Should you pursue a career as a media relations director?

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A media relations strategy determines how an organization interacts with the public via multiple media channels, including TV, social media platforms, company websites and various publications. Media relations professionals create, implement and oversee such strategies, performing a variety of tasks along the way.

A media relations director and her colleague discuss strategy.

During a normal day, a media relations director, for instance, may do anything from write a press release to collaborate with an outside public relations (PR) agency on a social campaign. Media relations roles like media relations specialist, media relations officer and media relations director are appropriate for professionals with academic and/or work-related backgrounds in PR, communications, journalism and similar fields.

What Is Media Relations Strategy and Why Is It Important?

The overall role of the media relations manager and other media relations professionals lies in shaping how the public perceives an organization. Negative publicity is costly, as is losing control of any company-related narratives.

According to a 2018 Astute Solutions benchmarking study, 40% of marketing professionals felt negative press was the single biggest threat to their brands. Even just a handful of negative reviews of a company online can get 66% of shoppers to stop buying from it.

A comprehensive media relations strategy can help prevent such reputational and financial damage. Media relations strategy is a combination of strategic communications, marketing public relations and influencer relations, optimized for the modern multi-channel media world.

Whereas a media relations specialist might have once focused mostly on press conferences for a TV audience or press releases for print publications, now they work within many other contexts, too. Email marketing, podcasts, online videos and social media content have all become relevant concerns as well.

What Responsibilities do Media Relations Jobs Involve?

There is a wide range of possible responsibilities across today’s media relations jobs, with core tasks including:

  • Developing talking points and messaging for all communications channels.
  • Writing and approving press releases and other PR collateral.
  • Monitoring coverage across different media types.
  • Connecting with influencers who can help raise brand awareness.
  • Coordinating press conferences and media availability.
  • Formulating and implementing crisis response plans.
  • Coaching other company employees as subject matter experts and speakers.

Although these responsibilities are present in many media relations jobs, they can still vary based on the specific job title and organization. Some media relations jobs include media relations specialist, media relations officer and media relations director. Let’s look at each of these media relations jobs in more detail, along with corresponding media relations salary data.

Media Relations Specialist Jobs and Salaries

The media relations specialist role is an entry- to mid-level occupation, analogous to the public relations specialist. Compared to more senior positions in media relations, media relations specialists may have a narrower set of responsibilities. They may have more of a tactical focus on how to optimize an organization’s communications for specific media channels, rather than on formulating high-level strategic communications plans.

The core responsibilities of the media relations specialist position include:

  • Cultivating relationships with members of the media and key influencers.
  • Creating and distributing marketing and PR collateral such as press releases and photos.
  • Keeping tabs on social media analytics and other key performance indicators.
  • Monitoring public opinion and how their organizations are perceived (brand perception).
  • Identifying areas in which advertising and marketing can supplement PR efforts.

According to PayScale, media relations specialists had an average salary of $54,454 as of 2020. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t list media relations specialist as a specific occupational category. However, it maintains data for PR specialists, who earned median pay of $61,150 in 2019.

Media Relations Officer Jobs and Salaries

The media relations officer position is broadly similar to that of the media relations specialist. The primary differences between the two are the contexts in which the media relations officer job title is most common — namely at universities and in the public sector — and the fact that media relations officers are typically in more senior positions. A media relations officer may also be known as a media relations manager.

Reporting to the media relations director, a media relations officer may:

  • Serve as the main spokesperson for the entire organization.
  • Handle information requests in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and organizational policies.
  • Provide advice to leadership on strategic communication strategies and any ongoing or planned campaigns.
  • Manage crisis response by coming up with a rapid response plan and ensuring that official communications go to the proper media channels.
  • Oversee the work of the media relations and PR teams, including media relations specialists under their supervision. estimated that, as of September 2020, the median salary for a media relations manager was $99,491. Different salaries posted to Glassdoor show a vast range of possible earnings depending on the employer. For example, university media relations officer salaries reported to the site ranged from $49,000 to $53,000, while pay in government and finance positions reached well over $100,000.

Media Relations Director Jobs and Salaries

The media relations director role is usually the most senior of all media relations jobs. A media relations director has full responsibility for their organization’s media relations strategy, from high-level planning all the way down to day-to-day execution.

More specific responsibilities may include:

  • Managing overall brand image and identity.
  • Ensuring consistent positioning and messaging across all media channels.
  • Creating and assigning projects to junior and senior staff.
  • Performing research into audience demographics and devising strategies accordingly.
  • Designating spokespeople for the organization.
  • Selecting appropriate advertising and marketing materials and campaigns.

Media relations director salaries are higher than those for most media relations specialists, and on par or slightly above those for media relations officers and managers. Glassdoor has calculated an average base pay of $99,773 in 2020, based on over 3,700 submitted salaries.

The BLS does not maintain data specifically for media relations directors, but it does do so for the similar role of public relations and fundraising managers. In 2019, professionals in this occupational category had a median pay rate of $116,180. Total employment of public relations and fundraising managers was also expected to climb 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all professions.

A media relations team at work.

How do You Land Media Relations Jobs?

Minimum qualifications for media relations jobs will vary by employer. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like PR, journalism, English, marketing or business is typically useful. For a senior position like media relations director, a master’s degree in one of these fields may be preferred by some organizations.

Earning a PR master’s degree can develop the strategic communication and planning skills necessary for overseeing a complex, multi-channel media relations operation. In a program such as the online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) from the George Washington University (GW), media professionals benefit from a curriculum focused on an integrated approach to public relations — one that combines aspects of public affairs, marketing and communications alongside PR itself.

To learn more about the GW SPR degree path, visit the program overview page today.

Recommended Readings:
Digital Media Director Career Overview
Is a Public Relations Degree Right for Me?

Astute Solutions | When No News is Good News: The Impact of Negative Press on Your Brand
PayScale | Media Relations Specialist
Glassdoor | Media Relations Officer Salaries
Glassdoor | Director of Media Relations Salaries | Media Relations Manager Salary in the United States
Bureau of Labor Statistics | Public Relations SpecialistsBureau of Labor Statistics | Public Relations and Fundraising Managers