Career Resources

Public Relations

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Public Relations Overview

Public Relations is often intertwined with the field of advertising, but rather than using paid advertisements, PR professionals transmit a message to the public about a specific product or company through news media.  Working in PR involves ensuring that your message is portrayed positively through the press, including television, radio, newspapers and magazines. A PR professional may help to create and implement a marketing strategy, or help to mitigate negative publicity on their client’s behalf.

There are public relations firms, which serve many clients, and can be large enough to employ thousands or as small as a dozen or so.  Many large, international PR firms are full-service, and provide a wide range of services to their clients.  Some firms, on the other hand, are specialized, and serve clients in a particular industry, such as tech, or utilize specialized marketing techniques, like multicultural PR, for example.  Finally, many large companies employ PR specialists in-house to handle the day to day PR needs of the company. Those working in-house for a company may work more closely with corporate strategists and executives, and gain in-depth experience.  One downside of an in-house position is lack of variety; working for one client may be less stimulating than the diversity present in a dedicated PR firm.

On a day to day basis, a PR professional may develop and pitch ideas to the media, plan and hold publicity events, or write speeches for their clients’ appearances.  Those with more experience may also plan the announcements of new products or marketing campaigns, or help to manage a PR crisis.  Sometimes PR and advertising/marketing professionals work together to complete a project.

Public Relations Job Search

Most entry level positions in PR firms are as account coordinator, an administrative position which supports (and is often a stepping stone to) the account executive.  These positions often involve monitoring and researching news events, researching and communicating with media contacts, and preparing written reports of your firm’s PR results.

One way to begin a career in PR is to join a large PR firm.  Many large firms have internship positions, which allow newcomers to develop portfolios and contacts in the industry.  Most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree, often in a field like journalism or communication.  If working at a company with an in-house PR team, it may also be useful to have training in the company’s field.  Some people move to an in-house company after working at a PR firm.  PR professionals should have great communication skills, be outgoing and creative, and dedicated to maintaining strong relationships with media and clients.

CCE Resources

  • LionSHARE: PR firms that have recruited Columbia candidates through LionSHARE include Alison Brod Public Relations, Elle C Communications, and George Public Relations.
  • Career Fairs: The Fall Career Fair, held in September, and the Spring Career Fair in March include 100+ organizations each from many industries including media, marketing, advertising, finance, consulting, consumer packaged goods and more are open to undergraduate and graduate students and alumni. Some PR firms who have recently recruited through Columbia are TriplePoint and Crispin Porter & Bogusky
  • Media Networking Night: CCE’s annual Media Networking Night (held in March) is an opportunity to connect with more than 100 alumni and professionals in several media fields, including public relations. Some recent employers who have networked for PR and marketing positions include AOL, Ketchum Public Relations, and Universal McCann.
  • Vault and WetFeet Guides: CCE subscribes to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers.  Take a look at Wetfeet’s Guide to Careers in Advertising and PR.
  •  CCE Sponsored Internships: Explore CCE's sponsored programs, where past participants have interned at PR and marketing firms such as Astonish Media, HWH PR, and Uprise. 

External Resources

Job Boards

Noteworthy Employers

  • Burson-Marsteller - main areas: corporate relations, health care, consumer relations, grassroots PR
  • Edelman - main areas: consumer marketing & healthcare
  • Fleishman-Hillard – main areas: youth marketing, sports and baby boomers
  • Hill & Knowlton - main areas: corporate, marketing communications and public affairs
  • Ketchum – main areas: brand marketing, corporate, food & nutrition, health care and technology

Professional Associations

Last Updated May 2014