What is a PR Specialist & What Do They Do?

We know that PR specialists and professionals are tasked with upholding a favourable public image for their employer, acting as company representatives. But what actually goes into the job? How do you become a PR specialist? And where is the industry heading?

In this article we answer your questions and provide you with our expert knowledge about what it takes to be a PR professional. The industry is ever evolving, becoming highly multifaceted. The days where PR and marketing operated in silos, independent divisions, are behind us. We've now entered a time where PR is highly integrated in the holistic marketing strategy, meaning that PR teams need to be highly skilled in their communication abilities, especially when it comes to brand storytelling and dynamic content creation.

March 18, 2021 |

14 minutes

Photo of Matias Rodsevich, CEO and writer of the article

CEO of PRLab

Photo of a Matias Rodsevich speaking about what is a PR specialist.

1

What is a PR specialist?

Public relations specials play a valuable role in the holistic strategic communication process of a brand, business or individual. Focused on securing beneficial relationships, between all parties involved.

In basic terms, a public relations specialist is a media professional who is responsible for creating, planning and executing public relation strategies. Their main concern is that of perception.

Definition: Public relations is the act of creating brand and/or company awareness, through getting news publications, media coverage and establishing partnerships for business growth. Therefore, a public relations specialist is someone who creates, maintains and grows a healthy public image for their employer, through implementing various PR tactics.

A PR specialist works very closely with their clients to understand the value of their brand or organization, and works to communicate this value to the relevant audiences, creating campaigns that will affect how that client is perceived.

Public relations specialists are experts at devising communication strategies to influence public perception of brands and businesses. They support the PR strategies and are responsible for implementing the corresponding tactics of the PR projects.

They work to grow, shape and maintain a healthy brand reputation and company image. Remember, a PR specialist is not a marketer, they are focused on growing a positive company reputation through earned and unpaid communications.

Traditionally, these PR efforts have been about maintaining a positive perception of a well-established brand. Here at PRLab, we are also interested in how you can create this perception, which is why our work is focused on startups and scaleups, and how PR can be used to grow businesses.

SUMMARY

A PR specialist is someone who works as a media professional, responsible for creating PR strategies to influence public perception. They are tasked with maintain a healthy brand reputation and company image.

Infographic:

2

What do PR specialists do?

PR specialists are employed to manage media relationships, structuring press releases and social media programs, as well as maintaining a thought leadership position for their employer. Effectively, in the work they do, they aim to shape the public’s perception in a way that adds value to business growth and brand development.

PR takes on a bigger role than just focusing on the company, PR looks at the market and the position you are in. From here, it is determined what part you play in the market. PR initiatives and events are then planned accordingly, to either change, reinforce or grow your position.

The PR specialist is also responsible for managing the organization’s communications with the public, which includes customers, business partners, investors, reporters and extended media connections. Internally, the PR team is generally tasked with a portion of the company’s communications flow. This could be writing the newsletters and structuring business reports for publication. It also includes preparing the top executives for when they need to address the public.

Newsjacking

Newsjacking is the process of adding your opinions or thoughts to a breaking news story. The purpose of doing this is to get more exposure and to be noticed by a larger audience.

Newsjacking can also be referred to as ‘rapid response comments’. The PR team will study the news closely to identify any opportunities and large scale news stories, in order to add unique opinions to the discussion.

This is risky business and newsjacking can easily go wrong, but a PR expert will know an opportunity when they see it. This is much more easy to implement when your PR strategy is reactive, agile and tactical.

SUMMARY

Newsjacking is a risky business in PR. That’s why it’s important to understand the lifecycle of news and newsjacking best practice.

Storytelling

Brand storytelling is not just a PR buzzword. It is a valuable skill for PR professionals to have. This is because storytelling is a huge part of the integrated communications process. It ensures that coordination is kept in all messagings, across platforms and publications.

Without a storyline, there is no PR. This is why we, as PR experts, write stories to entice the audience and to give them something of your brand to latch onto. PR specialists use storytelling to add value to the consumer audience and the industry your business operates in.

Therefore, the PR experts make sure that your story is effective in sharing your vision and the brand’s character, to reach the right audience and to create a long-living, positive brand reputation.

SUMMARY

Storytelling is continuing to develop as a valuable tool in the PR toolbox. We use stories for value creation and consumer engagement.

Content Marketing

Content marketing greatly ties into PR storytelling. It’s more than sending a single message out into the world, it’s about creating a narrative and vision for your brand. Through content marketing, the PR team aims to position you as a leader in your industry.

The PR specialist will build the content from market research and a thorough business analysis. Then reach out to newsagents and journalists who’s readership is aligned with the key message that’s being conveyed.

Social media platforms, blogs and any other resource the company has available to them plays a part in successful content marketing. The PR specialist will identify how, when and for which communication pieces to use the available resources.

SUMMARY

Content marketing is about creating a narrative and vision for your brand. Without content, effectively there’s nothing to share with your audiences.

Crisis Communication

Usually when we think about what goes into public relations, crisis communication is first in mind. Yes, the PR team is greatly responsible for neutralizing any situation that’s considered a setback.

As PR specialists, we develop crisis management systems and communication strategies that act as basic guidelines for when risks arise. According to the crisis, we then plan the best way forward in solving it.

The main goal is to protect and defend the company’s reputation when facing a public challenge. In this, we aim to establish the best possible outcome for all parties involved.

SUMMARY

PR specialists are problem solvers. They develop crisis management systems and communication strategies that act as basic guidelines for when risks arise.

PR Strategy

Regardless of how established the brand or company is, PR is an ongoing process of ensuring a healthy brand reputation.

Brand authority, reputation and awareness are all factors that need to be considered by the PR strategy. It’s about gaining good publicity, whilst aiming to secure business growth.

When launching a new product or service, scaling your business or just wanting more publicity, the PR specialist is in charge of developing a cohesive PR strategy that integrates with the overall communication goals.

SUMMARY

PR specialists develop the overall PR strategy, arranging all the elements that go into the campaign and making them align with the holistic marketing goals.

PR Funding

Especially for startups and scaleups, funding announcements are great press generators. Investors and lucrative audiences like to know when businesses are profitable. It’s a show that investments are amounting to business growth and new market potentials.

The PR team can either help with press releases about recent funding rounds or help secure PR funding from venture capital to get your business going. Also tasked with announcing the funding to the public, the PR team will handle the process of getting word out to valuable media agents and outlets.

A good funding round can greatly add to a good brand reputation, because it’s a show of credibility and solidifies trustworthiness.

SUMMARY

Funding announcements generate great press. The PR team is there to ensure media coverage is gained and that valuable, growth generating, information is shared in press releases.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership can be understood as a division of your content marketing strategy. It’s aim is to share industry knowledge, research and insights that will add to the authority a company or person carries.

The PR specialist will generally use the opinions and perspective of an authority figure, like the company CEO, to formulate thought leadership content. Here, PR focuses on establishing the company as an industry pioneer, one with a reputable brand status in industry.

At the end of the day, the multifaceted work done by PR specialists is to ensure that communications are effective and reach internal and external audiences with the intended messaging.

SUMMARY

PR specialists are usually employed to create and maintain a positive public image for the organisation they act on behalf of. All the work amounts to shaping and protecting your, the brand’s or company’s image and reputation, as well as establishing thought leaders in industry.

Media Pitching

As a PR manager, you’ll be spending a lot of time pitching to journalists, editors, reporters and news outlets. Media pitching refers to when you present your angle or story to journalists, to get it featured as part of their publications.

Pitching plays an important role in the PR process, because we want to generate awareness around the brand’s value and importance in industry. The pitch is what gets us one step closer to being featured in the media.

Essentially, your pitch is the first impression a journalist gets from your story. So, PR specialists dedicate more time than you’d think to perfecting their pitches, since we want the journalist to pick up the story and find out more.

SUMMARY
In PR, we spend a lot of time on media pitching. We want to perfect the pitch, so that the journalist sees the value in publishing our story. This is an important part in the process of getting featured in the media.

3

How do PR specialists grow your business?

Essentially, PR professionals represent your business and part of their job is to elevate your market stance. We do this by focusing on deliverables that can grow your business. When it comes to growing or scaling your business, there are two very important PR concepts. These are brand authority, and brand awareness.

Brand awareness is the extent to which your target audience both recognises and recalls your brand. The more awareness people have of your brand, the more people can identify it when associating it with certain services, products or desirable qualities.

Brand awareness also leads to greater brand recall. This is an important factor in the consumer decision making process. In this, PR is tasked with creating a memorable brand impression.

Brand authority, on the other hand, is you or your company’s perceived expertise within an industry or on a topic. It is all to do with trust, if your audience trusts your knowledge and expertise, then they will feel confident in buying into your brand.

This is an important factor of consideration for investors, they need to see why their investments in you will benefit their own reputation and capital growth. This element of trust is a big part of PR, in fact, we would go so far as to say it is one of the most important concepts of how PR works.

The aim of a PR specialist is to close the gap between trust and potential clients and customers for your business. This is what makes PR a long-term process. PR isn’t focused on making a sale, the aim of PR and a PR specialist is to build and maintain the relationships between the brand and their target market.

SUMMARY

Awareness and authority are highly important when growing a business. PR professionals use awareness and authority to close the gap between trust and potential clients for your business.

Business Growth and PR Promotion

Your business can’t grow if you’re not attracting the right traffic. Let’s use your website as an example, you need 3rd parties who promote your business. In order for you to show up in front of the right audience, you need to show Google you exist.

In this, PR specialists help make you discoverable. They work to get you links from 3rd parties, build relationships with business prospects and share your story with the external world. This also means to get you features and placements in sources that people trust. Relating back to authority.

Without 3rd party endorsements, you can only do so much on your own to grow your brand’s prominence.Eventually, you’ll reach the point where referrals and endorsements mean more to the public than what you have to say about yourself.

For more information on brand awareness and authority, you can read any of our guides on PR for technology companies and PR for startups.

SUMMARY

PR helps you in becoming discoverable, for example by attracting traffic to your website or getting you third party endorsements.

4

How is PR different from marketing or advertising?

In the past, public relations was considered very different to marketing. Both divisions worked in silos, not generally overlapping. Today, the communications scene has changed. PR and marketing are both part of the integrated approach.

The primary difference is that PR is focused on building and maintaining the overall positive perception of a company, whereas marketing is focused on promoting a specific product, service or idea to increase sales.

While this difference used to be more clear cut, the rise of social media and digital content has challenged this traditional separation. However, these new channels open up new PR opportunities to communicate the value and mission of your brand.

PR strategies need to align with the overall marketing campaign. The days of working in silos are gone and in communications, we like to refer to the omnichannel approach. This approach ensures that a golden thread is present throughout all communication executions and creates a clear link across platforms, with the key message ever present.

SUMMARY

When it comes to advertising, the main difference from PR is that advertising space is paid for while PR is earned, through the provision of information in the form of press releases and pitches.

PR and growth marketing are converging

Accountability has been the main issue in PR since the beginning. How do you actually measure and set goals for something, as important, yet intangible as awareness? The truth is, growth hackers and PR professionals are now becoming important partners. As this relationship gets closer, we’ll need to open ourselves up to new ways of thinking.

It’s not just about growing your numbers, to be truly successful at growth marketing you have to adopt a growth-focused mindset. Workshops like the Growth Tribe Academy are teaching professionals in every area, including PR, how to adopt this way of thinking. Instead of being satisfied with using established methods that bring in results, the idea is to always be experimenting and A/B testing. This means tracking everything.

  • How many more leads have entered into the sales funnel as a result of your new PR campaign?
  • How much less are you spending on Facebook ads due to traffic coming in from activities like guest blogging?
  • Has your share of voice increased as a result of your recent press interview?
SUMMARY

In PR, an industry in which creativity and innovation are so important, adopting a growth-focused mindset will be a game-changer, particularly as in the past concrete metrics have been a challenge for PR specialists to measure.

5

Public relations specialist skills

The most important skill to have is the ability to understand the value and the power of a brand. Your job is communication, in particular the communication of a brand’s positive qualities, so before you start your PR campaigns, you need to be able to analyze a business and understand it’s core values, mission and purpose.

However, this understanding alone won’t make a good PR specialist. People don’t like to just read about how great a company is, they want relevant and engaging stories. That is why creative writing and the ability to entice an audience is of great importance.

Timing and News Awareness

PR specialists need to have great timing, with regards to their campaigns, by having a great awareness of trends and news that would impact their work. By aligning your PR content with trending topics and the news-of-the-day, you show that you’re relevant to the modern market and can actively contribute to what’s currently happening in the industry.

We mean that you have to be aware of the news at the time. PR has to be grounded in a larger societal context in order to be picked up by a journalist, so you need to be well-read and have your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the news. Newsjacking is a good example of a PR strategy that is incredibly dependent on timing, one you can read more about here.

Timing and awareness also assists you in future forecasting. This means to assess the current industry trends and piece them together to create a picture of how the future landscape will look. By doing this, the PR team can plan how to extend the longevity and future relevance of their clients and the brands they represent.

SUMMARY
In PR, you have to be highly aware of current news and trends. This will help you to get your timing right when publishing content.

Relationship Building

Journalists are constantly looking for credible and newsworthy stories. With so much news out there, PR specialists need to establish quality relationships with the journalists and news reporters they find valuable to work with.

Even if you have the most relevant, engaging story, it might fall flat simply because a journalist doesn’t know you, and this is another reason for the long term nature of PR. Relationships aren’t built overnight, and while journalists are looking for interesting stories, they are also looking for credible ones.

Journalists are constantly under pressure to deliver truthful content, particularly with the rise of fake news. So we can understand why they don’t just post anything that lands in their inbox. Building a relationship with journalists means that you make yourself known to them, in time, establishing trust between you and them.
Even if the journalist doesn’t accept the pitch the first time, by continually contacting a journalist, they will eventually see you are actively

engaging with the news. Gradually viewing you with more authority. However it’s a fragile relationship, one dishonest or incorrect story could completely undo your hard work.

SUMMARY

Relationships with journalists and key players in media are essential for PR success. Without these relationships, securing media coverage is made difficult. You need connections who trust you and who are willing to share industry information and collaborate with you.

Creative Writing

PR specialists need to be able to write creative stories that communicate the values of their clients and make sure they engage the target audience. They need to master the art of storytelling to create newsworthy press releases that journalists won’t be able to resist.

Creative writing is a skill that accompanies the ability to tell engaging stories. As a PR professional, the creative content you produce is more of a science than an art. You need to understand what sells, what’s currently trending in the news and what the client has to offer.

Brand storytelling and content marketing are essentials for PR professionals to master. The ability to write creative stories only benefits the success and engagement of the content pieces being published.

SUMMARY

Stories have to be creative, in order to be engaging. As a PR specialist, a lot of time is spent on writing articles and press releases, you need to be able to create value in the stories and be appealing to the reader.

Power of persuasion

There’s a lot of fierce competition out there, meaning that journalists receive numerous pitches and press releases every day. So, PR specialists need to be able to skillfully pitch without sounding like they are just trying to hurry you down the sales funnel.

When we say “be persuasive”, we mean that integrity and honesty should still be respected. It’s about building credible relationships. When pitching to journalists or addressing the public, there’s a big difference between being persuasive and manipulative.

The power of persuasion only implies to be consistent, persistent and ambitious when working in PR. Gaining brand authority does not happen overnight, that’s why the PR pros continuously need to be firm in their dealing with the media and public.

SUMMARY

You have to be convincing in why your story is the one to publish or why a relationship is worth fostering. People need to believe in you.

6

Where is PR heading?

The PR landscape is ever-changing and evolving. New media, new consumer generations, new emerging industries and new innovations. Everything is new and so PR needs to constantly redefine itself and move alongside the ‘newness’ of it all.

Digital PR

PR started as a tool that would get you featured in newspapers and magazines. Today, building publicity in the digital space is taking over from traditional practices. Now, PR plays a great role in the digital marketing funnel, especially for SEO support.

Digital PR is constantly evolving, along with the changing media landscape. It’s no longer solely about influencing real life public opinions, but also the digital positioning of brands. Redirect traffic from competitor sites to your own website, media mentions from 3rd parties, backlinks, domain authority and much more goes into establishing a digital presence for brands.

Your digital presence also greatly contributes to your brand reputation and customer engagements. Since two-way communication is made possible through digital media, PR can harness the power of social media to nurture direct touchpoints with valuable audiences.

The bottom line is that digital PR leverages the online space, to establish further reaching connections and bringing additional points of contact into the mix. With the online landscape ever evolving, the PR potentials are limitless.

SUMMARY
In an ever growing digital world, the potential of PR is also expanding. SEO and social media strategies are highly incorporated into the latest PR activities, with a focus on establishing digital brand presence and growing engagements.

Storytelling

By now we know, it can be difficult to catch journalists' attention. That’s why we need enticing stories that differentiates us from others. For your pitch to be noticed, it needs to be gripping and interesting to read.

In PR, we write stories to inform, educate and persuade our audiences. PR is starting to place more emphasis on the engagement factor of press items. It’s no longer just about a standard press release, but more about the value adding benefit of the publication piece.

That’s why storytelling is so important, it goes beyond facts and brings a well-rounded spectrum to the news that’s being shared. Instead of approaching stories from your own perspective, look at the wider impact your company aims to have on society. Are you committed to bringing greater sustainability? To help people reach their fitness goals? Use this to build and write a greater brand story.

Today, we’re even seeing brands take political stances in response to the demand for brands to align with our values. Consumers used to ask ‘who are you?’ yet now we are asking ‘what do you think?’ and as always, it will fall to the PR specialist to communicate these answers.

SUMMARY

PR professionals are moving away from standard press releases and more towards storytelling. This role will be more focused on finding out what society wants from brands and relaying this internally.

Influencers and endorsers

We’ve all seen how popular influencer marketing has become in the last few years. It matters less to the public to hear how good you say you are and more about others opinions about your brand.

Rather than added value to your PR initiatives, influencer endorsements are now a must-have. It’s a particularly effective strategy in the Netherlands where there’s an abundance of influencers – especially vloggers – who have a lot of exposure.

However, managing these relationships requires a lot of work. Especially when you’re working with well-known influencers, they often expect you to be on hand with continuous and immediate communications. Much like working with agencies or freelancers, you need to invest time in getting them familiar with your product and brand.

The idea is to create long-term relationships with people who really embody your brand’s ethos and lifestyle, rather than one-off collaborations. This means that you really have to be highly selective with who you decide to build relationships with.

In the past, you had to manually check the reach and authenticity of each influencer you brought on board. The good news is, you now have tools that can help you find the influencers with the biggest reach and authority in a given niche. Some of these tools include Buzzsumo, Klear, HypeAuditor, Klout, Upfluence and Buzzstream.

For the B2B market, a good client case study is an example of endorsement material. It’s a document that reports on the work you did with them and reflects the statistics of your success. In it, you show why you’re a valuable asset to the industry, by reporting on the successful outcomes and growth potentials of the work you do.

SUMMARY

Influencers and brand endorsements can backup and support the value-adding benefit of your brand. PR is placing greater emphasis on the importance of having brand endorsers, to support your credibility and trustworthiness.

We’re moving away from earned media

The value of earned media is shifting. The idea is that if people are genuinely interested in your company, you won’t have to chase them, they will be chasing you. This isn’t so much the case anymore.

At the very least, PR is influencing people through content. Paid media should not be overlooked in the influential abilities it holds, you need it to create an additional avenue of reach. Along with shared and owned media, paid media is leading to a decline in the, once very popular, earned media model.

Agencies predict that paid, shared and owned media will put financial pressure on those who rely on earned media strategies. Although earned media adds a legitimacy factor for companies, it is no longer the focal point of the media strategy.

SUMMARY

Where earned media was once the holy grail, it is no longer the main focus point. PR is leaning in the direction of paid, shared and owned media to drive the strategies.

7

Famous PR experts

From public speaking to media relations, crisis communication and brand building, a PR specialist is a valuable asset any brand or company can have. Although the PR industry has many famous individuals, these are our top picks:

Photo of Matias Rodsevich, PR expert in Amsterdam

1. Matias Rodsevich 

Rodsevich is the founder and CEO of PRLab. With over 10 years of experience, from managing PR for IBM and Google in Argentina, to founding his own award winning PR agency in the heart of Amsterdam, Rodsevich is a PR consultant based in Amsterdam on a mission to innovate and propel the modern workings of PR even further.

Through PRLab Community, the first of its kind, he established a platform for marketing and communication professionals to share their knowledge, insights, and expertise with other professionals. It now has over 1200 members and continues to grow.
He is also the author of the PR book, The PR Paradox. In it he shares his industry knowledge and insights, with advice on how to succeed in PR.

2. Brandee Barker

Barker was named one of Business Insider’s most effective PR people in tech. Experienced as a former director of communications at Facebook, she took to freelance work and established her private consultancy.

With over 15 years of experience, she has helped startups blow up, including Spotify, AirBnB and Quora. She has also done work for Square and Uber.

With an impressive portfolio, Barker knows the PR industry like the palm of her hand and continues to actively use her skills and abilities to promote value adding companies and causes. Especially in support of women empowerment.

Photo of Christopher Graves, PR Expert.

3. Christopher Graves

Graves came to the PR world from a journalism background. He was the head of news for CNBC Asia & Europe and at the Wall Street Journal for 18 years.

From there he moved on to WPP's Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, which made $303 million worldwide in 2011. Passionate about business growth, Graves works to boost the effectiveness of every client engagement through applying a deep understanding of the “Real Why” of human behavior.

He’s also been a keynote speaker on many occasions, talking about human behaviour, how to change minds and how to craft narratives. A real specialist in storytelling and bringing brands to life through establishing human connections.

8

What degree do you need to be a PR specialist?

Typically, a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, communications or business studies is needed to pursue a career in PR. A needed requirement is a portfolio of work that demonstrates the student’s abilities.

Some of the fundamentals that the student should be familiar with include business ethics, management and marketing. These are usually covered in communication studied. Strong literacy skills, reading and writing abilities and a good sense of journalism is paramount when pursuing a career in public relations.

Entry-level employees often do admin work, such as managing organisational activities, keeping an eye on the news and assembling information for speeches and pamphlets. After gaining experience, PR specialists will then start to write news releases, speeches, and articles for publication.

SUMMARY

You will need a bachelor's degree in communications or related business studies and the ability to demonstrate your proficiency in public relations.

9

Conclusion

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what a PR specialist does and what to expect from the job. We’ve talked about some of the skills you’ll need, as well as the direction the industry is heading in. PR is a dynamic profession, it is multifaceted and you need to be prepared for a fast paced environment. With PR and marketing becoming more and more integrated, the industry overlap means that PR pros will have to sharpen up their storytelling abilities. Brand growth can’t succeed anymore without a good story to draw the attention of lucrative investors or customers. It is the PR team’s job to use compelling storytelling to get media placements and features and, from there, to make sure the brand image and reputation is nurtured through shared stories.

SUMMARY

You will need a bachelor's degree in communications or related business studies and the ability to demonstrate your proficiency in public relations.

Check our FAQ

What is a PR specialist?

A public relations specialist is a media professional who is responsible for creating, planning and executing public relation strategies in order to manage public perception of a brand, company or individual.

What does a PR specialist do?

A PR specialist works to understand the core values of a brand as well as the needs and values of the relevant target audience. They research trends within the niche markets of these brands to create content and identify core publications and journalists to pitch the content to in order to secure media coverage for their clients. They are increasingly integrating PR strategy with other marketing tools such as content marketing, social media, and the general development of branding and branding assets.

Do you need a degree to be a PR specialist?

While a degree in PR  is certainly useful and a degree in marketing or communications wouldn’t hurt either, you don’t strictly need a degree to become a PR specialist. While a relevant education will make it easier and give you a significant understanding of how PR works, if you have the skills, it is certainly something you can do yourself. Being able to research effectively and stay up to date with market trends, understanding the value of brands, and mastering the art of storytelling will get you on your way to being a PR specialist.

Get our newsletter!

Subscribe for weekly key tips on Public Relations for Startups





    PRLab Amsterdam | PR Agency - PR Bureau
    linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram