So you want to work in… Automotive PR

About the author

Heather leads the CIPR public affairs diploma and digital communication diploma courses. PhD, BSc, PG, RSA, CAM  

What is automotive PR?

Automotive PR covers a variety of communication functions within the motor industry. 

It includes working for organisations and agencies that support the manufacture, sale and ownership of cars, motorcycles, vans, trucks and electric vehicles.

Launching new vehicles is a key part of automotive PR where building relationships with specialist media and online influencers is important.

Other roles involve internal communication, event management, public affairs, and crisis management.

Motorsport is another aspect of automotive PR. This ranges from grassroots sports to Formula 1.

How do I get into automotive PR?

For early career roles, placement and graduate opportunities recruit among Universities for those studying PR and other disciplines.

Another popular route is through journalism (especially automotive).

There is a lot of career movement within the industry. This includes moves from other functions and between brands, as well as recruitment from other related organisations or agencies.

Building a presence by engaging with PR practitioners and media will help when looking to make a career change.

Job opportunities are frequently shared by brands through LinkedIn and the vacancies sections of their websites.

What’s the best thing about working in automotive PR?

It is a very busy industry, with lots of different aspects that support development of skills, knowledge, and careers.

There is a strong network of PR practitioners within automotive, and plenty of opportunities for career development.

Many positions offer the chance to travel and get involved in exciting events.

The industry is increasingly using digital communications, and the developments in technology within the industry itself make this an exciting time for those with new skills to offer, including knowledge of gaming, multimedia and virtual reality.

There is also potential to develop a career with a purpose, in relation to development of electric vehicles and other environmental advances.

Are there any drawbacks to working in automotive PR?

It is a very busy industry and can involve a lot of travel and organisational tasks. Most teams are quite small and this means career development involves changing companies. There can be a ‘revolving doors’ effect as people shift round different jobs, and stay in the industry for most of their careers.

What’s the difference between doing it in house or in an agency?

In-house work is focused on planning and delivering organisational objectives. Teams and individuals work closely with colleagues across organisations, as well as senior management. In most cases, there will be head office functions who co-ordinate and support the PR and communications activities in different countries.

Agencies working within the automotive industry work in different ways. Some may focus on creative ideas to reach audiences who aren’t core automotive customers. Others have technical expertise or provide specific additional resource for in-house teams. There are agencies that provide logistical support for event management as well as some that focus on creating media materials and other specialist services.

There are also a good number of freelance and independent practitioners working in the industry, who provide additional support and expert services.

Is automotive PR right for me?

There is quite likely a role that would be right for you in automotive PR. It helps if you like cars (or trucks, vans, motorcycles, etc).

The good thing with the key skills you learn in automotive is that they can then be transferred elsewhere.

Likewise, coming into automotive PR without previous experience of the industry, brings fresh ideas, which are always needed.

According to Sara Robinson, Senior Press Officer, Kia Motors (UK) Ltd:

Automotive is an emotive place to work, love them or hate them everyone has an opinion of cars and being at the forefront of that conversation – and being able to shape it – is one of the highlights of working in PR.

“What you put in is what you will get out and more – working in PR gives you the ability and skills to be able to communicate across many levels both internally and externally. Be prepared to put in the time and effort and really listen to what is needed and you will be rewarded with a deeper knowledge and a wide set of key skills.”