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Public Relations Officer

What does a Public Relations Officer do?

Public relations officers plan, develop, put into place and evaluate information and communication strategies that present a client’s (an individual or company) image and reputation. Their aim is to gain understanding and support for clients, as well as to influence the opinion and behaviour of the public, clients and other stakeholders. They also assess public opinion and advise their clients on different approaches to putting across their public personas, using different types of media to reach their chosen audience.

Public relations officers could work in a company’s in-house public relations department, or as an account executive at a consultancy that looks after a number of clients.

The job could include:

  • planning campaigns and strategies
  • monitoring the public and media’s perception of a client
  • writing and editing
  • arranging events
  • developing good relationships with the media
  • arranging for advertising or promotional films to be produced
  • public speaking
  • representing the client at events.

What qualifications do I need?

Public relations is a very competitive industry and many employers will expect you to be qualified to degree level, although this is not always essential. A bachelor’s degree and related work experience are typically needed to become a public relations officer or work in specialist positions. Public relations courses are offered at various universities and technikons, as well as at the Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA). A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite. In order to qualify for the certificate that PRISA offers, students must obtain a three-year public relations qualification plus two years public relations related experience, or a PRISA Certificate in Basic Principles of Public Relations plus three years public relations related experience.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Languages


Where can I study?

Oxbridge Academy
National Certificate: N4 – N6 Public Relations

University of the Witwatersrand
Degree: Public Relations and Communication

North-West University
Degree: Public Relations and Communication

University of Johannesburg
Degree: Public Relations and Communication

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Commerce: Communication Management

Bachelor of Arts: Communication Science

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Public Relations Management

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Public Relations Management

Durban University of Technology
National Diploma: Public Relations Management

Diploma: Public Relations

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
National Diploma: Public Relations Management

Pearson Institute of Higher Education
Bachelor of Arts: Public Relations

Varsity College
Diploma: Public Relations

Where can I get more info?

Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa – www.prisa.co.za
Institute of Marketing Management – www.imm.co.za


Interview with a Public Relations Officer

Finola Quarsingh | PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER | East Coast Radio

Finola Quarsingh | PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER | East Coast Radio


Why did you choose PR?
Growing up I always had a fascination for the arts, English literature and culture. Not much has changed. Over the years I developed a deeper appreciation for the English language and the arts, which led to me pursuing a career in the communications and marketing industry.

What training did you undergo?
Bachelor of Arts (a media and communications programmed degree); BA Honours in Culture, Communications and Media Studies; various short courses on ethics and corruption, public relations and project management. I recently worked on my dissertation for a Master’s in Marketing. Marketing is a broad field and PR is just one area that candidates can choose to specialise in.

What type of personality is suited to this job?
One with a sound ethical belief system and a concrete understanding of the language they practise in. Someone who has the ability to interact easily with people on all levels and is able to work in a pressurised environment. You need to be a hard worker who is confident and focused, with excellent communications skills and foresight. It is also important to be approachable and gracious.

Experience vs training?
Formal training equips you with a set of hard skills that are essential for you to know your field, but only experience lends insight into the profession and provides you with knowledge that will allow you to excel in the industry.

Describe a typical day
No two days are ever the same, which is why the job is such an enjoyable challenge.

What do you like the most about your job?
It is dynamic, fast-paced and very fluid – this allows room for flexibility and creativity.

List a career highlight
Travelling with the eThekwini Municipality’s Parks Department to the Chelsea Flower Show in London to implement the communications plan.

Any advice for someone starting out?
The industry usually demands a lot from you and is not always as glamorous as it appears. PR requires total dedication in a fast-paced environment. If you’re able to keep your head above water and make it look like fun at the same time – you’ll be a superstar on the PR field.