Public relations account executives normally work for PR agencies or integrated marketing consultancies, typically handling four or five different client accounts simultaneously. They work on b2b or b2c campaigns or a mixture of both, depending on the agency.
From writing and selling in press releases to the media to running social media campaigns, PR account executives work within a wider team to influence public opinion or behaviour on behalf of their clients, usually without the use of paid advertising.
A PR account executive will typically:
- Write press releases, news stories, articles, case studies and product pieces
- Pitch press releases and feature ideas by phone or email to national, regional and trade journalists, across print, broadcast and online, to interest them in covering their clients’ stories
- Respond to phone calls and emails from journalists
- Arrange interviews and editorial meetings with key journalists for clients’ spokespeople - in person or over the phone - and facilitate these meetings where appropriate
- Monitor media coverage and report results to the wider team and clients
- Attend client events and industry conferences
- Handle clients’ social media accounts such as their Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn page
- Deliver analytics reports on social media, reporting on traffic, engagement and follower figures
- Brainstorm fresh ideas for PR campaigns
- English language fluency: You need to have excellent written and spoken English.
- Copywriting skills: You need to be hot on spelling, grammar and proof-reading, as well as have a creative flair for producing engaging copy.
- Presentation skills: From communicating ideas to your team to presenting stories to journalists, you need to organise information in a succinct and interesting way to capture their attention.
- Strong interpersonal skills: Whether it’s over the phone, by email or in person, PR is all about people, so you need to be approachable, friendly and empathetic, and be able to relate to people on different levels within the agency, with clients and with the media.
- Excellent telephone manner: You will spend a lot of your time pitching stories to journalists, so you need to have the confidence to pick up the phone and speak to them and maintain a positive, friendly and upbeat tone.
- Time-keeping: You will often be working to tight media deadlines as well as meeting the demands and pressures of your team and clients, so you need to be able to work quickly and efficiently, without compromising on quality.
- Resilience: You need to be ballsy enough to pick up the phone to national journalists and resilient enough to handle criticism and rejection.
A relevant undergraduate degree such as PR, journalism or English Literature is normally expected but not essential. PR qualifications from the PRCA or Chartered Institute of Public Relations can also boost your knowledge either as an alternative to a degree or at postgraduate level. For positions with multinational companies, a qualification in a second language, such as French, Spanish, German or Arabic, can also be useful.
“I recently placed an account executive with no qualifications and no solid PR background but she nailed her writing exercise and presentation during her interview so was able to demonstrate she can deliver the high quality of work that is required for the role.”
- Jess Toole, PR recruitment consultant, Adam Recruitment
Prior experience working in a PR agency, press office or fast-paced media environment is preferable. However, the amount of experience you need varies by agency. Some agencies will take graduates as interns or PR assistants and from there you can progress to an account executive within 6-12 months. A PR degree could lead you to a junior account executive or account executive position in smaller agencies. Larger agencies tend to require more experience as they tend to be more fast-paced working on huge accounts.
The starting salary for an account executive typically ranges between £16-£19k per annum.
Normal office hours are 9:00am - 5:30pm. However, account executives are often expected to attend events outside of regular hours. Working late until 7pm or later is not uncommon in the days leading up to a new business pitch, although many agencies will offer the time back in lieu.
You next steps may include:
- Senior account executive (typically after 18 months - 2 years as an account executive, although you can do it in 12 months if you show you prove yourself and get great results)
- Junior account manager (typically after 1-2 years as a senior account executive)
- Account manager (typically after 1-2 years as a senior account executive or junior account manager)
A PR account executive's perspective
“My role changes every day and I love that. You never know what your day is going to look like, you just have to roll with it. There are some really exciting opportunities the higher up you get that I would love to try out, but the PR world is ever evolving so who knows what the future holds!”
- Liberty Chrismas, account executive, Refresh PR