OCCUPATION: Public Relations Officer NAME: Kate Mulroney AGE: 24 PERSONAL: Kate has always been interested in current affairs. When she was little she dreamt of being a reporter for Newsround, but as she grew up she aspired to be a war correspondent, like
OCCUPATION: Public Relations Officer
NAME: Kate Mulroney
PERSONAL: Kate has always been interested in current affairs. When she was little she dreamt of being a reporter for Newsround, but as she grew up she aspired to be a war correspondent, like Kate Adie. After doing well in her GCSEs and A-levels she began studying for a degree in media studies, with a view to gaining a wider understanding of the industry as a whole.
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The degree certainly served this purpose and spurred her on to apply for postgrad courses in journalism, several of which offered her a place.
While she was studying, she got as much hands-on reporting experience as she could by submitting work to local newspapers, magazines and student publications. She also got involved with marketing and promoting shows at the university's theatre and did some unpaid PR work for a small charity during the summer holidays.
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After graduating from her postgrad journalism course, she sent her CV out to press agencies, newspapers and PR agencies. She heard back from a few of them who thanked her for her interest, but only one - a large PR and communications consultancy - asked her to come in for an interview.
After performing well in the interview and getting chance to show off her impressive portfolio, Kate landed a job with the firm, as an account executive.
Public relations officers are concerned with building the reputation of an organisation.
They use all forms of media, including newspapers, magazines, brochures, radio, TV and websites to provide information about the organisation, and they also monitor perceptions of it through the eyes of the press and the public.
PR officers can be employed by a company or organisation to work in-house, or by a PR consultancy, but many work on a freelance basis - although this is usually a route taken by those with lots of experience and a bulging contacts book.
In-house teams design and implement a PR programme to meet the specific needs of their employer and will usually need to acquire specialist knowledge of the sector they work in. PR officers working for a consultancy will offer independent services to a variety of different clients in various different sectors.
Although the role can vary depending on the employer, most PR officers will be involved in planning PR programmes, recommending different strategies, carrying out research and liaising with the media.
They will also need to manage budgets, write and produce press releases and promotional literature, and organise news conferences, press launches, exhibitions and trade fairs.
A PR may act as a spokesman for their organisation, and may speak at presentations, news conferences and in radio and TV interviews. They may also need to commission surveys and set up photographic sessions.
The job is usually nine-to-five and office based, but longer hours may be required to meet the needs of a client and travel is often required.
SKILLS & PERSONALITY
Good communication skills, both written and verbal, are vital in the PR industry.
PR officers should be able to relate to people, understand and interpret information, and work as part of a team. They need to be confident about speaking in public and must be able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines.
PR officers also need to be adaptable and to show imagination and ingenuity when creating strategies for clients. They need to be efficient and able to prioritise tasks while also managing and organising others.
They need to keep up-to-date with the latest media trends and technology, and good IT skills are desirable. As travelling to meet clients is often a big part of the job, a clean driving licence may be an advantage.
TRAINING & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
PR is a very competitive industry and most officers are graduates, usually from a related background such as media, marketing, communications or PR.
Many of those who manage to get their foot in the door are former journalists with several years experience behind them, as they have many of the skills, experience and knowledge that employers are looking for.
Anyone looking to get into PR should also try to get as much relevant work experience as possible. Some graduates are lucky enough to join consultancies at the level of account executive, but lots of them have to make a start further down the career ladder and take jobs like junior account executive, information officer or publicity assistant, to gain experience and entry into the profession.
Many larger consultancies also run graduate training schemes, although they might not be widely known about outside the industry, so you will need to do your research to find out more.
EARNINGS & PROSPECTS
Typical starting salaries can range from £13,000 to £22,000, depending on the employer and the amount of experience and aptitude a candidate can demonstrate.
Career progression also depends on the employer, but in many consultancies officers can work their way up from account executive to senior account executive, account manager and then to account director. Account directors can earn in excess of £50,000 a year.
Competition for senior posts can be tough and PR officers may need to switch jobs to gain experience and promotion.
PR officers can also choose to go freelance or to start their own consultancies.
"It can be very pressured, especially when you've got a deadline looming or a big press launch to organise."
"It's a wonderful feeling when a launch goes really well, especially when you get grateful clients ringing you up to thank you for getting them loads of good press."
Chartered Institute of Public Relations: www.ipr.co.uk
Public Relations Consultants Association: www.prca.org.uk