Skills Public Relations Specialist in Canada

Find out what skills you typically need to work as a public relations specialist in Canada. These skills are applicable to all Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations (NOC 1123).

Expertise

People working in this occupation usually apply the following skill set.

  • Gather, research and prepare communications material
  • Prepare and/or deliver educational, publicity and information programs, materials and sessions
  • Prepare or oversee preparation of reports, briefs, bibliographies, speeches, presentations, Website content and press releases
  • Act as spokesperson for an organization
  • Answer written and oral inquiries
  • Conduct public opinion and attitude surveys
  • Advise clients on advertising or sales promotion strategies
  • Develop, implement and evaluate communication strategies and programs
  • Prepare sports, literary, performance or other contracts
  • Initiate and maintain contact with the media
  • Develop and organize workshops, meetings, ceremonies and other events for publicity, fundraising and information purposes
  • Assist in the preparation of brochures, reports, newsletters and other material
  • Co-ordinate special publicity events and promotions

Essential skills

See how the 9 essential skills apply to this occupation. This section will be updated soon.

Reading
  • Read letters and e-mail from co-workers, clients, public, members and contractors. For example, public relations and communications professionals read letters of complaint to identify potential solutions. They read e-mail from co-workers to obtain details to include in newsletters and to learn about meetings and events. (2)
  • Skim press releases and newsletters from related organizations and government bodies to stay abreast of initiatives, campaigns and activities. For example, public relations and communications professionals read press releases to identify media opportunities for their own organization and to keep up to date on government policy. Fundraisers review newsletters from other community organizations to learn about potentially conflicting fundraising events. (3)
  • Scan daily newspapers, news magazines, media clippings and electronic news alerts. For example, public relations and communications professionals scan newspapers to identify articles that mention their organization or the primary activities of their organization. They use this information to help identify media opportunities and responses. (3)
  • Scan trade journals and magazines to identify relevant articles to read in detail in order to keep up to date. For example, public relations and communications professionals read articles in magazines produced by related organizations to note activities and events. Periodicals may be related to professional practice and to the activities of the organization. In the latter case, content may be technical in nature. (3)
  • May review contracts. For example, public relations and communications professionals review service contracts to book event locations. Entertainment agents review lengthy recording and distribution contracts to evaluate adequacy. (4)
  • Study reference materials to learn. For example, they may consult grammar and style reference manuals when preparing texts and communications texts. They read communications texts to learn how to conduct communications audits. They may consult multiple references sources on the same topic. (4)
  • Read reports, background documents, research and position papers to understand topics and summarize and synthesize content for publication. Texts may be lengthy, complex and use new and unfamiliar terminology specific to the organization, industry and topic. For example, heritage counsellors review and summarize historical notes on the toponymy of city streets, public relations and communications professionals in healthcare read reports about the implications of changing diagnostic procedures and strategic communications professionals read consultant and staff reports to understand controversial topics. (4)
  • Read texts to edit and revise. They read texts written by co-workers, contractors and themselves to ensure language, content, tone and key messages are appropriate for the audience and purpose. Texts may be lengthy and may also include suggestions and recommendations from other reviewers. For example, they review funding proposals to ensure all necessary content has been appropriately presented, event flyers to ensure the content and style is appropriate for the intended audience, reports about contentious topics to ensure content is presented in a balanced manner, Intranet and Internet web sites to revise stale content and magazine submissions to proofread. (4)
Document use
  • Complete entry forms. For example, public relations and communications professionals complete evaluation forms to evaluate suppliers, complete expense reimbursement forms to summarize expenses incurred and enter data into database entry forms to note new contacts and supporters. (2)
  • Read data in tables and lists. For example, public relations and communications professionals refer to conference and event attendee lists to identify who to expect at an event, read supplier, sub-contractor and media lists to locate contact information and read to extract statistics about their organization, such as admissions and discharges from their hospital, to include in communications materials. Fundraisers read donor lists to update. (2)
  • Enter data into tables. For example, public relations and communications professionals monitor project schedules by entering information into calendars and timeline tables and enter address and contact information into distribution lists. Fundraisers enter data into tables to track corporations approached for donations, method used and results. (2)
  • Locate data on forms. For example, public relations and communications professionals extract survey responses to summarize and synthesize, review consent forms to ensure subjects have allowed the use of their image and read incident report forms to gain background information before issuing press releases. Fundraisers locate donor information and donation amounts on donation forms. Entertainment agents review signed contracts to ensure they are complete. (3)
  • Extract data from graphs. For example, public relations and communications professionals obtain data from graphs produced by Statistics Canada to help illustrate the needs their organizations fill, interpret graphs illustrating donor characteristics, review graphs created by graphic artists for accuracy and examine graphs illustrating company and organizational expenditures to identify key messages to include in communications materials. (3)
  • Examine sketches, photographs, forms, images and draft layouts of publications to evaluate quality and appropriateness. For example, public relations and communications professionals review sketches, thumbnails and draft layouts of publications provided by graphic artists to determine whether the placement and size of text and images will communicate the intended messages. They examine, and in some cases select, photographs to include in informational and promotional publications. They review the layout and content of forms to update and clarify. Entertainment agents evaluate draft CD covers and promotional posters for artists. (4)
Writing
  • Write e-mail to co-workers, suppliers, colleagues and clients. For example, public relations and communications professionals respond to questions and requests via e-mail, write e-mails to request information as well as to confirm details. (2)
  • Write letters to request, advise, welcome and explain. Letters must be clear and informative while also inspiring support for the organisation. For example, fundraisers write letters to solicit donations and sponsorships. Public relations and communications professionals write letters to welcome government appointees and to inform the public of changes to policies and practices that may upset the audience. Entertainment agents write letters to outline arrangements for performances. (3)
  • May write communications plans. For example, public relations and communications professionals draft, revise and finalize communications plans to describe challenges, goals, stakeholders, objectives, audiences, key messages, strategies, tactics, budget, slogan and evaluation criteria for communications initiatives. Strategic communications professionals write shorter plans to outline the strategy for addressing a potential problem for the organization immediately. (4)
  • May write reports to update clients, funders, and the public. For example, self-employed communications professionals write reports to clients summarizing project outcomes and listing recommendations. Public relations and communications professionals write reports to funders and the public summarizing research efforts. Although the content may be technical in nature, language must be comprehensible to the intended audience. (4)
  • May write text for funding proposals. The proposal must be consistent with the request for proposal's guidelines while convincingly illustrating the benefits to be derived. (4)
  • Write press releases, media backgrounders, fact sheets and lobbying kits to inform and inspire interest. Writing follows a standard format; key messages, purpose, organizational mandate and target audience dictate content. For example, public relations and communications professionals write press releases in response to topics already in the media and prepare lobbying kits to present the organization's perspective to the government. Entertainment agents write press releases to announce CD launches and concert details. (4)
  • Write informational and promotional texts for use in brochures, videos, newsletters, magazines and on web sites to inform and engage. Content and tone must be appropriate for the intended audience and purpose, while furthering the organization's communications goals. For example, public relations and communications professionals write brochures and ad copy to describe and promote events and services, write annual reports, and write articles for newsletters and magazines to synthesize information. Fundraisers write text for donor recognition publications. Entertainment agents write biographies to promote artists. (5)
  • May write speaking points and speeches for themselves and others. Although they may be brief, the content and language must be appropriate to the occasion and the speaker's role. For example, a speech written for a dignitary to announce an event should be both formal and enthusiastic, whereas speaking points in response to a contentious matter should be deliberate and restrained. (5)
NumeracyMoney Math
  • May calculate and verify invoice amounts. For example, public relations and communications professionals review invoices from freelance writers to ensure quotes match charges and that rates, including applicable taxes, have been calculated accurately. They calculate invoices for magazine ads given the size of the ad and applicable taxes and discounts. Entertainment agents calculate the value of recording contracts and how much they and the artist should be compensated at the end of a tour given concert receipts, the agreed upon payment rates, expenses and per diems. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • May compare service options from different suppliers to identify the best value. For example, they compare the facility rental fees at different hotels to select a space for an event and they compare the cost of print runs to identify the most cost effective option. Suppliers may offer different combinations of services and use differing price structures. (3)
  • Prepare financial summaries and projections. For example, public relations and communications professionals summarize travel expenses by multiplying distance by per kilometre rates, summing meal, hotel and transportation costs as applicable. They summarize how a project's budget was spent, categorizing and summing expenses for all payable items. Self-employed public relations and communications professionals summarize costs to determine profits. Fundraisers calculate potential revenue for fundraising events given ticket price, expected participation rates and event costs. (3)
  • May create budgets for projects, events and communications plans. They need to monitor and adjust budgets to accommodate unexpected costs. For example, public relations and communications professionals responsible for planning events take into account facility and equipment rental fees, food and beverage costs, speaker and entertainer rates and event ticket price. Communications professionals who develop and implement communications plans identify costs associated with each tactic to be employed over an extended period. (4)
  • May develop, monitor and adjust project schedules that include key activities, phases, responsibility, task interdependencies and deadlines. Schedules may be for short or long-term projects. Often, these schedules involve activities carried out by themselves, co-workers and contractors. For example, public relations and communications professionals create, monitor and adjust newsletter and publication schedules, scheduling writing, design, photography, approval and printing. (4)
Data Analysis Math
  • May compare ticket sales to expected sales to identify whether additional promotion may be required. (1)
  • May compare data over time. For example, public relations and communications professionals compare web traffic and radio listeners from one period to another to identify notable changes. Fundraisers identify the number of donations and the value of donations over time and public relations and communications professionals identify whether audience demographics have changed. (2)
  • May collect and analyze data. They use the data to support the need for communications interventions and to help illustrate key messages in publications. For example, public relations and communications professionals generate statistics to describe survey results, such as teacher's reactions to school kits distributed for educational purposes. They collate binary and scale responses, calculate response rates, means and percentage of respondents by response to evaluate the success of the communications tool. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • May estimate event attendees to select venues accordingly and to judge the popularity and success of events. (2)
  • Estimate the number and length of articles and number of photographs for publications. They take into account the cost of photographs, the overall length of the publication and the balance they would like to achieve between the images and text. They use past publications as a guide. (2)
  • May estimate quantities. For example, public relations and communications professionals estimate print runs and the number of brochures to bring to events considering the number to be distributed, expected popularity and how to maximize value. They estimate the quantity of promotional materials for sale to produce or to bring to an event considering the expected popularity. Under-estimating could lead to a loss in sales, over-estimating could result in excess merchandise. (3)
Oral communication
  • Respond to questions posed by the general public and clients about activities and services. For example, heritage counsellors provide information about plaques commemorating a person or event. Self-employed public relations and communications professionals respond to questions about availability. Entertainment agents respond to requests about artists and potential bookings. (1)
  • May direct and instruct junior staff and co-workers to achieve communications objectives. For example, public relations and communications professionals assign tasks to subordinates and direct announcers recording promotional messages. They may also persuade co-workers they do not supervise to adhere to communications guidelines set for the organization. (2)
  • May represent their organization at public events and consultations. They greet guests, deliver presentations and speeches to promote their organization, solicit donations and introduce events. For example, public relations and communications professionals describe the services of their organization to potential members and take on the role of host during events. (3)
  • Conduct formal and informal interviews. They select questions to maximize the amount of information gathered while keeping subjects comfortable. For example, public relations and communications professionals interview subjects for magazine articles to obtain thoughts, ideas and quotes. They engage co-workers in conversations to collect information about concerns to address in internal newsletters. They ask specialists to explain technical terminology to gain a better understanding of content to be communicated. (3)
  • May discuss and negotiate tasks and terms with service providers. For example, public relations and communications professionals request photographers provide alternate photographs that more adequately meet the need. They discuss site features to select venues for events. They negotiate contracts, terms and deadlines with writers, designers and printers. (3)
  • Present and discuss project objectives, plans, approaches and status to co-workers, colleagues, supervisors and clients. They often work with teams and may be responsible for leading these teams. They collaborate with counterparts at other organizations to plan joint initiatives. They present draft options, solicit opinions and persuade team members that an approach will be successful. For example, public relations and communications professionals share strategies to address controversial topics with the media and present ideas on changes to communications tactics to improve functionality. (3)
  • May call potential donors, members, the public and the media to persuade. They must effectively describe the organization and value and purpose of initiatives to garner support. For example, public relations and communications professionals call to request financial support from individuals and corporations, they call media personnel to encourage them to cover events and they call upset clients to address complaints. Entertainment agents persuade media to interview artists. (3)
  • May answer questions posed by the media in person, on the phone and during live radio and television interviews. They describe their organization, specific initiatives and activities and in some cases solicit donations. They must be clear, succinct and persuasive to achieve the desired outcome. They may be faced with situations where providing information may lead to negative media coverage. In these cases they must carefully respond to questions so as to appear co-operative while avoiding potentially controversial content. In addition, they also instruct spokespeople on handling the media. They review potential questions, challenges and instruct on the delivery of key messages. (4)
ThinkingProblem Solving
  • Encounter challenges in obtaining content for publications and press releases. For example, they encounter challenges identifying and securing interviews with subjects for magazine articles and obtaining event information in a timely manner from co-workers to include in newsletters. They identify efficient ways to obtain the particulars, alternative sources and ways to work around incomplete and inadequate information. (2)
  • Face disagreements when planning, implementing and evaluating communications initiatives. For example, an editorial advisory committee may disagree on content for publications, co-workers may disagree on logistics for events, spokespeople may disagree with key messages and committees may not recognize the value of communications initiatives. They listen to suggestions, provide explanations and try to work to achieve consensus without alienating co-workers. (2)
  • May encounter dissatisfied customers, clients, members and donors. For example, a donor may complain that they have not received sufficient recognition for their donation and a customer at an event may complain that a promised ticket is unavailable. They identify ways to appease the customer, client, member and donor without setting unrealistic expectations for the future. (2)
  • Discover that incomplete, inadequate, inaccurate and stale content has been communicated in publications, websites and to the media. For example, a spokesperson fails to clearly articulate key messages and the media misunderstands a topic. They identify strategies to implement the corrections to ensure that inconsistencies in messaging are resolved. (3)
  • Realize there is insufficient time, money and human resources to complete work as planned. For example, they find their budget has been reduced, that original time allocations are insufficient for project activities and that additional communications projects emerge due to unforeseen circumstances. They respond by reallocating resources to the most critical tasks first, identifying potential time and money savings and noting these challenges for future reference. (3)
  • May face significant deficiencies on the day of events. For example, attendees do not arrive as expected, performers are prevented from travelling safely and equipment failures prevent events from proceeding as planned. They must quickly identify solutions that address these deficiencies. For example, an entertainment agent faced with an artist unable to perform as scheduled must determine whether to cancel the event, offer other entertainment or refund tickets. (3)
  • Encounter suppliers who do not meet contract obligations. For example, they encounter freelance writers who back out of assignments, historians who submit inadequate research and performers who arrive late. These difficulties are exacerbated when time is short. They resolve the situation by identifying other suppliers, noting challenges with the supplier for future reference and where expedient and possible, working with the supplier to communicate and clarify expectations. (3)
Decision Making
  • May decide to purchase advertising space or sponsor events. They consider the expense and the potential for the gesture to achieve overall communications objectives. Advertising and sponsorships are used judiciously. (2)
  • May select individuals to invite to meetings and events. In large organizations, public relations and communications professionals select the stakeholders that should be involved in plan and strategy development. If committees are too large, decision-making is impeded; if committees are too small, organizational buy-in may be compromised. Public relations and communications professionals select key individuals to invite to events, including media representatives that are likely to report on the event and organization in a positive manner. (2)
  • Choose suppliers and service providers. For example, public relations and communications professionals select contractors to develop learning kits for educational programs, freelance writers, photographers, graphic designers and printers for publications, and venues, caterers, hosts and entertainment for events. Entertainment agents select band members for tours and venues for performances. When selecting contractors they consider project needs, cost, expertise, reputation and experience. When selecting venues they consider location, cost, quality and suitability for the event. (3)
  • Select distribution methods and communications tools. For example, they decide to either mail, e-mail, post newsletters or some combination by considering the target audience, costs, benefits and limitations of each approach. They may choose to post newsletters on websites in addition to sending them via e-mail to provide information to stakeholders who have set up robust span filters. They select communications tools by considering the needs of the audience, the purpose of communication and the feasibility of developing the tool given time constraints. (3)
  • Decide to share information. They identify topics for which a communication intervention is required by keeping abreast of employees' and public's concerns, news reports, reviewing press releases from government agencies and related organizations. For example, public relations and communications professionals decide to issue press releases and news briefs to the media, their members, clients and customers and decide to share news with internal stakeholders either in print or through meetings. Sharing too much information too often may result in important information being missed; not sending out enough information may affect the reputation of the organization or may limit communications opportunities. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the suitability of contractors. They consider the project, the overall cost, the ideas they present, and the contractor's reputation and experience. They apply past experience both with the same contractor and with other service providers. For example, they evaluate the suitability of contractors to develop websites or write articles for publication. They consider the quality of work submitted, project objectives and costs to evaluate contractors once work is completed. These evaluations are used for future reference. (2)
  • Evaluate the ability of publications to communicate intended messages. They assess the quality of layouts, photographs, images, as well as the interaction between elements and they judge the relevance, tone, clarity and level of detail of the text. They consider the publication, audience and purpose. For example, public relations and communications professionals evaluate all aspects of brochures at key points during development, and prior to printing, to make recommendations that will ultimately ensure the tool meets the organization's needs. They review proposals before they are submitted to funders or clients to ensure the content is consistent with requirements and presents ideas effectively. They judge the clarity, readability, usefulness and intuitiveness of the forms. (3)
  • Judge the significance of topics in the media to determine whether and how to respond. They consider the risks associated with action and inaction, recent misunderstandings that could resurface and ramifications and implications for the organization's image. (3)
  • Assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of communications interventions. They consider the audience, goals, objectives, organizational needs, budget, results of similar interventions and potential implications for the organization. This assessment takes place when creating communications plans, when deciding to undertake specific interventions such as promotions for an event and when evaluating the success of interventions. For example, public relations and communications professionals evaluate key messages to be used by spokespeople to ensure the content is sufficient, while limiting the potential for interrogation. They compare and contrast different communications approaches, such as promotional videos versus print campaigns, to identify advantageous and cost-effective solutions. Entertainment agents assess the ability of a concert tour to promote specific artists. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Public relations and communications professionals are responsible for planning and organizing their own job tasks. They typically work on multiple projects at any given time; as such they must set priorities and sequence tasks in order to maximize efficiency. Given the range of projects on which they work at any one time, conflicting time demands are inevitable. Plans often require adjustments to incorporate input from co-workers, colleagues at partner organizations and contractors. While managing tasks and deadlines associated with longer-term projects, many must also revise daily plans to take advantage of media opportunities as well devise communications approaches to address situations that could otherwise damage the reputation of their organization. Responding quickly increases the likelihood that the situation can be resolved. Depending on the structure of the organization and the size of the communications department, they may be assigned work tasks by supervisors, co-ordinate work tasks with co-workers or identify work tasks on their own. (4)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Public relations and communications professionals pan and organize the work of administrative and junior staff, as well as the work of contractors. In some work settings, they also co-ordinate the efforts of members and volunteers. They are often involved in both short and long-term planning for their organizations, as communications plans and strategies both affect and are affected by organizational aims. Public relations and communications professionals at a senior level work alongside senior managers and contribute to strategic planning. (4)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember the status of multiple projects and requests to ensure that key dates, activities and tasks are not missed.
  • May remember media contacts' story preferences and stories recently covered to identify and select those to call to encourage publicity.
  • May remember the names and faces of media contacts, donors, members, volunteers and senior management in large organizations to build trust and rapport.
  • Remember the features of successful and unsuccessful publications, events, strategies and campaigns to improve current and upcoming initiatives.
  • Remember key messages, portions of speeches, facts and figures to use during presentations, media interviews and interactions with the public.
Finding Information
  • Find information about potential suppliers and contractors by consulting listings and asking colleagues and co-workers for recommendations. (2)
  • Identify sources and locate information to develop communication strategies, plans and publications. They read background papers and reports prepared internally, speak to co-workers, interview subjects, lead consultations and conduct research. They synthesize and distil information when faced with topics that are complex and multi-faceted. (3)
  • Find information about industry trends, public's perception, concerns and interests by listening to television news, skimming newspapers and news clips, news magazines, scanning media websites, reviewing e-mail alerts and listening to the public during events and consultations. (3)
Digital technology
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they use spreadsheet software to create and modify spreadsheets which organize event or project information and expenses. They insert formulae to sum values and calculate means. Multiple spreadsheets within workbooks are created to keep details organized. (2)
  • Use the Internet to find information. For example, they use company Intranet web pages to locate contact information for co-workers and they use Internet browsers to search for facts and figures to include in promotional and informational materials. They may bookmark web pages and group bookmarks for future reference. (2)
  • May use other computer and software applications. For example, they use digital cameras to take photographs and CD burning software to store and to share photographs with graphic designers. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, they create letters, press releases, reports, speeches and work schedules using standard formatting features to draw attention to details in the text. They may create newsletters and reports that require extensive formatting such as the use of text boxes and importing of images into the document. (3)
  • May use graphics software. For example, they create and modify presentation slides using PowerPoint, manage website content using Dreamweaver, create internal newsletters using Publisher, create fact sheets using Page Maker and convert press releases created in Word to portable document format using Adobe Acrobat. (3)
  • Use communications software. For example, they exchange e-mail and attachments with co-workers, colleagues at partner organizations and clients. In some cases, they create e-mail distribution lists, and format e-mail using graphics to effectively communicate information in the body of e-mail messages. Some use software, such as e-Campaign to send personalized e-mails to groups. They may use the calendar features of communications software to schedule meetings. (3)
  • Use databases. For example, they may use database programs such as Fundraiser Jr to monitor donor activities. They create and perform database searches to sort and retrieve data, create new records, modify existing records and merge contact information from databases with other programs to send the same document to multiple recipients. (3)
Additional informationOther Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Public relations and communications professionals spend much of their time working independently. They research and prepare communications plans and strategies, write and edit texts and publications and identify media opportunities. Although many activities are accomplished independently, input and support from others is often required. Communications efforts must be coordinated with other organizational activities. As such, communications professionals must work closely with other members of staff to ensure mutual goals are accomplished. They consult with co-workers to obtain information, work with others assisting with event planning and logistics, work with other senior members of staff to make joint decisions and share opinions and co-ordinate tasks such as acting as spokespeople on different topics. In some cases they are responsible for directing the activities of assistants and support staff. They often hire and direct contractors to provide services to support communications efforts and hold responsibility for ensuring their work is adequate for the purpose. In addition, many work with teams that comprise of junior staff members, co-workers, colleagues from related organizations and may also include members, clients and the public. They work both as members of teams and act as team leaders depending on the project. (3)

Continuous Learning

Public relations and communications professionals must learn regularly to ensure that communications efforts are appropriately responsive. They need to keep abreast of organizational activities, changes in their respective industries, media reactions to topics of relevance and advances in the communications field. Learning occurs through a number of sources. They learn through discussions and information sharing with co-workers, trade publications from their respective industries and professional associations and press releases from government and related agencies. They monitor reactions to topics of relevance primarily using media reports. They scan daily newspapers and clippings, review the content of e-mail alerts, skim websites and in some cases monitor television news networks throughout their day. Learning about the background of new topics must occur rapidly when faced with the challenge of responding to an unexpected misunderstanding in the media. In addition to the informal leaning that takes place daily, many professionals attend conferences, workshops and courses through local universities and community organizations to both develop knowledge of their respective industries and to maintain expertise in the communications field. They need to keep up with changes in communications technology. Public relations and communications professionals apply this knowledge to on-going communications efforts as well as to the development of plans and strategies. (4)

Labour Market Information Survey
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