What Is a Public Relations Manager?
Public relations (PR) is a form of strategic communication that organizations and public figures heavily rely on to craft their messaging. The intent of PR is to develop a positive public image and form relationships between the public and a company, organization, or person. According to industry researcher IBISWorld, there are more than 57,000 PR firms currently operating in the U.S., which indicates there is a healthy demand across all sectors for this type of service.
Large corporations and prominent public figures in particular have extremely complex public relations needs. For instance, if an automaker released a car that had to be recalled, it could potentially rouse concern among consumers and put the company’s image at risk. Or, a politician may say something polarizing about a sensitive issue, which may cost them votes and public support. In both these instances, a PR professional may step in to help ease concern and rebuild trust.
PR initiatives are often led by public relations managers. What is a public relations manager? A PR manager oversees their client’s communications and image while supervising a supporting staff of public relations professionals.
Successful senior-level PR managers have excellent communication skills, the ability to problem-solve complex issues, and a solid foundational knowledge of public relations, cultivated through experience and an advanced education.
Public Relations Manager Job Description
A public relations manager’s job description is largely dependent on the type of client they represent. For example, the methods a PR manager might employ in working for a political candidate will likely be very different from how they represent an oil and gas company.
However, in a broad sense, a PR manager’s role can be boiled down to two main elements: public communications and relationship management. No matter the industry or type of client, managing public perception is always part of the job. Keeping that in mind, the following are some of the most common responsibilities for public relations managers.
- Assign tasks to and manage members of the PR team
- Oversee multiple communication channels—such as traditional media and social media—to ensure messaging is consistent, effective, and cohesive
- Develop public relations strategies that are intended to have a specific effect on the public and are in line with the client’s goals
- Conceptualize public events—like conferences and press tours—that are meant to generate positive public perception and interaction
- Perform administrative tasks such as monthly budgeting, scheduling, and project management
Review all media coverage and develop appropriate responses on behalf of the client
- Plan for worst-case scenarios so clients can promptly address them if needed
- Develop and maintain a PR calendar of events and important dates
- Represent the client in all public relations matters
Skills for Public Relations Managers
Needless to say, advanced interpersonal skills and public speaking abilities are essential skills for PR managers. They must also be experts in the many nuances of public perception and relationship management—relying on data, media coverage, and in-person interactions to properly gauge how the public truly feels about their clients.
PR managers should be knowledgeable about the various resources they can use to gather feedback and data, such as social media listening tools or surveys and polls, and have an understanding of when and how to deploy them. Additionally, a PR manager must be organized, an effective leader, and a strategic thinker that is always planning several steps ahead.
Public Relations Manager Salary and Job Outlook
Current data about the role of PR managers and their career outlook indicates the profession is a stable career choice with plenty of opportunity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a public relations manager was $125,780 in 2021. The BLS reports that top-earning PR managers made upwards of $208,000. Individual salaries may be influenced by factors such as education, experience, geographic location, and the type of employer or client.
BLS projections indicate that employment opportunities for PR managers will grow approximately 8% through 2031, which is faster than the national average of 5% for all occupations. The increasingly dynamic and complex nature of public opinion, particularly in the age of social media, will drive much of the demand for PR managers.
How to Become a Public Relations Manager
Those wondering how to become a public relations manager are encouraged to invest in the proper education and find opportunities to gain relevant PR experience. Although each person’s path is unique,
aspiring public relations managers should consider the following steps.
- Earn an undergraduate degree in public relations, business, communications, or a related field.
- Gain work experience in an entry-level PR role or internship. Many public relations companies actively recruit volunteers who wish to donate their time to gain experience.
- Earn relevant certifications. Aspiring PR managers are encouraged to seek certification through the Public Relations Society of America.
- Build a strong professional network and seek opportunities above entry-level work.
- Train for PR management through seminars, specialized training, and/or an advanced education, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. An MBA program can help aspiring PR managers hone their leadership skills and elevate their business expertise.
Pursue an Exciting Career in Public Relations
Public relations managers are integral to helping clients craft their image and effectively communicate with the public. Successful public relations management is what makes a mutually beneficial relationship between a client and the public possible.
In the age of the internet and social media, it’s more important than ever for PR professionals to carefully manage how their clients portray themselves on a variety of channels. Mistakes can be costly. It’s essential to apply strategic thinking and produce carefully crafted messaging so clients—including corporations and public figures— can maintain a positive public persona.
Those who are interested in becoming a public relations manager are encouraged to find a degree program that supports their career aspirations, such as the Online Master of Business Administration program offered at Washington State University.
The WSU MBA program, which features multiple concentrations and a general track, is designed to develop key leadership and business skills that are essential for success in various roles and industries, including public relations.
Learn more about the program—and discover how an advanced education in business can support your professional goals in PR.