10 Steps to a Public Relations Consultant Career
by Lynne Bliss, MA
If you’ve always been fascinated with the ‘real story’ behind how corporations, government agencies, institutions and media inform and persuade the public, a public relations consultant career can put you behind the scenes, making the decisions that influence the masses. This exciting, high-paying job lets you use your creativity and communication skills on a variety of interesting and important projects.
Public relations consultants focus on building relationships with all the ‘publics’ of an organization. They are effective communicators who are adept at problem solving, able to see multiple points-of-view, and are calm even in the most hectic situations.
A public relations consultant career can be glamorous, as you often work with interesting and influential people such as celebrities or politicians. As an added benefit, according to the Council of Public Relations Firms freelance public relations can earn up to $85,000 or more per year. Finally, there is a huge sense of personal satisfaction in planning a public relations project, implementing that plan, and seeing the results.
If you think you have what it takes to influence, inform and persuade, follow these 10 steps to breaking into this dream career, based on the FabJob Guide to Become a Public Relations Consultant, the textbook for IAP Career College’s Public Relations Consultant Certificate Course.
1. Learn about a public relations consultant career
One of the reasons this career is so interesting is that it includes many different activities and roles under the umbrella term “public relations,” including publicity, promotion, advertising, lobbying, fund-raising, and media relations. Many PR consultants specialize in one of these areas, so use the Internet and other resources to explore these areas of expertise to find out where your strengths and interests lie.
2. Develop your skills
Most PR consultants have a broad range of knowledge and skills, many of which can be self-taught. Writing is the most basic function of a public relations professional – you need to be clear and persuasive in your written communication. Desirable employees are computer-savvy, polished individuals who are comfortable speaking with groups of two or 200. You also will want to demonstrate that you are empathetic, appreciate diversity and work well under stress.
3. Education and alternatives
A college degree is desirable for a public relations consultant career. A degree in public relations, journalism, marketing and communications is especially attractive to employers. Even if you have a degree in an entirely different area, volunteering for PR projects or taking PR certificate courses will give you a competitive edge. Even without a degree, some individuals have become successful by opening their own PR agencies or freelancing.
4. Get experience for a public relations consultant career
Experience, a good mentor, and lots of practice can turn a highly motivated individual into an effective consultant. The best plan of attack is to start building your experience base while you’re still in school, and get an internship before or shortly after graduation. Volunteering to do public relations for civic groups or the like also offers valuable experience. You may want to try your hand at freelance writing, or see if your current employer has any PR projects you can take on. If you can swing it, working with trained PR professionals is a great way to learn and make contacts in the industry.
5. Your portfolio
In addition to a cover letter, resume, and references, you will need to have a portfolio available for review. It will include your published press releases, articles you have written, communication plans you developed, brochures you designed, information about special events you coordinated, and any awards you have received for your work. A nice looking multi-ring binder should keep all these contained for employers to glance through. A digital portfolio hosted online or in a PDF file can easily be sent to potential clients or employers.
6. Job hunting
Your potential employers include corporations, non-profits, government, education, and PR agencies. You should check newspaper classifieds, trade publications, and online job boards, and attend job fairs and trade shows. You can even “cold call” potential employers – send a cover letter and resume, then follow up with a phone call in a few days to set up a meeting.
7. Ace the interview
You’ll want to dress in business attire for this one, and prepare yourself by researching the company thoroughly. Try to come across as self-confident and focus on how your skills meet their needs. Use the research you’ve done to ask intelligent, timely questions about the company. Really showcase your social know-how by following up with a letter thanking the interviewers for their time, and reminding them that you are eager to start.
8. Launching your own agency
When you have the skills and experience to meet clients’ needs fully, self-employment is a logical next step. Develop a business plan to help you plan and execute the start-up, including consideration of financial and legal matters, market research, and the impression you want to convey to your clients. There are many print and online resources that contain invaluable advice on these and other topics for would-be entrepreneurs.
9. Finding clients
You’ll want to start by identifying who in your area uses public relations consultants, and why. Look at corporations, non-profit groups, the public sector, trade associations, politics, and even individuals who are in the public eye. Networking remains the best way to meet and retain clients for your business – have plenty of business cards available and be prepared to briefly but accurately describe what you do.
10. Self-promotion for public relations consultant careers
You will also need to actively promote yourself in order to keep your business inundated with new clients. A media kit containing a personalized cover letter, biography, samples of your work and references is an effective promotional tool that can be sent out to prospective clients. By publishing articles, putting up a personal web page, and taking on speaking engagements, you will further establish yourself as the public relations consultant people choose when they want the job done right.
To learn how you can get started in a dream career as a public relations consultant, check out the Public Relations Consultant Certificate Course offered by the International Association of Professions Career College (IAP Career College). For information, visit https://www.iapcollege.com/program/public-relations-certificate-course-online