Ron Smith's Teaching Notes on ...

Careers in Public Relations


Updated Spring 2019 as a supplement to Professor Smith's textbooks
Strategic Planning for Public Relations and Becoming a Public Relations Writer, (Routledge/Taylor and Francis).


If you are interested in public relations, chances are you want to know about the career potential for this field. The good news is that public relations is a growing field, with a future at least as bright as most other professions, better than some other areas of communication.



3 Levels of Public Relations Work

  • Technician
    Specialist in a technical craft (writing, photography, Web design, graphics, research, etc.)

  • Tactical Manager 
    Supervisor who day-to-day decisions on practical matters and oversees the work of technicians

  • ​Strategic Manager 
    Executive who makes decisions on management, trends, policy, issues, etc



Who's Hiring?

  • Public relations agencies (general or specialists)

  • Public relations sections of advertising, marketing or fund-raising agencies

  • Public relations/marketing communications department in company: Business, manufacturing, sports, health care, entertainment, travel/hospitality, industry association

  • Public relations/communication department in nonprofit organization (education, charity, religious, arts, professional)

  • Public Affairs unit in government or military (press secretary, public information, public affairs, communications)

  • Independent public relations/marketing communications consultants


The Public Relations Industry

US Labor Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2017

875,000 working public relations, marketing communication, advertising, fundraising, event planning

9,000 PR agencies in US (BLS)
Largest agency, Edelman, reported $520 million in fees and 3,600 employees in 2010

More than 50,000 public relations & advertising services/agencies/departments in US (BLS)


Median Salaries 2014 & Job Outlook through 2024 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Public relations specialist, $59,300; j
ob outlook: 9% growth 

Public relations or fundraising manager, $111,280; 10% job growth 

Advertising, promotions or marketing manager, $129,380; 10% job growth 

Advertising sales, $49,680, 4% job decline

Market research, $63,230, 23% job growth 

Fundraising specialist, $55,640, 15% job growth 

Events planning, 46,840, 10% job growth

Reporter or journalist, $40,910; 9% job decline

Writer or author, $58,850; 8% job growth

Editor, $58,770, 5% job decline

Technical writer, $70,930, 11% job growth

Diversified Workforce

63% women, 37% men as public relations specialists (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

59% women, 41% men as public relations managers

76% White, 5% Black, 10% Hispanic, 9% Asian in public relations (specialist and manager)

76% White, 9% Black, 10% Hispanic, 5% Asian in advertising (sales and management)


Work 34.4 hours/week (above national average of 33.6 hours)

Estimated 25% have master's degree


Employer-sponsored PR Professional Membership

45% Business & industry

30% Government, health, education, nonprofit

25% Public relations agency



Career Issues


What's Important to Practitioners
98% creative opportunity
96% recognition by colleagues
95% salary
92% access to technology


Career & Gender
Gender wage gap: 

$96,326 average salary for men

$70,745 average salary for women

  • Glass Ceiling

  • Velvet Ghetto


Line v/ Staff Functions

Line Function
in the line of authority (VP, director, manager)

gives orders, delegates, hires


Staff Function
supports those in the line of authority
makes recommendations, advises

Public Relations generally is a staff function


Levels of Organizational Influence

  • Advisory: no authority, no mandate to advise

  • Compulsory-Advisory: no authority, mandate to advise

  • Concurring Authority: yes-no authority

  • Command Authority: authority to act & order others to act


Managerial Interaction for Public Relations

  • Legal

  • Human Resources

  • Advertising

  • Marketing


Management Issues

  • Access/involvement with management

  • Outsourcing

  • Dominant coalition



Agencies v/ Departments


Agency: Advantage


Variety of Skills

Resources & Contacts

Specialties Credibility


Agency: Disadvantage

Higher Cost

Resistance to Outsiders

Threat to Status Quo

Superficial Grasp of Organization

Part-Time Commitment

Department: Advantage

Team Members

Knowledge of Organization




Department: Disadvantage

Taken for Granted


Lose Objectivity



Agency Management



  • Hourly w/ Out-of-Pocket Expenses

  • Retainer Fee

  • Fixed Project Fee


RFP = Request for Proposal


Agency Job Titles

  • Account Assistant Executive (entry-level)

  • Account Executive

  • Account Supervisor 



Components and Services of Public Relations


Community Relations

Consumer Relations

Crisis Communication (Emergency PR)

Development & Fund-raising

Employee Relations

Events Management

Financial Relations

Government Relations & Lobbying

Investor / Donor Relations

Issues Management

Marketing Communication

Media Analysis

Media Relations

Media Training & Coaching

Public Affairs

Publications & Production

Relations w/ Special Publics

Research & Evaluation



Personal Skills and Characteristics for Success in Public Relations


Writing ability

Research ability

Planning ability

Management ability

Problem-solving ability

Understanding of media

Understanding of organizations

Understanding of communication technology

Accuracy & attention to detail

Honesty & integrity




Time-management and personal organization



Professional Organizations (with links)

PRSA - Public Relations Society of America (21,000 members, 125 chapters, 14 professional interest sections)

PRSSA - Public Relations Student Society of America (10,000 members, 300 schools)

IABC - International Association of Business Communicators (13,500 members, 86 chapters)

CPRS - Canadian Public Relations Society (3,000 members in 14 provincial societies)

IPRA - International Public Relations Association (organizations in 60 countries). This link is a gateway to links with 79 international public relations groups

CASE - Council for Advancement and Support of Education (3,600 colleges and independent schools)

NSPRA - National School Public Relations Association (1,800 members, 30 chapters)

RCC - Religion Communicators Council (4 chapters)

NIRI - National Investor Relations Institute

CoSIDA - College Sports Information Directors of America (3,000 members)

NBPRS - National Black Public Relations Society (7 chapters)

HPRA - Hispanic Public Relations Society (4 chapters)