What is a press officer? (Definition, duties and skills)
Updated 12 March 2023
Press officers, whom companies often refer to as media officers, act as liaisons between organisations and the media, performing an integral role in a company's public image. Embarking on a career as a media officer is a useful option for those with a keen interest in public communication and liaising with the press. If your interest lies in a media officer role, it's important to learn as much as possible about what the job entails. In this article, we explore what a media officer is, what their role entails and the skills and qualifications that can help you become one.
What is a press officer?
A press officer is a professional who works within the larger sphere of public relations (PR). PR is a set of strategies organisations employ to manage how information relating to their business reaches the media and public. The role of a media officer is to represent an organisation to the press. They present information in various formats, such as printed reports, televised news programmes and online media. Although this role can seem different depending on the organisation they represent, media officers share some characteristic functions, including:
Management of incoming and outgoing media-related information
Media officers act as the main representatives between an organisation and the wider press. This responsibility typically includes responding to enquiries from journalists requesting company news about initiatives, product launches and events, seeking to interest journalists in a company's current campaigns and stories and setting up interviews. Overall, they work to promote a positive image of an organisation in various forms of media, such as print, radio, television, websites, social networks and apps.
Tracking of company-related media coverage
A large part of a media officer's responsibility includes closely observing media coverage relating to their employer's organisation. This involves monitoring and tracking news in various forms that may require a reactive response on behalf of the company. Media officers typically organise quick and appropriate responses to ensure the integrity of the organisation's image in the media and the public's view.
Promotion of an organisation's positive image
At their core, media officers work to provide continuous positive, transparent and accurate representations of the organisations in which they work. This requires an understanding of how to maintain an organisation's integrity by promoting its policies and ethics while responding to or feeding information to the wider media. Media officers are necessary contributors in promoting open and positive working relationships with the media to ensure the public's view of an organisation remains constructive and beneficial.
Main responsibilities of a media officer
Press officers typically perform various job duties, depending on whether they're promoting a campaign, responding to a journalistic enquiry or arranging for spokespeople to engage with the press. Some of the main duties of this role include:
preparing, writing and editing articles and press releases for the media
liaising with journalists, managers and other media representatives
organising, planning and executing interviews, PR events and press conferences
acting as a first point of contact for enquiries from journalists and other media representatives
tracking and monitoring news, trends, current affairs and coverage of the organisation in the media
contacting journalists about current or upcoming media campaigns to try and interest them in providing PR coverage
monitoring incoming correspondence for media enquiries
researching, planning and producing proactive media campaigns
providing stakeholders and management with evaluation reports about the organisation's media coverage
attending press conferences and interviews with spokespeople on behalf of the organisation
advising management and stakeholders about how to respond to the media
editing the media statements of other members of the PR team or organisation
promoting positive media relations by fostering relationships
updating the organisation's website and social media pages
responding to urgent media enquiries during unforeseen PR events or organisational crises
Qualifications for a media officer role
Although there's no set route to becoming a press officer, most employers expect prospective employees to have some specialist training or qualifications. Since this role requires a unique and specific skill set, qualifications can demonstrate to employers that you have the adequate background knowledge to perform the job's daily duties appropriately. Here are some qualifications that can help you start a career as a media officer:
Earning a bachelor's or master's degree in a field closely linked to a media officer's main responsibilities is an excellent way to prepare for a future career in this area. Several general degrees can provide foundational knowledge of media studies and public relations, which can allow you to perform at the professional level. Some specialist degrees that can help to differentiate you include public relations, corporate communications, English, journalism, media studies or marketing communications.
Specialist courses run by accredited institutions
Another way to become a media officer is to take a specialist course. Several institutions offer recognised certifications. These courses equip professionals and beginners with the knowledge, skills and specialisation to succeed as PR professionals while adhering to and upholding the strict ethical standards of the industry. Industry-recognised specialisations help employers identify candidates with the professional training necessary for media officer roles.
There are several specialist courses for those seeking entry to this role, for example, certificates in areas related to media officer roles, such as the Foundation Certificate in Marketing or the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Professional PR Certificate for beginners. Prospective media officers can also obtain an accredited professional qualification such as the CIPR Foundation qualification or the Level 3 Qualification in Public Relations and Media Relations.
An apprenticeship in public relations can be a great start for a career as a media officer, providing both in-class training in fundamental PR concepts and on-site work experience. An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to experience PR in the real world. Candidates can apply for a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Public Relations, for example, which is the equivalent qualification to a foundation degree in the first year of university. Apprenticeships allow you to earn a wage as you learn and often lead to career opportunities through the same company where you complete your training.
Media officer skills
PR officers require a wide range of communication, interpersonal and technological skills to ensure they can properly monitor, respond to and update the media on appropriate information regarding their organisations. As the media can sometimes prove unpredictable and volatile, media officers also use problem-solving and conflict resolution skills to ensure they present the organisation in a positive light. Here are some key skills that media officers typically develop:
Verbal and written communication skills: Media officers use written and verbal communication to interact with the media, the public and other members of their organisation on a daily basis. Effective communication ensures that the information they disseminate adheres to PR standards of integrity.
Organisational skills: Media officers use organisational skills to keep track of incoming and outgoing PR correspondence and to organise and manage interviews, press conferences and media events effectively.
Networking skills: Media officers consistently network with PR industry professionals such as bloggers, journalists and social media influencers. Effective networking ensures they maintain the organisation's positive presence in the wider media.
Problem-solving skills: In such a fast-paced and constantly changing industry, media officers continually deal with challenges in a flexible and well-adapted manner. Problem-solving abilities help them find solutions to daily challenges quickly and effectively.
Technological skills: Because most media and PR representation exists in the digital space, media officers require exceptional skills in information technology to perform their jobs effectively. They typically use desktop publishing software applications, such as PageMaker and other graphics, layout and design software, to interact with the media in their day-to-day work.
Resilience: Media officers require the resilience to absorb constructive criticism readily and effectively, especially as the PR sphere can change and transform quickly. They also require resilience to react to constantly changing strategies and organisational needs.
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