Is Public Relations a Good Career Choice ?

Ten or 15 years ago, my answer would have been, no, go into marketing or management consulting. But I feel much better about the industry’s future these days.

Ten or 15 years ago, ad agencies were very much in ascendance and they had pocketbook power (i.e., the overwhelming majority of most companies’ marketing and communications budgets). Public relations, then considered the poor cousin of advertising, was dominated not only by the ad industry, but by men at the highest levels of the profession. At the lower levels, PR was considered “a “velvet ghetto” overrun by women. That might explain why PR salaries were (and still are) pathetic compared to advertising.

For many years, the public image of public relations has been negative. The predominant (and inaccurate, unfair) stereotype of a PR practitioner has been someone who engages in twisting the truth (described by the pejorative terms “flaks” and “spin”).

Today, however, ad agencies are often bypassed by clients who see the costs as out of proportion to the benefits, and who look to PR as not only more cost-efficient, but also as generally more effective in disseminating most corporate and product messages. Salaries are still not great, but there’s no salary growth anywhere right now (according to the New York Times, salaries have been dropping across theU.S.).  I don’t know the statistics, but it seems that young men are entering the profession in greater numbers, and (speaking cynically) that should help bring about better salaries for everyone in the industry.

What’s brought about these changes is the advent of online social interaction, which has provided a means for consumers to influence each other more than they are influenced by ad messages or even media coverage. PR has always been about two-way communication; listening to people and interpreting their attitudes in order to better position an organization and communicate its messages.  These skills are of paramount importance in a social media context. With new skills to master and novel online tools to harness, the PR profession has been changing rapidly. It’s an exciting time for PR, which has taken on much greater importance in this environment, a fact that marketing professionals and the C-suite have acknowledged.

PR has come into its own, and it’s attracting new college graduates in large numbers. I asked our fall semester intern, a senior communications major atCityCollege, why she chose PR. Here’s her response.

Lucy Siegel

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Why PR? A College Student’s Perspective

Catese Shirer, Bridge's fall intern

When I was young I never aspired to be a public relations professional. What I had in mind was a career as a lawyer, doctor or teacher, the kinds of professions that my parents imagined for me! So how and why did I get into public relations?

To start with, I never knew this profession existed until I was in high school. At the time, I aspired to be a top-of-the-line reporter covering the latest news. However, the more I learned about journalism the more I realized it was a very intense and competitive field.  While there’s nothing wrong with competition, I didn’t like the idea of competing with my co-workers to have my story chosen for publication over theirs.

In addition, my perception was that journalism is all about relaying cold, hard facts.  I knew that journalists are not allowed to be subjective. In PR, however, I sensed that I could allow my creative juices to flow. PR allowed me to think outside the box, voice my ideas and help turn those ideas into reality.

One of the things I look for in my career is versatility, and PR fits the bill. The work is ever-changing, and so is the field of public relations. I come into work knowing that each day will be different. I’m able to stay connected with the world through social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I can also plan events, meet new people and network all at the same time. There’s so much variety that I know I won’t be bored.

Don’t get me wrong – PR is not all “glitz and glam.”  It’s necessary to put in time and effort and be really dedicated in order to succeed. Client needs have to be met accurately and efficiently. It takes a strong  work ethic and an outgoing personality to make it, and I feel I have both. I’ve chosen this field because I expect PR to be a fulfilling, meaningful and challenging career.  That’s why I’m here!

Catese Shirer, Intern, Bridge Global Strategies

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