Unlike the out-front nature of advertising, public relations helps build awareness and shape public opinion in more subtle ways. That may be one reason why the profession’s long-term career prospects are looking good.
In theory, it would be simple to assume that public relations is a career where extroverts excel and introverts need not apply. In practice, however, the analysis doesn't hold up.
"I think it's a myth," says Julia Nelson, president of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Minnesota chapter. "Being more extroverted can certainly help when you need to pick up the phone and cold-call a reporter. However, you also need to be able to write well and think strategically. Those things have very little to do with personality."
Unlike advertising, where promotional media is created and purchased, public relations seeks to influence opinion and behavior in more subtle ways. For example, a PR campaign to raise awareness on a health-related topic may use a combination of media relations, special events and government lobbying to present its case. More sophisticated PR efforts use communications or market research tools to measure whether or not campaigns meet their business objectives.
Most entry-level jobs in public relations require a bachelor's degree. Because appli-cants almost always exceed available positions, communications or PR internship experience is a valuable asset. As workers gain experience, many choose to bolster their career prospects by adding advanced degrees in fields such as business, communications, law or marketing. Professional certifications - such as IABC's Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) designation - are also valuable additions to a public relations résumé.
Strong growth, solid income
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of public relations jobs is expected to increase 14 percent by 2016. While the median salary for public relations specialists was $47,250 in 2006, senior agency and corporate professionals can earn six-figure incomes.
While the public relations profession is enjoying strong growth, savvy professionals seek to maintain high visibility with peers and prospects. For example, as the owner of her own PR business, Nelson still carves out time to lead a 500-member professional association and participate in networking and professional development gatherings. To her, it's time well spent.
"I'm not talking about showing up at a few events and passing out your business card," she says. "To be truly successful in this field, you need to make and maintain relationships that help you learn from others, build leadership skills and showcase your talents."
Brett Pyrtle is a writer and communications consultant based in St. Paul.