A press and media relations officer represents the work of a company or organisation, acting as the point of contact for members of the press and other media representatives.
A press and media relations officer is responsible for maintaining the image of a company or organisation, gaining publicity and disseminating information to members of the press or other media representatives. They usually work in a busy public sector organisation, charity or large corporate company, liaising with the media, organising meetings and developing press contacts. Strong interpersonal skills are essential, as a big part of the job is networking and promoting the work of the company.
Typically, press and media relations officers at the start of their career start on around £15,000 which can progress to between £20,000 and £40,000 with experience, depending on the size and nature of the company.
Typical responsibilities of a press and media relations officer include:
- Answering enquiries from the press or other media representatives
- Writing press releases and news reports about the work of an organisation
- Developing media contacts
- Monitoring media coverage
- Writing letters
- Preparing media evaluation reports
- Attending press conferences and media interviews
- Booking rooms for meetings
- Distributing press releases
- Attending public committee meetings as a representative of the company or organisation
- Informing members of the public (as well as the press) about events and initiatives
- Keeping up-to-date with all issues that affect the company or organisation
- Accompanying staff on visits (particularly relevant to politicians or other figures in the public eye)
- Leading a team to organise media events and promotional activities
- Generating ideas to gain more media coverage
A press or media relations officer is a highly demanding job and requires employees to be quick thinking, intelligent and articulate. Most employers require a good first degree and sometimes a post-graduate degree in a relevant subject such as English, journalism, media relations, or business related degree. A qualification in a second language can also be a big advantage, particularly if applying to work for companies with international media relations. Many employers offer on-the-job training in the form of graduate schemes with the opportunity of working towards a professional media or public relations qualification.
Press and media relations officers must have:
- Excellent communication skills, both written and oral
- An excellent working knowledge of IT and all applications relating to communications
- Strong organisational skills
- An efficient working manner
- The ability to write press releases and news reports
- The ability to manage a heavy workload
- An excellent knowledge of the national and regional media
- The ability to work well under pressure
- The ability to work to tight deadlines
- The ability to work well as a team
- The ability to work using own initiative
- Close attention to detail
- The ability to cope with criticism
- A friendly, approachable and confident manner
- A flexible and committed approach to the job
Working as a press and media relations officer can be very stressful so employees need to have a good level of stamina and the ability to thrive under pressure. Hours are typical of a standard working office (9 – 5.30 pm) but at busy times, such as close to the launch of a company event, hours may be a lot longer and weekend work could be involved. The job also involves attending press events such as openings and press conferences, which often take place in the evenings so prospective employees must be able to demonstrate flexibility and commitment to the post.
Good experience is essential for getting a job as a press and media relations officer as jobs are hard to come by and in high demand. Experience of dealing with the public in a busy working environment is useful for the job, particularly work which involves networking and developing contacts. It is necessary to be able to demonstrate a strong interest in the media and a good knowledge of press contacts, so media experience of any kind will be invaluable: this may include shadowing reporters in a newspaper office, writing for a student newspaper or working for a voluntary radio station. Prospective employees also need to be able to demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to drive an organisation forward, so experience of an environment working with people and generating ideas will be very useful.
It is usually only large public sector and private organisations (such as financial companies or charities) or those whose work is of particular media interest who have a specific employee to handle their media relations; in smaller companies writing press releases and dealing with media enquiries is usually incorporated into other roles. Not all vacancies for press and media relations officers are advertised so it may be worth approaching a company or organisation to make contacts and demonstrate a specific interest in the company. It is also possible to work in a freelance capacity for clients who need a press officer for a temporary period of time, although this is more feasible for those with a good list of contacts and substantial experience of working with one company or organisation.
Working as a press and media relations officer allows plenty of opportunity to progress. With experience employees may go on to work for larger, more high-profile companies and may even go on to work in a managerial role within a communications department.
Also known as…
- Press Officer
- Media Relations Officer
- Communications officer
- Public Affairs Officer
- Public Relations Officer
What’s it really like?
Kim Edwards is 26 and works in the press office at Cancer Research UK. She gives us the inside story…
I’ve been at Cancer Research UK for a year and four months, and have worked in a public relations capacity for four years. Before I started at Cancer Research I worked at a
a small PR agency specialising in property. I looked after the PR for a number of consumer property exhibitions, UK house builders and overseas property companies.
I start most days by reading the paper. It’s really important to know what’s going on in the news when you work in a press office. It also gives me the chance to look out for PR opportunities for our campaigns, and see what other charities are up to. I’ll then spend some time going through my emails and responding to any journalist queries – it could be a request for a case study, images, a quote from one of our cancer specialists, or just general information on a campaign. Journalists are normally on tight deadlines so it’s important to make sure you get back to them with the information as quickly as possible. The rest of my day may be made up of writing a PR plan or press release for a campaign, selling a story to journalists, going to meetings, attending photo shoots or working at events.
The job satisfaction is really high compared with my previous jobs. You feel like you’re doing something good by promoting fundraising activity and helping to raise awareness of cancer. I’m also lucky as I get to work on high profile campaigns, including breast cancer awareness month. We’re lucky as a charity as we get to work with some really inspiring people who have experienced cancer, as well as celebrities who want to support our campaigns. I enjoy meeting different people so this is a great part of the job.
I can honestly say there isn’t anything I dislike about my job! Sometimes it’s hard work selling a story in, especially if it hasn’t got a great news hook, but when it pays off with a great piece of coverage it makes it all worth while!
I think it’s really important to get experience, even if it’s only a couple of days working in a press office. This will really help when it comes to applying for jobs and show that you’re committed to a career in the sector. You also need to be enthusiastic about what you’re doing and willing to get stuck in! I would also emphasise that the job is not as glamorous as you might think! There’s a lot of hard work involved, and it helps massively if you’re organised and can multi-task.