During your high school years, become involved with the school newspaper, yearbook, or literary magazine. Try working with these publications' advertising departments or sections, either selling ad space or promoting the publication to the student body. You can also join school committees that plan and publicize events such as school dances, fund-raisers, or other functions. Try your hand at other media by working at the school television or radio station or Web site. You may even be able to come up with your own ad campaign for a school event.
The best way to explore this career during your college years is to complete an internship or co-op at a public relations firm. If you are unable to get such an internship, try getting a part-time or summer job at a local newspaper, radio, or television station where you can work in some type of public relations department. Read publications by the Public Relations Society of America (https://www.prsa.org), such as Strategies & Tactics and PRSA's blog, to become more familiar with how the public relations field works.
Media relations are one part of public relations. Media relations specialists develop corporate or product positioning strategies for specific media outlets; plan photo and editorial opportunities for use in the media and develop editorial ideas to fit a publication's or broadcast medium's special promotions; develop news and feature releases and pitch them to the media; place articles with the media; gain favorable product reviews and publicize them to the media; position the organization they represent as an expert source; execute media events, such as press conferences, interviews, tours, and promotions; handle information requests from the press; and collect and analyze media coverage of the organization they represent.
To understand the media relations specialist's work, suppose a large pharmaceutical company has to recall one of its products because of possible tampering. The company's CEO decides she wants to address the issue with the public. The media relations specialist decides between arranging a press conference or an interview with a newspaper journalist from a major newspaper, contacts the appropriate media (in the case of a press conference) or reporter (in the case of an interview), and then briefs the CEO as to the angles on which the reporter or reporters will be basing questions. He or she also manages the company's response via social media and other online channels.
Successful media relations depends on building an authentic rapport with reporters and editors while giving them something they can use. Media relations specialists are aware that most reliable journalists despise news that originates with a public relations slant, but that journalists often must rely on it because of time constraints. This is the reason rapport-building skills are essential in media relations. Media relations specialists must also establish a rapport with the public via Facebook, Twitter, or similar social networks, where missteps can lead to a swift public backlash.
Because the press release is at the heart of media relations, and major newspapers and wire services receive thousands of releases per day, the experienced media relations specialist knows when something is actually newsworthy and presents it in the most concise, attractive, and easy-to-read manner as possible.