Public Relations (PR) is about the maintaining and promoting of reputation and goodwill of a brand, business or person through planned and sustained campaigns. A wide range of communication and media channels will be used to achieve this. What is used will depend on who is the target audience. This could vary from another business (B2B) to the general public.
Whilst this is related to marketing and advertising, and at times deploying similar approaches, it is seen as a separate role. With the ever-growing use of social media, there are times when there is more blurring of the boundaries, with the increase of communications (‘comms’) agencies which can cover all three areas. See our other sections on marketing and advertising
However, there are still many roles and companies with a specific PR remit.
Spotlight On: Marketing and PR
We invited four speakers from a variety of backgrounds and in different stages of their careers to talk to you about their roles. You will hear honest accounts of their day-to-day work alongside to brilliant tips on how to kickstart your career in marketing and PR!
- George Driscoll - Senior PR Digital Consultant at Root Digital
- Alice Kosse - Marketing Assistant at Tarsus Group
- Louisa Clack - Director of Clack PR
- Deepak Kataria - Market Insight Officer at University of Nottingham
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- Alumni: Email us to gain access to the webinar
Exploring the sector
What is public relations?
Public relations (PR) is all about maintaining a good impression of a company, brand, or individual in the media.
PR professionals typically spend their time:
- collating and analysing media coverage
- writing and updating social media content
- writing press releases
- contacting media professionals
- organising events and launches
- writing content for and updating websites and newsletters
- acting as a representative for an organisation – this can include times where there has been adverse publicity or a crisis situation
Prospects PR officer job profile
How does it differ from marketing and advertising?
This is a question often asked here in Careers. While brand reputation and promotion is important in all three areas, there are differences.
Marketing is the process of understanding the competitive marketplace, identifying customer requirements, and the strategy and implementation of raising awareness of a product, person, service or organisation.
It covers a very wide range of elements from product development and pricing through to promotion and the physical presentation of goods and services. Marketing has various specialist roles such as market researcher, copywriter or content marketer, digital marketing and/or social media executive, SEO specialist, web designer and many more.
Advertising and PR are often a strategic element of wider marketing activity. Advertising raises awareness of goods and services, and is usually part of the marketing plan. Typically, a marketing manager will go to an external advertising agency to develop and produce the campaign which could feature TV, radio, posters, the internet, newspapers and magazines, depending on the audience and budget. In today's age of social media, putting an ad out is only the start as subsequent impact on social media is vital. Think of a Christmas advert such as John Lewis' and the social media commentary that follows.
Find out about advertising
Find out about marketing
Which are the main employers and roles?
What type of organisations could I work in?
Public relations roles are typically found either ‘in-house’, which means they are employed by a business or organisation directly, or in a specialist PR agency which has contracts to provide PR services to other businesses, organisations, or individuals.
Many large organisations employ their own PR team. The name of the team can vary, but is usually something like 'media relations', 'press office' or 'external affairs'.
Most towns and cities in the UK, including Nottingham, have PR agencies. You might be interested in seeing PR Week's list of the Top 150 PR agencies in the UK.
PR Moment is another good resource
Agencies and consultancies may specialise in one industry sector, or cover several. Sectors that make regular use of PR are:
What are the hot topics in PR?
In today's world we all take immediacy of information for granted. The vital challenge for PR professionals is how you integrate PR through all mediums in real time. This requires coordinating all communication channels including social media and news platforms. Video is often used to develop brand awareness and engage with audiences. Print journalism and writing press releases to generate publicity are also part of the toolkit of PR.
PR is increasingly about supporting lead generation for marketing and sales. There are many debates about the roles of content marketing whose goal is to increase the demand for a product or service through useful information, and brand journalism which finds and tells the stories that convey a brand's personality.
Job titles to look out for
Job titles you can expect to see depend on the organisation:
- (Junior) account executive – in an agency
- Public relations or communications assistant – if working in-house
- Other titles can include media relations assistant, press officer or external communications assistant
How can I find work experience and my first job?
What are the entry routes into the sector?
Many entrants to PR are graduates, and most of these enter after an undergraduate course. While there are degrees in public relations and marketing subjects, PR is open to graduates of any discipline.
There are masters degrees in PR available around the UK, but they are certainly not essential to enter the profession.
Whatever qualification you have, employers will be looking for evidence of passion for this field, ideally having undertaking some relevant experience.
Knowledge of the digital world is very important. You should have a good working knowledge of social media platforms, and be sure to think carefully about your own personal brand and how you present yourself online.
Although writing press releases is only part of the job, knowledge of writing for a publication or website would be useful.
Finding work experience
Many PR companies around the UK offer work experience placement opportunities. A lot of these are never advertised so you will need to do a lot of research and make speculative approaches.
Sending a covering letter and CV is the most common method, but bear in mind that a company will often receive numerous approaches so think creatively about how you might make yourself stand out.
Another method could be to ring the company and ask them questions about the profession and about any possible work experience opportunities.
Charities are a great source of acquiring relevant experience as they often require help with websites, digital newsletters, etc.
A great source of experience while at University could be to get involved with University publications – this could be for societies or magazines such as Impact.
Sources of job vacancies
MyCareer is our online database of vacancies and you can also register for events.
Login to My Career to search vacancies
The CIPR has good advice on where to find vacancies.
The Nottingham Internship Scheme offers paid internships with locally-based companies in marketing and PR-related roles.
Nottingham Internship Scheme
Experience in marketing can be very useful if you're interested in a PR role. The Chartered Institute of Marketing can be a useful source of information, and you may want to read our section on marketing.
Chartered Institute of Marketing
Read our marketing section
PR Week jobs
PR Moment is another useful resource
Five things to include in your applications
Demonstrate a genuine interest in current affairs
Highlight your communication skills
Emphasise relevant work experience, whether it was paid or voluntary
Link to your social media accounts, including LinkedIn, and any other relevant activities such as blogs/vlogs etc. Ensure your content supports your personal brand you are presenting to the employer.
- Include any skills or experience that fall outside of conventional PR settings, but which are relevant to the sector
Please be aware that study abroad, compulsory year abroad, optional placements/internships and integrated year in industry opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities or placement/industry hosts, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university's control. Every effort will be made to update this information as quickly as possible should a change occur.
What to do next at Nottingham?