What it Really Takes to Work in Public Relations

When most people find out I want to work in the Public Relations industry, their perception of PR is usually one of the following:

Club-hopping Event Planner


Shady Spin Doctor
Needless to say, the reality is neither of these extremes. Nearing the end of the first semester of Mohawk College's PR Graduate Certificate program, I've come to realize my ideal career would be a concoction of media relations, campaign planning using the R.A.C.E. formula (i.e. research, analysis, communication, and evaluation), integrated marketing communications, and social media scheduling. With my figurative PR toolkit fully stocked, it is important that I effectively put it into use. 

I thankfully had the opportunity to get invaluable advice from Mohawk College PR Graduate Alumni and local industry professionals. And it's only fair that I share.

Here's What it Really Takes to Work in Public Relations

1. Strong writing skills are a must. As stated by one of my professors, exceptional PR writing has the ability to create goodwill between an organization and its publics, build a good image of an organization, inform people, and influence public opinion. Even in today's world where digital communications seems to be outperforming traditional print media, there is still a demand for strong writing skills. This rings true whether you are writing copy for a product brochure, engaging in speech writing, or creating a social media calendar.

2. Multimedia knowledge is not only required, but is expected. Current trends in the industry include videography, social media management, and graphic design. The digital world is presenting new ways to visually communicate with audiences. No one knows this better than my millennial generation who has grown up using smartphones instead of landlines. However, as a PR professional, it is not enough to simply know about these new technologies - you must be able to effectively utilize them, in order to engage, motivate, and influence.

3. Importance of media relations. One impact of increasing digital literacy is that PR professionals are becoming news bureaus as traditional news media hollow out. The receding presence of news media has resulted in the fragmentation of audiences, requiring PR professionals more than ever to know who the news influencers are.

4. Must understand research methods. As audiences fragment, you must be able to identify niche audiences, and what they want to hear. Is your audience online? Faithful readers of trade magazines? Or actively engaged in social media? These questions can be answered through research. Research techniques may be either formal or informal, primary or secondary, qualitative or quantitative. Audience research may also be conducted internally, within the organization for which you work. What are the perceptions of top management, employees, or volunteers? These types of questions are commonly asked in a communications audit, which is the most frequently used type of public relations research, involving a full-scale analysis of an organization's internal and/or external relationships.

5. Must understand evaluation methods. Just as important as planning and executing a PR campaign, is the ability to evaluate its success during and after the campaign. Evaluation produces tangible information, which legitimizes the work you have done. If evaluation proves your campaign was a success, this increases the odds of a client's likelihood to re-hire you for future campaigns, or your organization to recognize the value of your work. Here are five specific evaluation methods to pay special attention to:

Measurement of Production: What was the outcome of production (e.g. we sent out 20 media releases and X amount were picked up by newspapers)

Measurement of Message Exposure: How many impressions did your tactics receive?

Measurement of Awareness: Did your message(s) successfully raise awareness among your target audiences?

Measurement of Attitudes: What is your target audiences' perceptions of your organization and messages? This can be identified by conducting intercept interviews, or sending out surveys.

Measurement of Action: After exposure to your messages, did your target audiences engage in the intended behaviour (e.g. did ticket sales increase)?

6. Must understand more than just the business of PR. This one is my personal favourite. As PR students, we become so focused on the business of PR, and then graduate without fully comprehending the businesses or industries for which we may end up working: non-profit versus corporate; the health industry versus the financial sector. This is a testament to the fact that we will never stop learning throughout our careers. I don't know about you, but I find this to be an exciting aspect of working in PR!

7. High energy! The nature of PR requires a dedicated work ethic, creativity, curiousity, and the ability to be a self-starter. Needless to say, this is rarely a 9-5 type of job. Katie Manwaring's YouTube video overviews her own experiences of breaking into the PR industry, and she answers questions such as: Do I have to major in Communications or Public Relations? What qualities do I need to be successful in Public Relations?

Signing off,


  1. Fantastic read Tianna. #5 Evaluating Success is so important in our industry and is sometimes forgotten. It not only legitimizes the work you have done, but also allows you to learn from what went well and more importantly what didn't!

    1. This is very true. Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog!


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