profile. The service sector such as banks, hotels, airlines, railways, road transportation, catering, travel agencies, leasing companies; public utility organisations dealing in house-building, electricity, posts and telegraphs, all use public relations experts.

Salaries of the PR person vary from sector to sector; from industry to industry, depending upon the size of the organisation, the volume of business turnover, etc. Entry point remuneration could range between Rs.7,000 to Rs.15,000 depending upon quality of training, reputation of the training institution.

Career Progression

Globally as well as nationally, PR has enormous growth prospects. It has emerged as an effective tool to frame new policies and get them executed. Advancement prospects are bright for the PR person with the right personality and experience. Promotions for dynamic professionals can be quite rapid.

Often experienced PR specialists set up their own consultancies to cater to the needs of a variety of industrial clients or specialise in a particular industry’s needs.

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