What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a woman witting in an office with three photographs of of clients beside her. She is on the phone, in front of a window. She has a computer and a plant on her desk, and a bookshelf of matching binders behind her. Text reads: "A day in the life of a public relations specialist: Write speeches for clients, evaluate public opinion of clients, develop press kit materials, median annual salary: $59,300"

Image by Maddy Price © The Balance 2019

Public relations (PR) specialists communicate with the public on behalf of an entity such as a company, organization, individual, politician, or government. They're also sometimes called communication, or media specialists. PR specialists spread their employers' or clients' message to the public, often using media outlets as a means to do so, to help create awareness and uphold a certain image.

Public Relations Specialist Duties & Responsibilities

The job generally requires the ability to perform the following tasks:

  • Develop press kit materials for media outlets, including press releases, images, pitch letters, case studies, feature articles, and trend stories
  • Help maintain the identity and reputation of the employer or client
  • Evaluate public opinion of clients through surveys, polls, and social media listening
  • Cultivate and maintain relationships with regional and national media outlets
  • Arrange for press conferences, interviews, and other media and event appearances for the employer or client
  • Write speeches for the client or employer's representatives
  • Respond to requests for information from media outlets
  • Evaluate advertising and promotional programs to ensure they align with PR goals
  • Track, evaluate, and share results of PR efforts
  • Coordinate scheduling and logistics as necessary

PR specialists often begin their careers by maintaining files about their employer's activities, fielding inquiries from the press and public, and helping to organize press conferences and other events. As they gain experience, they begin ​writing press releases and speeches, and coordinating programs. Working in a small firm generally provides a greater variety of experience and allows for faster growth than working in a large firm.

Find out if you have what it takes to do the job by taking this quiz: Should You Become a Public Relations Specialist?

Public Relations Specialist Salary

A public relations specialist's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer.

  • Median Annual Salary: $59,300
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $112,260
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $32,840

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Education Requirements & Qualifications

Although there are no standard educational requirements to get into the public relations field, employers generally prefer to hire job candidates who have graduated from college with a bachelor's degree. 

  • Education: Many people who enter this field have majored in public relations, marketing, journalism, communications, business, or advertising.
  • Experience: Employers also want potential employees to have work experience and be able to show a portfolio of sample work, which can both come from doing an internship or working in school communications departments.

Public Relations Specialist Skills & Competencies

Those who want to work as public relations specialists should have the following soft skills:

  • Verbal communication: Your job requires you to be able to convey information effectively to the public, media, and other members of your organization.
  • Listening: You will also have to listen carefully so that you can understand what others are telling you and respond appropriately.
  • Writing: Since writing press releases and speeches is a regular part of most PR specialists' job, excellent writing skills are essential.
  • Interpersonal: Your dealings with the media and the public requires the ability to get along well with others. You must be persuasive and able to negotiate. In addition, as a PR specialist, you will have to coordinate your actions with the actions of others, including your colleagues.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of public relations specialists will grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is slightly faster than the 7-percent average for all occupations during the same period.

Work Environment

Public relations specialists usually work in offices. They may also travel to various locations near and far to attend meetings and press releases, give speeches, and attend events and community activities.

Work Schedule

Most public relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. They often work long days and overtime to meet deadlines.