Crash Course: How To Get Ahead In Public Relations Without A Master’s

“The history of PR is… a history of a battle for what is reality and how people will see and understand reality.” – Stuart Ewen

From its birth in the early part of the 20th Century public relations has grown in to a multi-billion dollar industry that has become an integral part of modern business. According to Corporate Watch, public relations is the practice of getting attention and shaping public opinion. Its tools include publicity, advertising, public affairs forums, lobbying public officials, and any and every other means that gets a message out to the public. Mostly however it is about placing stories in the media, getting newspapers, radio and television to accept stories or messages sourced from PR agencies. In today’s volatile market having a good public relations plan is more important than ever before.

It is a very competitive and intense industry. According to a recent survey conducted by @careercast, PR is the number two most stressful job in the U.S., right after a commercial airplane pilot.The truth is that PR involves juggling multiple projects and deadlines at once, staying current with the latest news across multiple channels, dealing with a slew of different personalities and keeping on top of the latest social media resources.

So how do you get ahead in this industry? Well you can go back and earn your masters or even a PhD, but like a masters in journalism it is not necessary to get ahead in the field. There are some education alternatives you can do to help you get ahead in this field.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

PRSA is the world’s largest and foremost organization of public relations professionals. It offers seminars, teleseminars, webinars, on-demand recorded programs, boot camps and industry specific conferences. Its programs focus on:

  • Social Media & Emerging Trends
  • Media Relations
  • Relationship & Reputation
  • Communications Planning & Measurement
  • Management & Leadership
  • Techniques & Tactics
  • On-Demand

Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential

PRSA also offers the APR credential. Established in 1964, the Accreditation Program is the profession’s only national post-graduate certification program. An APR proves you have successfully demonstrated competency in the knowledge, skills and abilities required to practice public relations effectively in today’s business arena. Begin your application and study process:All APRs are required to complete continuing education programs, pursue volunteer work or pursue other professional development activities to keep their skills sharp and their Accredited status active. You also have to be a member of the PRSA, have a bachelors, five years of work experience, a portfolio review, an interview with a three-member panel and pass the exam in order to be accredited.

Katherine Rupp, President of Exclamation, told The Grindstone PRSA as well as local PR organizations, can be very helpful for education as well as for networking.

Journalism courses

The PR and journalism fields have some cross-over areas even though they are on opposite sides of the fence in some ways. However, they both require good writing skills. This is why Candice Boutilier, Marketing Director for Torklift International, thinks publicists should take journalism courses to get ahead. These classes offer a strong understanding of the publicist profession and help you learn how media works better. You will also gain contacts in the classroom that you can use for networking.

Classes in digital media, public speaking and copyediting would also be helpful for a publicist looking to move up.


Jo Murray, head of Jo Murray Public Relations, recommends seminars offered by Business Wire. Business Wire also has a free award-winning webinar series which offers hour-long discussions and interactive learning from industry professionals and our expert staff. Here are some of the most popular webinars:

  • Maximizing Your Measurement: Clocking the ROMI of Your Press Release
  • The Future of Mobile Marketing Is Here
  • How to Write a Good Headline
  • Extensible Business Reporting Language: What You Need to Know About XBRL

Local Professional Groups

If you aren’t part of the PRSA or International Association of Business Communications (IABC) Murray recommends joining a local networking PR group. For example, there is the Public Relations Round Table in San Francisco and Capital City Communicators in Boise. “Don’t say you can’t afford the money or the time. You can’t afford not to have a strong professional network of your own,” said Murray. Nichole Kalil, Public Information Officer, said she also found that attending and being the member of business networking groups has served as time well spent. “These networking groups have given me the chance to learn about various opportunities in multiple industries within just a couple, social hours,” she said. “The PR field is one which changes its way of doing business faster than the time pursuing a formal degree can ever keep up with.”

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