IN RECENT years, organisations, governments and even individuals have come to realise the value of public relations (PR).

They have seen, often first-hand, how effectively delivered communications to their target audiences - stakeholders and sometimes the public - can mitigate moments of crisis.

A well-handled PR campaign can sometimes make the difference between whether a company or an individual survives a crisis or not.

With this growing recognition, a career in PR or corporate communications has been gaining popularity with serious-minded people.

No longer is it associated with an endless round of entertaining clients in bars and karaoke joints.

A career in PR now draws respect from people who recognise it as a profession that is often challenging and rewarding, and even holds a touch of glamour. Over the years, lawyers, engineers and even dentists have applied for PR jobs.

According to the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS), there are about 10,000 PR positions in Singapore, either in a consultancy or in-house role. This means that the opportunities for a career in this area are promising.

And the numbers continue to grow, as more companies set up shop in Singapore and high-profile events such as the Formula One Grand Prix comes here.

What it takes

If you want a career in PR, start by analysing your personality.

If you are quiet, prefer to keep to yourself, are not particularly interested in current affairs, lack good language skills, detest reading and writing, and are not too bothered about your personal image, then perhaps PR might not be the ideal career choice for you.

Today's professional communicator has to be articulate. Being able to convey complex and comprehensive messages to selected audiences is critical to the job.

Being unafraid to speak up is also important. Many a PR professional will have at one time or other found the need to explain advanced technology or intricate financial information to a crowd of laymen, new journalists or even put it in writing for a press release or brochure.

That brings us to the next point. You need strong language capabilities. In Singapore, the minimum is to have good written and spoken English. A good gauge would be at least an A2 grade for your O-level English.

Fluency in a second language will be useful, especially as Singapore is often the regional hub of communications for many organisations.

If you are interested in current affairs, you are on your way. Being aware of what is happening in the world keeps you well-informed and also provides you with material for conversation when you have to attend various events that are par for the course in this profession.

The ability to think laterally and still be detailed and organised is another important quality that PR professionals must have.

It is a job where you learn to tackle a problem, an issue or a challenge from multiple and different angles.

Being able to communicate effectively requires you to find different approaches to explain a particular view or fact.

Creativity is much appreciated in this industry, so train yourself to be open to new experiences. Think through ideas and concepts, instead of criticising them, and try to understand how they may be applied.

The professional communicator's image is very important because he is an ambassador of the brand he represents.

An interviewer will look out for a person who has taken the time to make himself presentable and is savvy enough to dress appropriately to suit the image of the company.

Being "paper qualified" is not always necessary, but it can help, especially if you are new to the field.

Having a general knowledge of what PR is all about can only help your application.

Being a professional communicator is a demanding but rewarding job. Many people in this field enjoy the creativity, energy and challenges.

And as the profession continues to grow, the career opportunities will continue to expand.