A public relations officer is someone who is responsible for maintaining the reputation of the company she or he works for. Small companies may have a single staffer who handles public relations, while others may have an entire public relations department. In addition to representing companies, public relations officers can also have public relations for individuals such as politicians, celebrities, and other prominent figures who want to maintain a good reputation with the public.
Public relations is a delicate art which requires a high degree of skill and experience. Most public relations officers have a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications, or public relations, along with experience working in public relations. These professionals must be constantly on call and available to handle emerging situations as quickly as possible. Rapid and effective responses are crucial for public relations.
The public relations officer works with the employer to generate and maintain an image in the eyes of the public. The desired image may vary; a car company, for example, might want to be known for reliability, style, and affordability, while a celebrity might prefer to be better known for eccentricity and unusual antics. This image is carefully constructed and controlled with the use of advertising campaigns, press releases, press conferences, and other materials.
Basic public relations can include tasks like arranging meetings, sending out promotional materials, identifying a target population and focusing on them, talking about proposed projects to make sure that they fit in with the overall image, and so forth. In crisis public relations, the public relations officer is focused on responding to a crisis as quickly as possible, with the goal of maintaining reputation throughout the crisis so that people do not begin to think negatively about the person or company represented by the public relations officer.
A skilled public relations officer is able to balance multiple tasks at once and to prioritize items on a schedule so that the most important things are accomplished quickly. Public relations officers are also very skilled at communications and conveying ideas, in addition to being at ease in a wide variety of settings. They also know the people, companies, brands, and ideas they represent backward and forwards and are very aware of how any event or activity can impact the employer's reputation. In addition, public relations officers are able to think about expansion and how to shift marketing and relations to meet the needs of different populations. A campaign which works very well in Japan, for example, might not be as effective in Britain.