[Review] Career FAQs: Public Relations by Melanie James

If I could point out that one moment in time when I set my eyes on a career in PR, then it was when I read the Career FAQs’ guide to Public Relations. The book is written by Melanie James, a Communications Consultant, and contains a foreword by Annabelle Warren, national president of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and one of the leading PR gurus in Australia.

This guide has pretty much everything you need to know about the PR industry; what sort of skill sets you need, tertiary qualifications, relevant organisations and even tips for job applications. Even better, there’s testimonials from real-life PR professionals talking about their career paths, day-to-day schedules, the type of projects they’re working on, etc. As a public relations student I found this extremely useful and still refer back to it quite frequently.

The book’s broken down in various chapters:


This where you get a good understanding of what the public relations is all about. This chapter discusses topics like what traits make a great PR practitioner (“diplomacy, business sense, ability to write and speak well, etc.”), the current size of the industry, the job opportunities out there, general salary overview, potential employers and what they look for and support organisations that represent PR professionals.

This chapter is particularly useful for those people who are looking to take their first step because it lists the main sectors: PR agencies / firms, corporations that have in-house communications team, government departments and not-for-profit organisations. There are also external resources that you can access if you want more information, including web links to government sites.


Insider Info is probably the most interesting chapter of the book since it gives you a glimpse of the day-to-day operations of actual PR professionals. Here we’ve got testimonials from jobs ranging from marketing and communications assistant to account manager, communications consultant, media and communications manager, PR consultant, national sales and marketing manager, communications director, media adviser and even an owner/sole operator. Suffice to say, the whole spectrum of the PR profession is covered in this chapter. Readers can get a pretty good sense for the practical side of the PR industry and develop an understanding of the multitude of tasks PR practitioners are involved in.

For instance, Heidi Alexandra Pollard – one of professionals interviewed for this book – is the marketing communications manager, working for WorkCover NSW. It shows that she’s completed a Bachelor of Communication Studies and a Master of Professional Communication as well as other relevant courses like “shorthand, touch typing, word processing and desktop publishing.” In addition to these qualifications, Heidi has also undertaken management courses such as Certificate IV in Management and Team Development, which no doubt helped her achieve her current position.

The guide also provides her career path; from a public affairs officer to a PR and fundraising officer, protocol official, public relations manager, manager communication and relations to where she is now. There’s also a cool feature where we see her (very busy) diary for a week. There’s tasks listed there like “meet account area clients to be briefed on new jobs and projects” and “brief Minister on communication campaigns” that show just how hectic PR schedules can be.


The last chapter regards the range of university courses and TAFE qualifications that can be undertaken to get into PR. It also deals with recruitment opportunities, revealing the number of ways people are employed in PR. Most significantly, the guide emphasises the fact that it’s not all about look at job advertisements, but also going to recruitment agencies, using word-of-mouth and personal networks and also graduate and internship programs. In other words … go get it! In addition, there’s also handy tips that’ll help you write up a great job application, regarding the resume, cover letter, addressing the selection criteria and standing out at the interview.

I was fortunate enough to get this book for free from a promotion deal that was going on back in 2008 but I’d recommend any PR student who really wants to learn all they can about their industry to start with this career guide. It’s sold at the Career FAQs website and you can buy either the book ($17.47), the PDF ($13.97) or you can get a combo deal of both for $34.90.

Go buy it … seriously.