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What are communications and public relations?

GradAustralia

If you've got a flair for writing and can think on your feet, communications and public relations could be the perfect career path for you.

Thanks to the internet, we live in a world that is increasingly connected. We hear stories unfold in real-time even as they happen across oceans. More than ever before, we learn what’s happening around us in ways our predecessors would never have imagined – from murmurings on Twitter to Snapchat stories to live video streaming on Facebook.

For an organisation, this increasing interconnectedness has huge potential. It’s a way to make itself known – people can learn and discover all about its products and services with the click of a button. It’s a way to build a community, a following, an intimate relationship with customers who it may not have been able to reach before. And yet, this increasing interconnectedness also has a downside – one slip-up and everyone knows.

Managing an organisation’s reputation then is an enormous responsibility. Welcome to the world of public relations (PR).

Whether it’s managing an organisation’s corporate reputation, the launch of a service or containing a crisis, PR is about relating the performance and news of an organisation to specific stakeholders, be they customers, employees, investors, the media or the public.

As a PR professional, you can work at an agency or in-house. PR agencies are hired on retainer or for a specific purpose. For example, organising a product launch or a rebranding. Internal communications departments are found in almost every organisation.

What is the graduate experience in communications and public relations?

In Australia, the PR landscape is relatively fragmented. There are large public relations organisations, often owned by larger advertising agencies, such as WPP AUNZ, Oglivy PR, Professional Public Relations (PPR) and Edelman. There are also independent PR agencies such as One Green Bean, Sling & Stone, N2N Communications and History Will Be Kind. Most of these organisations offer an internship program, however, they do not typically have an official graduate program.

Official graduate intakes are more common in corporates such as Qantas or Commonwealth Bank, which offer rotations within their marketing and communications teams.

Whether in-house or at a PR agency, your work at the entry-level will be similar – you will be asked to draft press releases, prepare media kits and liaise with key stakeholders. Indeed, working in PR requires building trust and connection with a broad range of people – over time, you will manage your own accounts and build key relationships.

The environment can be fast-paced and intense. Your working hours may fluctuate and you must be ready to respond to unexpected events at any time.

What are your career prospects in communications and public relations?

PR and communication skills are required in virtually every organisation, which means mobility in the PR world is relatively easy. Moving from a PR agency to an in-house role is typically easier than the other way around.

PR agencies and departments are typically small teams, so progression will depend on the organisation. You may choose to become a director at your organisation, launch your own agency or even freelance.

You may decide to specialise, for example, in social media or in a specific sector. However, as communications become increasingly digital, continuing to learn as much as you can about emerging technology and new platforms is important.

PR professionals typically stay within communications, though some moves to other areas within marketing are possible – and the earlier the easier it is.

Choose this if you have:

  • Excellent written and verbal communications skills.
  • An interest in helping organisations tell their story.
  • An ability to learn quickly and think on your feet.

Ready for the next step? Browse graduate programs and internships here.