Originally Published August 23, 2017; Updated August 9, 2021; Updated November 2023
PR is always evolving. If the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that the way we work and live is changing, including the job description of the PR professional. Whether you’re a new PR assistant or the Director of Communications, the core of your job revolves around using news and content to put forth your brand’s desired messaging. What do the responsibilities of PR really entail, though?
Our job descriptions tell us what we’ll be responsible for in a given public relations or communications role, but we rarely reference the J.D. later as our roles evolve. “PR scope creep” is a real phenomenon that is partly due to the ambition of PR professionals and partly due to the fact that the digital world in which we work is ever-expanding in nature.
For the sake of creating a comprehensive idea of all the tasks today’s PR and communications teams are responsible for, we’ve compiled a list of 22 responsibilities of PR or areas of focus.
See how many fall under your current role or save this list of PR responsibilities for the next time you’re updating yours or a report’s job description. If you oversee a team of PR strategists, simply give them a hug. Even if their specific roles don’t encompass all of these skills, they are responsible for exponentially more than they were a decade ago – and they’ll likely be responsible for even more
1. Earned Media & Media Relations
In the old days, sending out press releases and then managing a Rolodex of media contacts could help PR pros to land earned media. Today, landing earned media in publications that resonate with target audiences is only one small part of the earned-media mix. Relationship building takes time. PR professionals should create thoughtful, data-backed pitches, engage with reporters on social media, send swag (when appropriate), maintain relevant media lists, and manage all follow-through with reporters and journalists. At the same time, PR pros are constantly thinking about how to maximize the reach and impact of their earned media.
2. Owned Media & Content Strategy
Owned media consists of publishing content on brand-owned channels such as a customer-facing blog, email campaign, or social media outreach. PR pros will need to either write content themselves or help to drive strategy with a team of writers, editors and guest blog contributors. They may also be responsible for managing any outsourced content creators.
3. Media Monitoring & Analysis
In today’s data-driven environment, it’s essential to monitor and analyze any content that hits or publishes. Implementing a media monitoring platform is vital for today’s PR pros who want to be able to quickly draw insights about what’s working and fold those findings back into their workflow. Onclusive offers a proprietary media monitoring solution. Feel free to start a free trial to get an understanding of the tool.
4. Corporate Communications
As companies grow, corporate communications become more important. Corporate communicators regularly work with stakeholders across the organization to develop and distribute pertinent info to employees and key affiliates. Using various channels like email, intranets, Slack, Basecamp, and so forth, PR pros ensure that messages not only reach the right audience but are compelling and spark the desired action. Corporate communications regularly involves interaction with senior leaders and HR departments.
5. Messaging & Positioning
Having a clear brand established, along with representation of your values and mission statement, has never been more important. Studies show that brand loyalty plays a huge role in why people spend their money the way they do. A subset of corporate communications work includes developing, documenting, and disseminating overarching corporate messaging. This work is critical to building a strong brand with a consistent message. Your business is likely to go through several iterations of positioning and message adjustment as they grow. Companies often hire specialized agencies on a project basis to assist with specific repositioning or market research.
6. Internal Communications
Internal communications are crucial in determining how things are accomplished in any organization. Taking dry content like company policies and turning it into information that employees actually want to read requires a savvy communicator. How do you know what’s working? Experts have often debated the interesting PR problem of measuring the effectiveness of internal communications. Read up to learn more about measuring internal communications and how internal communications will continue to change in coming years.
7. Media Training
With the reach of today’s media formats and the explosion of publications, media training is important for a much larger number of people in an organization. PR professionals are now responsible for training a growing number of executives. Media training is essential for anyone who will be in contact with or in the press. The PR pro may train spokespeople themselves or hire an outside agency or consultant to lead a one-time session. PR people may also develop guidelines for interacting with the media or even social media.
8. Executive Thought Leadership
According to Forbes, thought leadership has never been more important. To achieve the desired results, a strong thought leadership strategy from the outset is crucial. Today’s PR pro is responsible for ideating, writing, editing, pitching, placing and promoting executive thought leadership articles for not only the CEO, but also other senior executives. PR pros often hire small teams of writers and editors to help scale thought leadership efforts.
9. Writing & Editing of Miscellaneous PR Assets
Everyone expects PR pros to assist in writing content for the media. But what about other assets that the media or customers are likely to see? Consider things like informational one-sheets about new products or launches, case studies, event descriptions and signage, multimedia-rich press releases, and more. PR pros often review and edit when appropriate.
10. Crisis Communications
There were some serious PR blunders in 2020. If those PR boo-boos didn’t show us the importance of having a crisis communications plan in place, we’re not sure what will. Reputation management and crisis communications are not an airbag that goes off when something bad happens; they are a seatbelt your brand should always wear. With today’s speedy news cycle, it’s essential to have a plan in place prior to anything going wrong in the media.
11. PR Reporting
Today, PR professionals have the responsibility to share PR reports with executive leaders and cross-functionally as well, in order to encourage more regular intel-sharing. In addition to creating the reports, the PR professional is responsible for being able to analyze and communicate what the results mean for the brand. To learn more about how reports can be impactful for cross-functional teams, check out the blog post we wrote about how sales teams and PR teams can benefit from more cross-team collaboration.
12. Media Measurement
Reporting on established metrics isn’t enough today. C-suite leaders expect today’s PR professionals to leverage PR metrics that connect the goals of each campaign to bottom line metrics. Give yourself a crash-course in media measurement or contact us for more information on how we can help you measure your PR efforts.
13. Speaking Engagements
Though in-person events have taken a backseat in recent days, we can expect them to return in force one day. Niche industry events, role-specific conferences (catered to developers, creatives, etc.), and big-kahuna conferences such as SXSW give brands ample opportunity to showcase the learnings of their strongest business leaders. In the meantime, digital speaking events have exploded. Webinars, podcasts, online conferences and other digital format events have a tremendous reach and we expect them to continue to be important well beyond 2021. In addition to vetting and landing those opportunities, the PR professional is also responsible for leading the creation of accompanying presentation decks and talking points, and working with the speaker to ensure they’re comfortable.
14. Multimedia Development & Visual Storytelling
Today, PR teams need to possess a strong understanding of how to inject corporate messaging into multimedia. PR professionals leverage storyboards and creative briefs to ensure that multimedia content is consistent with their brand positioning and messaging.
15. Event & Experiential Marketing
Supporting event and experiential marketing is increasingly important for a PR professional. PR experts are the guardians of their brand, and it’s their job to make sure experiential marketing properly relays brand messaging. Additionally, PR professionals will frequently help to make sure that the experiential marketing event produces positive earned media exposure.
16. Influencer Marketing & Blogger Relations
Influencer marketing is the future, and it goes far beyond sponsoring an Instagram persona. Over the last decade, there has been an explosion in the number of professional and amateur influencers authoring content. These influencers/authors can have a large readership among your target audience, and write about topics that your audience cares about. Whether managing influencer sponsorships or engaging with an unpaid network of organic brand advocates, influencer marketing and blogger relations are increasingly important as self-publishing continues to expand and evolve. Some PR pros manage this in house, while others leverage the expertise of specialized influencer marketing agencies. Regardless, influencer marketing is not going away and savvy PR pros must have a pulse on it.
17. Social Media & Community Management
With increasing frequency, social media and community management has become the direct responsibility of the communications and PR team. That’s because social media is one thing most people check to understand your brand, and has also become a front-line of customer service. Community management entails social monitoring, responding to customer inquiries, and passing items along to customer management when needed. Practicing diligent social listening is a key part of managing a brand’s reputation.
18. Managing PR Agencies
Remember when we mentioned PR pros at the Director level? They’ll need to wear a myriad of management hats, often juggling freelance content creators, graphic designers, specialized communications consultants, and PR agencies. For big, global brands, this may include managing multiple PR agencies responsible for earned media and opportunities in different countries across the globe.
19. Data Journalism
Data journalism entails gathering internally curated data and turning that information into marketable stories, whether that’s earned media pitches or brand-published content. Today, the PR pro must collaborate closely with a data scientist to convert data points into compelling content that captures the attention of potential customers or sparks curiosity in journalists.
20. Trend Spotting
PR pros have always had their finger on the pulse of what’s trending in the media. But now, companies also expect them to spot trends even before niche stories break, so they can ensure that their companies get ahead of the curve before a news topic skyrockets. Additionally, the news cycle continues to get shorter, so it’s even more important to spot trends and capitalize on them before they are old news. Astute social listening and leveraging the power of media monitoring software that allows you to discover and study trends can help in accomplishing this.
21. Reputation Management
Reputation management is the act of influencing or controlling a brand’s reputation through various forms of content. In recent years, it’s become a PR pro’s job to understand how people perceive their company’s brand, and take proactive measures to ensure those feelings are positive. Additionally, reputation management requires some technical know-how since much of today’s process happens online through search results. For this reason, it can make a lot of sense to work with a reputation management partner who can leverage sophisticated AI-powered analytics and other specific tools.
22. Community Relations
Businesses actively contribute to the greater local community in which they operate, are located, or plan to locate. There is an inherent symbiotic relationship between a company and their local community, and the companies who realize this can build a large amount of goodwill with the state and local government, residents and businesses. As a result, we’re seeing PR professionals take a much more proactive role in establishing positive community relations.
Have we missed any responsibilities of PR? Comment below to add onto our list.