Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the way people perceive an organization with the goal of improving its public image. Many people who work in this field have specialized PR knowledge and certifications in areas like social media and branding. If you hope to work in PR or you want to acquire relevant skills in this field to benefit you in your current position, it can be beneficial to earn an online certification and learn more about different certification options.
In this article, we explain what public relations is, detail how you can earn a public relations certification online, list the benefits of one, and share some potential certifications to consider.
What is public relations?
Public relations, or PR, describes how an organization communicates with members of the public to convey its brand and showcase its public image. A brand’s public image is the perceptions the public has of the company. Many organizations hire PR people to manage the company’s communication process using multiple mediums, including news media, social media platforms, conferences and local events.
People who work in PR often create detailed communication strategies and plans that allow companies to streamline their community engagement and marketing efforts. They may also help organizations reduce negative publicity by using industry techniques to establish official responses and create contingency plans. PR efforts allow organizations in a wide range of industries to gain and retain positive publicity.
How to earn a public relations certification online
Here are the steps you can take to earn a certification in public relations online:
Consider your interests. The PR field is broad, and there are numerous certification options. If you plan to work in a PR role that involves social media, a certificate in social media may be beneficial.
Create a list. Once you’ve determined your preferences and areas of interest, create a list of online certification programs that interest you. You can then limit your list to the top two to three programs to avoid overwhelming yourself.
Review the requirements. Many online PR certifications have educational or experience requirements, especially ones accredited by a well-known certifying body or public university. Review any requirements before applying.
Complete the program. Online certification programs typically include coursework, knowledge tests or exams and individual PR projects. Be sure to complete each part of the program you’ve applied for and consider writing notes on what you’ve learned.
Benefits of an online public relations certification
A certificate in public relations can be useful for PR personnel who work at many levels, ranging from beginner to advanced. Online certifications offer additional flexibility to individuals who have busier schedules or work full-time. An online public relations certification can help you:
Improve your resume
If you’re new to public relations or are pursuing a new career in the field, adding to your qualifications can help you enhance the quality of your resume and better appeal to potential employers. Listing certifications can display your proficiencies in different areas of PR and demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the discipline by representing an ongoing investment in education and best practices. Certifications can also help supplement the skills section of your resume and show potential employers that you’re dedicated to continuing to learn.
Learn new skills
If you already have a strong foundational knowledge of PR methods, you might consider a more specialized certificate program. In addition, communication needs and PR methodologies often change, so completing a certification can help you stay updated on trends, technologies and strategies in the industry. There are many courses you can take online that address on specific PR topics, such as social media, branding, public speaking and crisis communication. Earning these certificates can be a useful way to gain expertise on a new PR topic or receive updated insights from others in the field.
Relieve an affordable education
Price ranges for public relations certificates can vary widely, but many are free or available at a lower cost than a traditional degree program. Online certificates may have reduced tuition fees, as institutions typically encounter fewer expenses when hosting courses on the Internet. Online certification programs still allow you to take similar PR courses as you would when attending a two- or four-year degree program. If you don’t have a degree, showing that you have certifications can still show employers that you consider your education to be important.
7 types of online public relations certifications
You can earn a public relations certificate online through colleges, universities, and online learning platforms. They usually vary in cost and the amount of time they require. The following list includes seven different categories of online public relations certificates to help you find one that’s right for you. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
1. General public relations
There are many certificate courses that address the foundational concepts and methods of PR. These may be introductory courses or courses that can offer you instruction on a broad range of public relations topics. This type of certificate can be especially useful if you’re you’re deciding whether to pursue a full-time PR degree. Here are some online certifications available that address general PR topics or provide an overview of the industry:
Online Public Relations Certificate: Offered by Drexel University, this one-year certificate program teaches you important HR skills, such as media relations, crisis management, and social media communication.
Graduate Public Relations Certificate: Offered by Temple University, this 12-credit certificate program is beneficial if you work in a business PR field, and it teaches you about various PR topics, like how to design campaigns, analyze digital metrics for a campaign and address the various legal or ethical issues in PR.
Media Relations Certificate: Available through the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), this certificate can teach you about corporate communications and how brands create media campaigns.
2. Strategic planning and crisis management
Strategic planning refers to long-term and short-term PR goals and the steps that are necessary to accomplish those objectives. Since public relations often involve unpredictable events, it’s often important for a strategic plan in PR to be flexible and include potential solutions for different issues. Being able to manage different situations that might arise and various crises is often important for people in PR. A certificate in strategic planning or crisis management can be especially beneficial if you hope to work in an executive or senior-level position. Here are some options for online certification related to these areas:
Online PR Strategy Certificate: Offered by eCornell, this two-week course teaches you how to construct a detailed strategic communication plan that can also help you measure and evaluate your PR activities and relate them to wider business objectives.
Strategic Branding and Public Relations Certificate: Offered by UCLA Extension, this course teaches you how to create strategic plans addressing branding and how to craft press releases, manage a brand, and engage with the company’s wider community.
Crisis Communication Certificate: PRSA offers this certificate, and it teaches you techniques for establishing a corporate narrative, managing digital communications after crises, and advising leaders and other executives on how to handle a crisis.
3. Social media and online media presence
PR tasks involving social media and online or digital media are often highly complex and require expertise with different platforms. For example, one social networking website might involve image management and allow you to send direct replies to customers, while another may be only useful for writing blog posts. Social media and digital media have become an important part of PR and marketing, and a certificate in social media and online PR can help you remain aware of current marketing trends and engagement techniques so you can better appeal to customers.
A certificate can also help you optimize online searches and measure the company’s online presence more easily. This allows you to continue improving your campaigns and attract more customers. Here are a few online certifications related to social media and online branding:
Social Media Marketing Certification: Offered by HubSpot, this four-hour certification course teaches you about how social media can help an organization attract more customers, how you can develop a social media strategy, and how you can engage with consumers online.
Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content: Offered by the University of Pennsylvania through an online learning platform, this course takes about four weeks to complete and teaches you how to craft social media content that can engage consumers quickly and effectively.
Digital Communication Certificate: PRSA offers this certificate to current PR managers and executives who want to learn how to apply digital strategy to multiple platforms and also learn how to optimize digital content to improve their organization’s search engine ranking.
4. Content marketing
Learning about content marketing and its role in PR can help PR managers and leaders develop essential career skills in marketing. Content marketing involves increasing brand awareness by posting text, videos, or podcast materials on various online mediums. Content marketers may also post relevant content on a company’s digital platform, so it can be beneficial to research current marketing trends. PR leaders with an understanding of content marketing can be a valuable resource for employers by helping them improve their marketing strategies and the content they produce.
For example, a skincare company might hire a PR strategist to create a plan on how to engage customers through magazine and television ads. If they understand content marketing strategies, they can coordinate with content marketing employees to create more targeted promotional content and determine which types of posts may best enhance a potential customer’s interactions with the company’s online profiles. Here are a few online certifications in content marketing to consider:
Content Marketing Certificate: Offered by the PRSA, this six-hour course teaches you how to create content that aligns with business goals, what the most effective ways to share content are, and how to collect and analyze data related to content marketing.
The Strategy of Content Marketing: Offered by the University of California, Davis through Coursera, this course often takes about 19 hours to complete and teaches you how to develop and implement a content marketing strategy, write engaging copy, and analyze a marketing technique’s effectiveness.
Content Marketing Certification: Available through HubSpot, this certification allows you to learn how to produce effective content for a variety of campaigns and improve your content strategies.
Branding represents a brand’s identity, and it’s the responsibility of PR teams to reinforce the organization’s branding and represent it online and in public. PR activities directly influence how the public views the company’s brand and its identity. For example, a company’s slogan is often an important aspect of its branding strategy. A branding certificate can help you enhance community relations and increase awareness of the organization’s mission statement. It can also allow you to progress in your role and enhance your professional development in the PR field. Here are a few online certifications related to branding:
Branding: The Creative Journey: Offered by IE Business School through Coursera, this certificate program guides you through the foundational techniques that allow you to design and develop an effective organizational brand.
Storytelling in Branding and Content Marketing: Also offered by IE Business School through Coursera, this course teaches you how to use storytelling to enhance a brand and how to employ content marketing techniques to create a cohesive brand strategy.
Brand Management Certificate: Offered by eCornell, this certification includes six courses, and it teaches you how to establish and manage a brand, including how to assess its performance.
6. Environment, social and corporate governance (ESG)
How an organization manages its diversity, equity, and inclusion activities and the steps it takes to manage its environmental impact are often important aspects of PR. Its social responsibility stance and positions on social and environmental issues can significantly affect its public perception, investor interest, and employee experience. Earning a certificate related to ESG can help you improve the organization’s response and help it become more publicly accountable. Consider the following online certifications:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Certificate: Available through PRSA, this certification can help you learn how to advance diversity, equity and inclusion activities at the company where you work and design more effective programming and outreach.
Sustainable Capitalism and ESG Online: Offered by Berkeley Law, this course addresses how you can incorporate environmental, social, and governance considerations into business and PR activities.
Environmental Social, and Governance (ESG) Specialist: Available through the Corporate Finance Institute, this certification can provide you with an overview of ESG issues and teach you how to identify sources for ESG information that you can use in the organization’s PR activities.
7. Data analytics
PR activities often involve monitoring and tracking a variety of data sources to improve the quality of marketing campaigns. Understanding data analytics and how to apply them properly can help you improve the company’s reputation and increase customer loyalty. Earning a certification in this area can teach you how to enhance the overall brand and its services or products. The primary certification for PR personnel in this area is the Measurement and Analytics Certificate available through PRSA. It teaches you how to measure your communications, evaluate the success of past campaigns and develop new measures for specific marketing channels.
I hope you find this article helpful.