What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do?

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If you’re considering a career in public relations, you likely have many questions, including What can you do with a public relations degree? and What does a public relations specialist do, exactly? Public relations specialists are also called communications specialists and media specialists. They handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters and other media specialists. Read on to take a closer look at public relations specialist jobs and what they entail.

In This Article:

What Is a Public Relations Specialist?

So, what are a public relations specialist’s main job responsibilities? They do a bit of everything, including written and oral communication, liaising, coordinating, coaching and sometimes supervising. Above all, the main focus of a PR specialist is to ensure their clients are represented in the best possible light and in a way that aligns with their established brand image and identity.

Writing Press Releases

PR specialists often write press releases for their clients. A press release may announce the release of a new product or service, the expansion of an existing product or service, or (in the case of an individual client) a new venture, initiative or tour. Although press releases tend to be factually accurate, they can also be used to benefit a person or organization’s image. When writing press releases, PR specialists must follow the commonly accepted format for these documents and then distribute them to various media outlets.

What Is a Public Relations Specialist’s Media Coordination Like?

Speaking of media outlets, liaising with members of the media is a major area of responsibility for PR specialists. They may prepare information packets for members of the media (which may include press releases) and respond to media members’ requests for additional information. In addition, PR specialists often schedule interviews for their clients with members of the media.

Coaching Clients on Effective Public-Facing Communication

Although PR specialists often handle much of their clients’ communications, sometimes clients must do press conferences, interviews, book signings and other public-facing events themselves. It is the PR professional’s job to coach their clients on how best to present themselves. They may even conduct mock interviews and press conferences with their clients to give them some practice.

Preserving the Organization’s Image and Identity

As a public relations specialist, your main responsibility is to maintain the positive images of your clients. Sometimes, individuals and organizations may experience a PR crisis — a controversy or scandal that results in public backlash. During such crises, PR specialists must quickly rein in these problems, such as by clearing up misunderstandings, ensuring that information is placed into the proper context, and taking any other necessary, yet ethical steps to preserve the client’s public image.

Drafting Speeches

High-profile individuals and executives of organizations sometimes need to make speeches — ranging from presentations at conferences to award acceptance speeches. In public speaking, the delivery is often just as important as the content of the speech. PR specialists are often charged with writing speeches that reflect well upon their clients and allow them to preserve their positive image.

What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do in Marketing?

Businesses and other organizations, including nonprofits, typically have either an in-house marketing and advertising department or an external marketing agency with whom they work. The worlds of public relations and marketing often overlap. Although marketing isn’t the same thing as public relations, they can be similar in that marketing professionals also work to present their clients in a positive light (while also encouraging sales).

PR specialists do not typically play a significant role in advertising and marketing campaigns. However, PR specialists do need to make sure all advertising and marketing campaigns remain aligned with the organization’s overall brand image and communications guidelines. To that end, they may be responsible for reviewing campaigns before they can be released to the public.

Furthermore, PR specialists may also play a role in developing marketing guidelines, such as the tone and voice that marketers must strive for. In some cases, PR specialists may make suggestions to marketers about the direction of marketing campaigns. For instance, if the company is trying to recover from a publicly known controversy, the PR specialist might ask the marketing department to emphasize the company’s commitment to social responsibility, community involvement and nonprofit support.

Public Relations Specialist Jobs: Common Work Settings

A PR specialist can pursue work in a variety of settings. Many PR specialists work for marketing and public relations agencies, while others work for in-house PR departments at organizations such as healthcare facilities and educational institutions, as well as corporations. Some PR specialists also work for professional associations.1

Other PR specialists decide to become freelancers. As freelancers, PR specialists are responsible for running their own business, being their own boss and managing their clients.2 Regardless of the work setting, PR specialists have similar responsibilities.

No matter where your PR career takes you, you can generally expect to need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. For example, a communications degree can be an ideal choice, particularly if it explores public relations principles. During your degree program, you may have opportunities to develop a portfolio of your work, such as sample press releases and other communications. You can show your portfolio to prospective employers during your job search.3

It can also be helpful to acquire hands-on experience in other ways during your school years. For example, you might write for the school newspaper or blog. Internships can be another great way to work toward breaking into the field, because they allow you to both gain experience and forge professional connections at businesses.3

In-House PR

An in-house public relations specialist works for the PR/marketing department of one specific business, professional association or other type of organization. As an in-house PR specialist, you would not have clients. Rather, you would be responsible solely for curating the image and reputation of your employer.

One potential benefit of being an in-house PR specialist is that you wouldn’t have to juggle a range of different clients. Instead, you would have the opportunity to become keenly familiar with your organization’s inner workings, challenges and media relations.

Agency PR

An agency PR specialist works at a PR agency, or perhaps in a marketing agency that also offers PR services. In this setting, PR specialists work for a range of different clients, which may include both individuals and organizations. It’s essential for agency employees to maintain the confidentiality of their clients, and to be able to keep track of multiple brand images and reputations.

Freelance PR

Freelance public relations specialists are similar to agency workers in that they work with a range of different clients. However, unlike agency workers, freelancers run their own businesses. They not only need to keep their clients happy but must also deal with the various aspects of running a business — from finding clients to paying business-related taxes.

Earn Your Bachelor's in Communication From GCU

No matter where your career takes you, you can develop transferable skills at Grand Canyon University, a private Christian university. Choose from a wide range of liberal arts degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Communication, which explores the principles of public relations and other key communication competencies. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about our degree programs.

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2024, April 17). Public relations specialists: Work environment. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved May 10, 2024.

2 Goodman, T. (2022, May 10). Four tips for starting your career in freelance PR. Media Update. Retrieved May 10, 2024.

3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2024, April 17). How to become a public relations specialist. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved May 10, 2024.

Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on June 24, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.