Advertising and Public Relations

Advertising and public relations people create advertisements for companies and organizations and design campaigns to promote businesses and the public image of their clients. Media representatives sell advertising space to all media. Many government agencies have their own public relations departments. Politicians have press secretaries.

Internal and external public relations departments can influence how governmental bodies make decisions. Public relations strategists work behind the scenes to plan and plot public exposure strategies. This process might be as simple as writing and issuing a press release that is disseminated in various media outlets, or it can be as complex as a mass saturation of an elaborate campaign on everything from billboards to the Internet.

Goals and Objectives

The objective is always to favorably influence public opinion. People in public relations use things like polling and focus groups to get a handle on how Americans are feeling about a particular issue. They write speeches for politicians and high-level bureaucrats, coach them on how to deal with the press, and many other tasks.

Fact

Sometimes government agencies contract advertising agencies to help polish their image. For instance, the Pentagon recently decided it wanted a new ad campaign for army recruitment. They felt that the “Be all that you can be” was getting stale, so they came up with “An Army of One.”

Most employees in advertising and public relations services function in a team environment. The phrase “team player” is not just a cliché — you had better be one if you want to work in this field. You had also better be willing to work long hours, including evenings and weekends. Yes, the work can be fast-paced and exciting, but it can also be quite stressful. The ability to be creative while a deadline looms large on the horizon, even at times when the Muse does not inspire you, can be emotionally draining.

Account managers represent the agency to the client and the client to the agency. They are responsible for the quality of the advertisement or public relations campaign. Account managers monitor the activities of all aspects of the account to make sure that everything runs smoothly. They analyze what the competition is doing and also analyze consumer trends, handle billing issues, and serve as cheerleader to bring the talents of the creative, media, and research areas together.

The creative director supervises the copy chief, art director, and their staffs. Public-relations managers direct the publicity programs to a targeted public. They specialize in a specific area like crisis management or in a specific industry like health care. Public relations specialists deal with media, community, consumer, and governmental relations. They are involved with political campaigns. They also deal with special interest groups, conflict mediation, and other issues. They write press releases and contact people in the media.

Copywriters write the words — the written part of print ads, Web site content, and, if applicable, the scripts of radio and television spots. The art directors develop the visual concepts and designs of the project. They prepare layouts for print ads and television story-boards. These are cartoon-style representations of how an ad will appear. They sometimes oversee filming the television commercials and photo sessions.

Graphic designers use print, electronic, and film media to create designs that meet clients' specifications. They develop the layout and design of print ads for magazines, newspapers, and other publications. They also produce brochures for products and services, design distinctive company logos, and signs that deliver the message in an eye-popping, eye-pleasing fashion.

Research executives compile data and conduct research. They organize and run focus groups, where a cross-section of the general public is brought into a conference room to give their input on the client's product or service.

Media planners gather information on the public's consumer habits, and evaluate editorial content to determine if it is best suited for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, or the Internet. They track the media space and times available for purchase, negotiate and purchase time and space for ads, and make sure ads appear exactly as scheduled.

Question

What is a lobbying firm?

Lobbying firms are a special type of public relations firm. They do not endeavor to sway public opinion about their clients; rather, they aggressively attempt to influence politicians in favor of their clients' special interests. They often work for large businesses, industry trade organizations, unions, or public interest groups. They also work for foreign governments.

Job Requirements and Opportunities

Entry-level professional and managerial positions in advertising and public relations require a bachelor's degree, preferably one with broad liberal arts exposure. Entry-level hires usually enter the business in the account management or media department. If you are young enough, getting into some kind of advertising-related internship while in school will give you an advantage. In fact, internships are more and more necessary even to get your foot in the door. Courses in marketing, psychology, accounting, statistics, and creative design are also helpful.

Assistant account executive positions require a bachelor's in marketing or advertising, and some require a master's degree in business administration (M.B.A.).

Assistant art directors usually need at least a two-year degree from an art or design school. Assistant media planner or assistant media buyer positions always require a bachelor's degree with a major in marketing or advertising.

ssential

There is a voluntary accreditation program for public relations specialists offered by the Public Relations Society of America. This program is a recognized mark of competency in the profession and requires that workers have been employed in the field for several years.

For public relations jobs, employers want applicants to have degrees in communications, journalism, English, or business. Some four-year colleges and universities offer a concentration in public relations. The competition for entry-level public relations jobs is ruthless, so you should gather experience through internships and other means. Time served and talent displayed may help you be promoted from an entry-level account management position to account executive, account supervisor, vice president, and maybe even higher. Employment in this industry is expected to grow 22 percent over the next ten years.

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