There is no one public relations job description today. In this moment of media convergence, the role and associated duties have shifted and morphed considerably. We see public relations professionals increasingly reporting to a VP of marketing instead of a company’s chief communications officer, but the core role of the PR professional remains the same – to build and execute a communication strategy that positively impacts the brand and reputation of the company.


The question of what does public relations do, however, has evolved. While today’s public relations professional still spends part of their time developing press releases and managing community relations, their expertise has become a fundamental element of many companies’ marketing strategies. Today’s professional may spend as much time copy editing marketing materials and email workflows as they do press releases, not to mention producing podcasts, conducting webinars, editing video and managing their company’s social media presence.


One of the most important roles of the public relations professional is to create a comprehensive corporate communication strategy for their organization. Every project before a company’s communication team should then be tested against that strategy. Is this project a “nice to do” or a “need to do” as far as the company’s overall communication goals and strategy? No public relations team can do everything and no single strategy is right for every company. When you set forth a clear communication strategy for your company, you begin to see how all your work connects and how it moves the organization forward. If you are unclear about your strategic communication goals, it’s time to ask or suggest the team comes together to build a strategic communications plan.


While a company’s brand includes everything from advertising to customer service to how your own employees talk about the company when they’re not at work, the central responsibility for brand and reputation management falls squarely on the backs of the public relations team. It goes far beyond ensuring that people use the logo correctly as well. Whether building culture through internal communications initiatives or managing the company’s reputation in the media, brand awareness is key to the success of most companies in the marketplace.


Every company is different. Some companies are small enough that a good internal communications strategy could mean team updates by the coffee pot every morning. Other larger organizations may need complex webs of internal newsletters, webinars and formal updates from leadership on a quarterly or annual basis. The task of building and executing that strategy often falls to the public relations team in conjunction with human resources. When building an internal communications strategy, it is important to understand your organization’s unique culture and needs. Then build a communications strategy to meet those needs.


Technology is great and social media can do wonders, but when it comes to getting things done, the public relations professional still has no greater asset than the relationships they build. This is important both within and outside the organization as well. If you do not have the support of other key people within your company, you’ll encounter far too many roadblocks or delays in executing your plans. It’s not just knowing the right person though. You need to build and nurture those relationships over time, sometimes even years. The same goes for connecting and networking with your peers in other companies. The payoff comes when your executive team can’t seem to connect with another company and you just happen to know the PR lead there who can get the right person on the phone.


Media relations remains a core function of the public relations role that continues to attract journalists interested in transitioning out of the newsroom, but that role too has evolved with the evolution of digital journalism and disintegration of traditional media. This paradigm shift in the media landscape also changes how the public relations professional approaches crisis communication and risk management for their business.


Media relations is not about getting reporters to tell the story you want them to tell. It’s about speaking the same language, understanding what they need and translating that for your company’s leadership (and vica versa). This ability to translate easily between company and reporter is one of the reasons media relations jobs present an easy transition for journalists into the PR field. In reality, most public relations professionals have enough exposure to newsroom cultures either through school or in practice that they learn the language quickly themselves. Sometimes it’s about using the right word, but it’s more often about understanding what someone wants, what they need and how you can work with them best.


It’s one thing to know how to speak to the media yourself. Teaching someone else how to do it is another thing altogether. Even if your company is happy having a lead spokesperson be their voice to the public, there will come a time when you may need to prepare someone for an interview with a journalist or to speak publicly where they could be quoted by the press. Whether you’re developing a thought leadership strategy or pitching someone for a human interest story, the need to know how to communicate clearly and in a way that is helpful for a reporter. They also need to understand the reporter’s perspective and have expectations set for the resulting story. All of that should be included in any corporate media training program.


The nature of communications jobs is changing. This evolution of today’s media landscape and convergence of roles means that yesterday’s public relations practitioner needs to develop the agile skill set and perspective necessary to thrive in this new environment and become tomorrow’s media professional. They still need that traditional grounding in public relations best practices, but now also require a strong grounding in digital marketing, multimedia production and how the communications field is evolving.