Press Officer Job Description - Definition, Skills, Duties and Career
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What Does a Press Officer Do?
A press officer handles relations with the press and media on behalf of the organization he or she represents. This could be, for example, a private business, a public institution or local authority, a political party, a charity, or even a celebrity. Press officers usually work in a press office.
The job of a press officer involves working to promote the image of the company in the media (i.e. traditional print media, television, radio, websites, apps, social networks). This may include, for example, releasing information to media outlets regarding recent or forthcoming initiatives, events and product launches, responding to enquiries from journalists or arranging interviews with company spokespeople.
Press officers may typically find themselves preparing and issuing statements regarding actions taken by the organization they represent, responding to crisis situations and providing media advice to senior management, as and when necessary.
The duties of a press officer include writing clear, concise and effective press releases and preparing press kits, case histories and additional material for use by the media (both general and trade) with the aim of conveying a positive image of the organization represented; issuing press releases and other informative and promotional materials to media mailing lists; talking to journalists and generally maintaining relations with the media; and systematically monitoring the media coverage and visibility of the organization by creating and circulating press reviews.
A good press officer should be a credible and reliable source of information for journalists and seek to act as an intermediary between the organization they represent and the media, with the aim of securing positive media coverage. A key factor in this is providing timely assistance to journalists and ensuring availability for interviews and articles. In addition, press officers are also responsible for organizing press conferences and other media events with the aim of enhancing the visibility of the organization they represent.
Another key skill for press officers is the ability to respond professionally to crisis situations affecting the organization they represent, such as emergencies, scandals, and other adverse events (crisis management). In such situations, the job of the press officer is to communicate proactively, transparently and effectively with the media, conveying an attitude of availability and openness to dialogue and avoiding media silence. The overall aim is to mitigate any negative perceptions arising from the events and safeguard the organization’s credibility and reputation on the markets.
Working as a press officer is a very high-paced, intense job with no set hours, which involves liaising with a wide range of parties, including the media, clients, press office colleagues and company management (e.g. the external communications and marketing director in a company or the account director for press officers working at an agency).
As far as employment opportunities are concerned, press officers tend to either work directly for the organization they represent (a private business or public sector body) or else for a third party external communications or public relations agency, providing media services on behalf of a portfolio of clients.
More rarely, a press officer may operate on a self-employed basis.
Other common names for this position: Media Relations Officer
Press Officer Duties and Responsibilities
The main responsibilities of a press officer are:
- Writing press releases
- Sending out information to contacts on media lists
- Monitoring media coverage and preparing press reviews
- Organizing press conferences and other events aimed at media outlets
- Putting together press kits and other supporting materials for journalists, including case studies, fact sheets and briefing notes
- Coordinating with the organization’s Social Media Manager with regard to social networks posts
- Maintaining good relations with news agencies, journalists, bloggers etc
- Maintaining and updating mailing lists
- Attending trade events, congresses and conferences and participating in TV and radio programmes
How to Become a Press Officer - Education, Training, Requirements
There are no specific set requirements for becoming a press officer, although many have a background in the humanities (e.g. a degree in media and communications or journalism). Another possibility is to attend a course for press officers where you can learn about the strategies and techniques employed by media relations professionals and the daily activities of a press office.
One key requirement for anybody wanting to become a press officer is a knowledge of journalism and the media, i.e. a familiarity with communications strategies and processes (including online communication), an awareness of how newspapers and other media outlets function and a knowledge of industry standards, guidelines and best practices. To this end, a period of work experience or an internship in the sector - for example in a communications or PR agency or in the press office of a large publisher or a big corporation - can provide invaluable experience, allowing you to gain a initial understanding and knowledge of the industry and begin to establish contacts with journalists.
Press officers working for foreign clients or international companies may well need a knowledge of foreign languages.
Skills and Qualifications
The skills required by a press officer include:
- Excellent writing and communications skills
- Networking ability - i.e. the ability to form a network of contacts among journalists, bloggers, social media influencers etc
- Ability to organize and manage media events
- Accuracy and precision
- Flexibility, resistance to stress and ability to perform in a high-paced working environment
- Knowledge of the principal desktop publishing software applications (e.g. PageMaker and similar)
- Ability to use design, layout and graphics software applications (e.g. Xpress, InDesign)
Press Officer Career Path
The role of press officer can be a springboard to a wide range of careers in the communications sector.
Within the press office itself, a press officer may progress to the role of press office manager, where responsibilities include coordinating and supervising the work done by the press office team and ensuring that deadlines are met.
Equally, there’s nothing stopping a press officer from embarking on a career in journalism, or becoming an expert in public relations or corporate communications.
There are opportunities for career progression within PR and communications agencies, too. Experienced professionals with strong expertise in the field of PR and communications and an extensive network of media contacts may progress to become a Senior Account Manager, thus becoming directly responsible for their clients’ media relations and image.
Finally, additional career opportunities include working in marketing, advertising, copywriting and digital PR.
Top Reasons to Work as a Press Officer
The job of a press officer is a very interesting and stimulating one. The work, which is never dull, calling for both creativity and a sense of initiative, is ideal for extroverts with a talent and passion for writing. It also involves having frequent contact with a wide range of different people, since one of the primary goals of a press office is to secure the attention of the outside world, in an effort to build a positive perception of the company that it represents. As with any role in the information and communication sector, press officers need to keep continually abreast of what is going on in the world and informed of the latest media trends and tendencies. There are a wide range of potential career opportunities open to press officers, including in the sectors of journalism, public relations, event organization, advertising, corporate and public sector communications.