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Public relations


Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mututal understanding between an organisation and its public.


Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)


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

Prospects PR account executive job

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 acts as an umbrella term and is involved in the overall strategy and implementation of raising awareness of a product, person, service or organisation. 

It covers a very wide range of methods from direct marketing flyers to loyalty schemes. Marketing has various specialist roles such as customer insight analysis web content, design, and pay-per-click.

Advertising and PR tend to be sub-headings of marketing. Advertising is an activity that will have been decided by a marketing team, who may then go to an external ad agency. Adverts are there to persuade us to buy a product or service.

Depending on the target audience along with other factors such as budget, an advert could be on TV, radio, posters, the internet, newspapers and magazines.

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 work in PR?

PR people tend to work either in-house or in a specialist PR agency.

Many large organisations (including this University) have an internal PR team working on it's behalf – this is what in-house means. The name of the team may vary between organisations but is likely to be 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.

Consultancies specialise in either 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 channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Video is also huge in this area.

Press releases are part of the toolkit rather than the entirety of PR nowadays.

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 ideally have a Twitter and LinkedIn account, but be sure to think carefully about how you present yourself via social media platforms.

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

My Career 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.

Read the CIPR's advice on job hunting

As we said earlier, many openings are never advertised so speculative applications are very common. If you are looking for openings in a particular town or city, you can search to find relevant PR companies.

The Nottingham Internship Scheme offers paid internships throughout the year 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

Five things to include in your applications

  • Link to any social media channels you have such as Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn – but remember to check that there's nothing on there you wouldn't want a potential employer to see
  • Demonstrate a genuine interest in current affairs
  • Highlight your communication skills
  • Emphasise relevant work experience, whether it was paid or voluntary
  • Include any skills or experience that fall outside of conventional PR settings, but which are relevant to the sector

What to do next at Nottingham?


Careers and Employability Service

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