Community relations specialists cultivate community contacts to increase awareness and collaborative opportunities for businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies or educational institutions. Like other public relations jobs, a community relations specialist manages an organization’s public image. As a community relations specialist, you will organize volunteers, coordinate special events and implement community outreach programs. Many public relations specialists now have community relations incorporated into their positions, particularly online social media networking.
Your main responsibility as a community relations specialist will be to plan, implement and analyze public relations and marketing strategies that advance your organization’s mission and goals. Projects may include event planning (for example, open houses, sales events and fundraisers), volunteer coordinating and community outreach programs. Community relations specialists nurture connections with individuals and businesses or organizations that help support organizational goals. For instance, a community relations specialist may donate a business’s product to a school to create community awareness. You may also be responsible for managing and utilizing social media to coordinate community relations.
A community relations specialist must have excellent written and oral communication skills. You must be team-oriented, with excellent interpersonal skills. As part of the budgeting and accounting process, you must be able to evaluate the relative cost of a program compared to its benefits for the organization. Excellent persuasive skills, with the ability to be calm under pressure, may be required in positions that deal with sensitive or controversial subjects.
Many entry-level community relations positions require a bachelor’s degree in communication, public relations, marketing or a related field. Your coursework should include advertising, business administration, communication, finance, psychology, political science, public speaking, sociology and writing. Many businesses and organizations prefer some level of familiarity with the field (for example, education, health care, nonprofit management or sales). Internships and additional training through professional associations such as the Public Relations Society of America may increase your job prospects.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates public relations specialists earned a median annual salary of $54,170 in 2012. Community relations wages vary by industry, with businesses offering top dollar and educational facilities offering the lowest amounts. Your actual salary will depend on your location, employer size, education, experience and responsibilities.
Job opportunities for public relations specialists were projected to grow by 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. Community relations specialists with knowledge of social media, event planning and volunteer coordination will have the greatest job options.