Rosanna M. Fiske, chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America
There is great news for graduates who want to work in public relations. Demand for PR specialists is ready to spike due to an increasingly competitive business environment. Employment for PR managers in the US is expected to grow by 24% over the next decade, faster than other professions. But to drive high-impact communications programs, PR specialists have to be on top of changes in the media industry and new trends, like social media.
According to survey data from Spring Associates Inc., seasoned public relations professionals in the United States earn, on average, $84,000 per year, as of 2010.
“Ours is a profession with more than 7,000 agencies in the U.S, plus tens of thousands of positions in the corporate, government and in-house sectors. For an industry that is expected to see 55% growth in annual spending in the U.S. by 2013, there undoubtedly will be strong demand for young professionals,” said Rosanna M. Fiske, chair and chief executive officer of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Fiske is also director of the Global Strategic Communications master’s program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University in Miami.
Fiske talked to Uttara Choudhury in New York about how successful PR professionals have excellent communications skills and understand that they are strategic business counselors to clients. And that requires a strong understanding of many allied business-related fields, including marketing, advertising, business administration and finance.
Can you elaborate on how the Public Relations Society of America and its student organization guides students into the profession?
PRSA and its student organization, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), have worked to complement the collegiate experience offered to student members by ensuring that the programs they attend offer a core curriculum (or foundation) of public relations where at least the following five courses (if not more) are provided in their public relations or communications program:
Beyond this core curriculum, PRSA and PRSSA also provide a direct link to the public relations community through mentoring and professional development programs. Each PRSSAChapter is paired with a Faculty and a Professional Adviser, both whom are members of PRSA and connected to the sponsoring PRSA local Chapter. This bridge to the professional community affords students opportunities such as mentors, internships, resume and portfolio reviews, agency shadowing, professional speakers and presentations; a robust network of PRSA professionals ready and able to support and meet with students as well as a host of scholarship and awards programs.
The student Society offers member benefits similar to those of the parent organization in professional development such as leadership training, a National Conference held in conjunction with the PRSA International Conference, regional conferences as well as extended opportunities from PRSA via webinars and the New Professionals Section. These programs allow for expanded perspectives of the profession and an increased network to draw upon when seeking entry-level jobs or continued career advance.
What are some of the big scholarships PRSA offers? Can international students in American universities apply for the Gary Yoshimura Scholarship or the Betsy Plank/PRSSA Scholarship Program?
Through the PRSA Foundation, PRSA/PRSSA offer several scholarships and awards to students studying public relations or communications disciplines. Many of the applications require PRSSA membership; however, if an international student is enrolled in a college or university that has a PRSSA Chapter, he or she would be eligible for the scholarship.
The full list can be found on the PRSSA website.
Is employment in the PR industry projected to grow much faster than average, even though keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs?
On the whole, employment in the PR profession is expected to grow in the years ahead. The industry currently has around 200,000 professionals in the United States, and that number has been rising over the past decade. And while competition is intense in almost all professions for entry-level positions, there are still many good opportunities for young professionals in public relations. Ours is a profession with more than 7,000 agencies in the U.S., plus tens of thousands of positions in the corporate, government and in-house sectors. And for an industry that is expected to see 55 percent growth in annual spending in the U.S. by 2013, there undoubtedly will be strong demand for young professionals.
Are there good PR job opportunities for college graduates who combine a degree in public relations, journalism, or another communications-related field with a public relations internship or other related work experience?
We always advise aspiring public relations professionals to pursue as many relevant and comprehensive internship opportunities as they can. Public relations professionals must combine excellent communications skills with acute business acumen to help achieve client and employer goals. And that type of experience can only come from having a variety of young professional experiences.
Describe some of the key skills that a public relations specialist should embody.
Successful public relations professionals embody a variety of key skills, including: excellent verbal and written communications skills; a creative mind; ability to understand consumer and business trends and how that ties back into the news cycle; curiosity; interest in the media; knowledge of psychology, consumer behavior and how people are influenced; business and financial acumen; among many others.
What are some of organizational functions that a public relations specialist handles?
Public relations professionals handle a variety of organizational functions, so it is hard to place this within one specific set of functions. But broadly, public relations is a management function. Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. It is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action. It has real, measurable impact on the achievement of strategic organizational goals.
Additionally, public relations professionals have a special obligation to practice their craft ethically, with the highest standards of truth, accuracy, fairness and responsibility to the public. The PRSA Code of Ethics provides a practical set of standards to follow in this regard.
A bachelor’s degree in a communications-related field combined with PR experience is considered excellent preparation for a person interested in public relations work but is it useful to look at courses in advertising, business administration or finance?
Absolutely. While having a strong educational and professional background in public relations, communications and writing is very helpful, successful public relations professionals understand that they are strategic business counselors to clients and their employers. And that requires a strong understanding of many allied business-related fields, including marketing, advertising, business administration and finance.
What is the median annual wages for salaried public relations specialists in America?
According to survey data from Spring Associates Inc., public relations professionals earn, on average, $84,000 per year, as of 2010.
Does PRSA provide job counseling for public relations professionals?
Yes. Our “Jobcenter” is an online community for job seekers and employers to find open positions, get detailed industry salary information and connect with others who are job-hunting or just seeking advice on how to build their careers. Additionally, PRSA offers a variety of professional development opportunities, from online webinars, to seminars and our annual International Conference that allow members and the broader profession to network with others and advance their careers. All of these resources can be found on our website, www.PRSA.org.
Can you share information about colleges and universities that offer good public relations courses?
We find that strong, college-level public relations programs yielding some of the best prepared young professionals have a few similarities:
A supportive and embracing network of professionals and faculty. An active PRSSA Chapter membership — entering competitions, running for national positions, applying for scholarships, engaging in the Society’s initiatives. Essentially, strong involvement at both the academic, pre-professional and PRSSA Chapter levels.
A strong transition of student knowledge, as well as PRSSA Chapter information, from one year to the other.