What is a Public Relations Professional? - A Breakdown

Let’s start with the question itself: what is a public relations professional? This term is about as broad as you can get if you’re trying to identify a specific PR role. 

Rather than referring to a particular job type within the public relations industry, ‘public relations professional’ simply describes any professional working in PR. 

For the benefit of the uninitiated, we’d like to go through several of the most common job types in PR today and what they’re typically responsible for.  

If you’ve been interested in starting a PR career, then we hope this will give you a much better idea of different roles you might be suited for within PR. 

Some of these are entry-level positions and others are more advanced positions that will definitely require years of experience and an advanced understanding of PR concepts and the ins and outs of PR firms. 

Public relations intern 

Taking a job as a public relations intern is just about as entry-level as you can get. While the ultimate goal of working an internship is to get the inside scoop on a professional environment that you would like to join one day as a full employee, there will be many other aspects as well. 

Some of these aspects will be less about the work of PR itself and more about keeping the office running smoothly. 

You’ve probably seen TV shows or movies where interns in any industry spend most of their time running for coffee and taking care of menial tasks around the workplace.

Public relations intern

While this isn’t a completely accurate representation of internships, you can still expect to do at least some of this during your own PR internship. 

But the best moments of your internship will always be when you get to sit in on important meetings with clients and learn from senior members of the staff. 

If you can prove that you’re a very hard worker, regardless of whatever work you’re doing at the time, you’re bound to get the attention of hiring reps who might bring you on as a full member of the team once your internship period has ended. 

Public relations representative 

For many people, the terms ‘public relations professional’ and ‘public relations representative’ are completely synonymous. 

‘Public relations officer’ and ‘publicist’ are generally understood to mean the same thing. 

In any case, these titles all refer to a very standard PR position, one where you’re a full employee with a public relations firm and you’re heavily involved in the operations of public relations. 

Even if a public relations representative isn’t always necessarily in charge of the campaigns they work on, they still take care of incredibly important tasks that are vital to planning and executing PR campaigns. 

As one small example, a PR rep might research other brands similar to the current client to get a better sense for the competition they’re likely to encounter. This information can inform the way in which the client’s campaign is planned out. 

PR reps can also help coordinate commercials and print ads that will be part of a client’s campaign, making sure that the creative direction of these marketing materials aligns with the goals and messages of the client. 

Public relations manager 

public relations manager often holds similar responsibilities to those of managers in other businesses. 

That is to say, rather than executing a lot of the necessary tasks from week to week, a public relations manager tells everyone what to do and oversees the resulting work.

Public relations manager

In just about every case, a public relations manager can expect to earn a higher yearly salary than the average public relations representative. 

But along with that higher salary comes a great deal more responsibility. If a specific project fails to meet expectations or doesn’t go very far beyond the required minimum, company leadership will most likely look to the manager of that project for an explanation. 

This is not a job for professionals who have an especially difficult time interacting with other coworkers and making tough decisions to meet a tight deadline. 

But if you find yourself wanting to lead others and you know the PR basics inside and out, you might want to let your current manager know that you’re interested in taking part in a management training program. 

Public relations executive 

A public relations executive is just what it sounds like: a top-level leader at a public relations firm who makes some of the most important decisions for the company, many of which can have an immediate effect on the health and outlook of the company in question. 

But despite their illustrious titles, public relations executives are still PR professionals at heart, meaning they came from humble beginnings, maybe even starting out as PR interns. 

Obviously, very few people ever get to work as public relations executives, but you can bet that anyone who has achieved this status has a high-level understanding of the nature of PR. 

However, just as PR managers will sometimes take the blame when things go wrong, PR executives are ultimately responsible for the company’s choices, and if the company starts to degrade very quickly, it’s most likely due to decisions made by professionals at the executive level. 

Public relations specialist 

The last iteration of public relations professionals we’ll talk about is a PR specialist. This is another term that sometimes has different definitions depending on who you ask.

Public relations specialist

But as we’re using the term here, we’re referring to an expert-level PR pro who has struck out on their own to provide boutique PR services to big-name and big-budget clients. 

Each PR specialist may still have a team of publicists working for them, but for the clients who seek out their services, it’s the reputation of the specialist that matters most. 

If clients don’t trust a PR specialist to do some incredible work, they won’t hire that specialist. Simple as that. 

But for extremely talented and highly experienced PR specialists, yearly earnings have just about no limit, and one day they may even decide to found a fully-fledged PR firm of their very own.