Most PR professionals work in one of three broad segments: in-house, consultancy, or agency. Those working in-house are employed directly by a corporation or organization and typically provide strategic and practical communications support.
Consultants are self-employed, engaged by corporations or organizations on short- or long-term contracts. PR agencies are larger than a one-person consultancy and are paid by corporations and organizations to conduct public relations on their behalf, sometimes on retainer and sometimes for specific initiatives.
PR activities include communications planning, issues management, media relations, investor relations, corporate branding, community relations, writing, producing business materials, special events planning, crisis communications, video production, social media management, research and evaluation. Some PR professionals specialize in one or a few activities while others are generalists.
These three fields are related and often work in cooperation. Marketing and advertising are concerned with the direct sale of products or services and the development of markets, while public relations is about communicating with stakeholders, engaging with the public and reputation management. Marketing specialists identify markets for their employer’s products and services, then develop and implement programs to create and maintain demand for them. PR specialists identify people and audiences who have a relationship with their employer, explore what that relationship is, then develop and implement communications programs to connect with those people.
Advertising is a specialized area of marketing that involves identifying the media to which people interested in a product or service are attuned, then paying for guaranteed placement of advertising in those media. Media relations is a specialized area of PR that involves pitching stories to identified media and responding to media inquiries. In this arena of PR a company or agency does not pay for media placement and it can influence, but not prepare or control, the output.
There are a number of schools in Metro Vancouver which offer PR programs. These include Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, BCIT, Douglas College and Langara College to name a few. All of these programs graduate students who are now working in the industry. Each school has a different specialty. Once you determine the area of PR you want to focus on, you might want to talk with program coordinators (and if possible, some graduates) to see which school best meets your needs, budget and schedule.
After sufficient time working in public relations, you should consider gaining professional accreditation as an “APR” (Accredited in Public Relations), a designation of increasing value in the industry.
Consider some or all of the following options to get your foot in the door, gain some experience and be noticed by PR professionals:
Volunteer with charities and professional organizations to develop transferable skills which you can use in the industry
Find a mentor
Network and connect with other more senior practitioners
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