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Everything You Need to Know About Public Relations

by Johann Harmse

Public Relations – PR – is a broad field with endless opportunities. What is it and how can you get involved? Johann tells you here.

When you think of Public Relations, what springs to mind? Promotional events? Working with the media? Crises management? I used to think of Public Relations as something that only became important when an organisation gets caught doing something it shouldn’t. Public relation professionals, however, are always busy. It is their responsibility to shape their client’s reputation by promoting the brand image of companies and organisations which exists to the public eye. It is up to them to make ensure a positive public perception of their client and the success of their brand.

“Public relations is a tool used to protect, uplift and promote a brand

           – says Sue.

Sue Klerck has worked as a Sun International PR representative for 20 years. She has worked on the Nedbank Gold Challenge, Miss South Africa, the opening of the Palace at Sun City, the launching of various hotels and alignments with the J&B Met.

She answered a few of our questions about what is means to study and work in public relations.

What type of person who would be suited to PR work?

“The type of person most suited to the role would be a person who is intelligent, street-wise, well connected and presentable. They need to be passionate about what they do as PR is very time consuming, and you have to be awake 24/7.”

Good PR professionals are people who are naturally curious. The work they do includes elements of economics, psychology, media analysis, public speaking and formal communications. As a PR professional, your work will take you to the intersection of many different industries, all of which you will have to be at least a little familiar with. Keeping up to date with current trends and issues is also an important part of being a good PR professional. You will need to have accurate and rounded view of the world in order to advise clients or to brainstorm new ideas.

A big part of PR is communication

Do you work well with others? PR professionals have to be comfortable with talking about their clients to business people, the media and other professionals. They do a lot of writing and speaking. A job in PR will require that you are highly responsive to emails, press releases and other communications. You should be someone who can maintain contact with people over the course of long projects.

Good PR professionals are problem solvers. They have to constantly adapt their strategies to the ever-changing situations and they need to deal with problems as they arise. PR will place you in many new situations, and you can’t always rely on your knowledge of specific industries. You have to be able to use more general problem-solving skills, like the ability to cope under pressure or think creatively to solve a problem, to deal with anything that is thrown at you. PR professionals often have to work in industries they know very little about. This means that they must be quick learners if they are to confidently manage their client’s image effectively.

Here are a couple of traits that PR companies have listed as crucial for PR professionals.

  • Good verbal and written communication skills.
  • Multitasking capabilities and ability to manage time effectively
  • Organisation and planning
  • Interest in media
  • Flexibility
  • Cope well under pressure
  • Problem solving
  • Adaptability

Damelin College qualifications and requirements

If you want to get into public relations in South Africa, you should take a look at some short courses Damelin College offers two short courses that is worth having a look at.

Damelin College has 17 campuses in every major city countrywide, including three in KwaZulu-Natal, nine in Gauteng, two in the Eastern Cape, two in the Western Cape and one in the Free State. Damelin offers two public relations qualifications: a Diploma in Public Relations and a National N Diploma in Public Relations.

This is a three-year course that offers a NQF 6 diploma. You can attend either full-time or part-time classes during the week.


  • A Grade 12 certificate with a Diploma pass
  • An achievement of 40% – 49% in 4 Grade 12 credit-bearing subjects 
  • Mathematics/Mathematical Literacy and English
  • You can apply for age exemption if you are 23 years old or above
  • If you are older than 45 without a matric, then you can apply for conditional exemption
  • If you are a foreign student, without English as first language, contact Damelin College to see how you qualify

Career options:

  • Public Relations Manager
  • Public Relations Executive
  • PR/Events Coordinator
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Corporate Communications Executive 

This is a two-year course with 18 months in-service training.


  • Senior Certificate
  • National Senior Certificate 
  • Relevant Nated Qualification

Career options

  • Public Relations Coordinator
  • Public Relations Officer
  • Events coordinator
  • PR Account Manager
  • PR Account Supervisor
  • Communications Assistant
  • Media Coordinator 

How is it valuable to any organisation?

The success of organisations which are in the public eye is often determined by their image. “Most high-profile companies have public relations managers today” Sue tell us.

PR professionals are also valuable because of their extensive knowledge of a company. Their familiarity with their client’s businesses or organisations makes them difficult to replace. A good understanding of an organisation can secure a strong professional relationship and a secure position within that organisation.

“If you are working as a PR manager in a corporate company, you should know EVERYTHING about the company. Having this knowledge at your fingertips gives you an enormous amount of power in the organisation. Therefore, you become invaluable to the organisation.”

Last piece of advice

Sue suggests that you get certified and look for work with a good PR company.

“You must go to a reputable education institution and obtain a diploma or degree. You should seek a reputable public relations company to gain the experience to get them to be able to apply for a public relations manager position at a corporate company.”

EduConnect 2Cents

Public Relations is a great career to get into if you love organising, people and absorb and remember information like a sponge. In an industry as broad as this, some psychology skills could come in handy whilst dealing with clients and business people. Perhaps you can further expand on your skills by taking a short course in psychology.

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