Corporate Career Path

To get to the top of the corporate PR world one needs a thorough understanding of the business and an ability to bring teams together

To get to the top of the corporate PR world one needs a thorough understanding of the business and an ability to bring teams together

Entry level

Administrative assistant
PR specialist
PR coordinator

Most individuals who join the PR team at a top company will not come right out of college. Instead, many employers prefer candidates with two to five years of agency or other relevant experience and/or an advanced degree.

A minimum of three relevant internships during college is also desirable.


Support activities of the PR department using the skills of writing, planning and organizational.

Learn various disciplines, including employee communications, media relations, and investor relations.

Gain familiarity with the tools and techniques of communications, including new media platforms, VNRs, SMTs, newswires, measurement tools, and all internal platforms.

Channel requests or inquiries from journalists to the appropriate person.

Ascertain perceptions from a stakeholder point of view.

Facilitate internal requests/inquiries from other departments.

Press clipping; monitor media for company news.

Prepare documents, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets.

Provide support for events, shareholder meetings, journalist briefings, and press conferences.

Compile and maintain media lists.

Coordinate efforts with PR agency counterparts.

Coordinate/merchandise media clips on the company.

Insider's tip: Make an effort to understand how the company works as a whole, rather than just the PR department. Ask questions and engage people across the organization, including contacts in other marketing disciplines. Interest in the business objectives and the full company environment is a important. Don't pretend to know more than you do - executives will respect your eagerness to learn, listen, and contribute. Interpersonal skills are needed, and energy and enthusiasm are essential.

Salary range: $32K - $48K

Mid level

PR associate
PR manager

Individuals will have five to seven years' experience with a greater role in writing, developing plans, and managing various communications efforts. Technical skills should be well-developed, including familiarity with PR industry tools and techniques. An ability to assess key trends that impact your company is vital. An understanding of audience perceptions and how to influence their behavior through communications is helpful. Demonstrate confidence in dealing with senior executives and press, as well as a willingness to take initiative and assume responsibility beyond those listed below.


Specialization may occur at this level, leading to roles dedicated to employee comms, media relations, IR, events, and community relations.

Give ongoing support to senior management, including setting up interviews, providing message points, writing speeches, and organizing events.

Write press releases, Op-Eds, annual report sections, speeches, and internal communications, for traditional and new-media channels.

Engage with other marketing disciplines to coordinate efforts.

Develop communications plans to support corporate/product strategy.

Respond to media inquires, serving as spokesperson on certain issues.

Provide direction to vendors for services such as newswires, printers, VNRs, SMTs, and measurement tools.

Serve as primary contact for the PR agency.

Supervise work of administrative/coordinator level.

Insider's tip: Take advantage of greater senior-level access. Offer opinions and perspective, and demonstrate knowledge of both the industry and how communications relates to business goals. But be warned: know when to listen and when to talk. Also, learn how to connect and integrate all communications pieces together to maximize effectiveness. Knowledge of audience needs and wants is powerful in developing business logic to sell programs and ideas. Network with colleagues at your level throughout the company to build relationships and gain knowledge on other departments, including other marketing disciplines - sensitivity to the environment is key to the job.

Salary range: $49K - $90K

Mid-senior level

PR director

At the upper-middle level, the practitioner will engage with senior executives on a regular basis, including the CEO and CMO, and frequently be called on to develop and present plans to members of the senior leadership team along with how those plans fit into the overall achievement of corporate objectives. With a mastery of the tactical elements of the job, the focus becomes more strategic. Even if there is a functional responsibility over
an area of communications, generally skills and knowledge become more broadly drawn, extending across PR specialties and general business units.


Functional responsibility for a key area of communications, such as media relations, internal communications, IR, and community relations.

Supervise managers, including defining metrics to evaluate performance.

Serve as number two, sometimes standing in for VP.

Strategic planning with other marketing disciplines.

Apply business logic and knowledge of stakeholder needs to sell programs.

Spokesperson on key issues or products.

Front-line engagement on issues and crises.

Provide counsel to senior management outside of communications.

Take responsibility for areas outside of the communications function.

Insider's tip: This is when careful consideration is given to career options. The "job for life" is no longer assumed, and many individuals will hop from this level to the top job at another company. Recruiters keep watch over individuals at the director stage for possible opportunities with other organizations. PR agencies will welcome individuals at this level, usually to help run a practice area related to their industry. Thorough execution of the communications function - combined with the ability to build consensus across marketing and other business disciplines - stands out. How you handle stress and manage challenging situations will be viewed critically and determine whether you are viewed as "high potential" or "next in line" for the top communications slot. Superior skills in team building, task management, and leadership are also critical

Salary range: $80K - $160K

Senior level

VP of communications, SVP
VP of marketing, external affairs, corporate affairs

The top post requires the individual to provide high-level counsel to the most senior levels of the organization. Cross-pollination with other marketing and business disciplines, even if not under the VP's remit, is especially critical, as is a thorough understanding of the company's business objectives, its markets, as well as the broader economic and political landscape. Application of fact-based business logic is important to gain consensus for plans and programs. More and more, the role is global in nature and includes responsibilities for marketing, image or reputation efforts.


Provide senior counsel to the CEO, CMO, CFO, CLO and board of directors.

Develop communications strategies across divisions and regions.

Engage business leadership to project business ideas across divisions.

Take ownership of brand development and corporate reputation.

Insider's tip: The most effective senior communicator in an organization is a high-level counselor to the CEO and to other senior executives, and an influential player throughout the organization. They also identify ways they can add value to the business and facilitate linkages between the communications function and other areas. Therefore, even if one reaches the top role in his or her company, there are always new responsibilities to assume. Successful leaders never stop learning about their organizations, nor do they ever lose touch with the developing their external dimension and the fundamentals of the profession. Some PR leaders will also head up marketing, but it still takes a lot of work to prove that a communications professional is best suited to lead this area. Finding ways throughout a career to maximize experience across disciplines while displaying an understanding of customer needs increases the likelihood this will happen.

Salary range: $190K - $1M


Matthew Gonring, VP, global marketing and communications, Rockwell Automation

Richard Marshall, senior client partner, Korn/Ferry International

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