According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were 258,100 communications officers in the United States. The employment of these professionals, also known as public relations specialists, is projected to increase by 23 percent through 2020. A communications officer must generally have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations or communications, plus other skills, such as problem-solving, researching, writing, and organizational and interpersonal abilities.
Communications officers manage the relationship between their clients and the media. They inform the latter about any recent developments in the organization, such as the launch of new products, release of latest financial results or mergers. Public relations specialists are spokespersons who deal with inquiries from the media regarding the activities of their organizations. They may speak on behalf of their companies or arrange speeches, media interviews or press conferences for their clients.
Public relations specialists also develop publications that communicate the organization's activities or products. Examples of these publications include handouts, publicity brochures, direct mail leaflets, multimedia programs, videos and films. Using their writing skills, communications officers write and edit in-house publications such as annual reports, case studies, magazines and speeches. Additionally, the task of providing the media with press releases falls within the job description of these professionals. They further ensure that the information on their organization’s website is up to date.
A communications officer uses his skills to uphold the reputation of his organization within the community. This entails communicating accurate messages that portray the organization in good light. One way of doing this is by sponsoring corporate events to enhance the visibility of their brand or company. They are also at the forefront of charity-giving initiatives and conduct damage control in the event of a large-scale layoff of employees.
Public relations specialists conduct research on the perceptions and attitudes of their target audience to enable them to develop effective communication programs. They have to analyze the political, economic and social trends before making the appropriate recommendations from the findings. Part of the research may involve the collation and analysis of media coverage of the organization. As specialists in public relations and communications, they must collect, research, and prepare communication materials for external and internal audiences. Such audiences may include business owners, the public, and the media.